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The Significance of European Integration (February 2, 1996)

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Second: Cooperation in the areas of domestic and legal policies must be improved. I do not see this as a loss of national sovereignty, as many others regard it to be. In light of the threat of a genuine “general attack” by international organized crime, the Mafia, or terrorists, I think it makes sense for us to work together in many areas. The citizens of the countries of Europe are entitled to security. When we speak of security, we generally speak of external security, but external security is only possible when the internal security of our countries is guaranteed. That is why I insist that we do what is necessary in the negotiations on “Maastricht II.”

Third: The European Union must become more efficient and more capable of taking action. Most certainly, this also means that it must become more transparent and easier for citizens to comprehend. Citizens’ understanding of political processes and decisions is an essential source of legitimacy.

Finally, it is important for the European Parliament, and the national parliaments as well, to participate more vigorously in the process of European integration. The distribution of competencies among the organs of the European Union and national or regional institutions must follow the principle of subsidiarity more closely than it has up to this point. I am certain that these are not only the priorities of the Germans. From conversations with my European friends, I know that similar views are also held here in Belgium and in our neighboring countries. I am especially certain that the citizens of Europe, above all the young people, see it this way.

On December 15-16 of last year [1995], the European Council in Madrid once again confirmed my convictions. We Germans are very much aware that German unification and European integration are two sides of the same coin. Of course, this is not an exhaustive explanation of the “European Agenda 2000.” There is no doubt that the Economic and Monetary Union currently poses one of our greatest challenges – also on a psychological level. In connection with all the preparations for the Union, we are going through a phase of uncertainty, yes, even of fundamental critique of the continued progress of European integration. Have Europeans once again become weary of European integration?

I don’t think this is really the case. I believe, however, that there are too few people who are capable of sensibly presenting this decisive idea of our time with the requisite passion or the required talent. There is no alternative. The course set by Maastricht means not only great progress but also great effort for all of us and at the same time a major step forward. But I am confident that, in the end, the intergovernmental conference will be of the prevailing view that the European Union will only be able to master the challenges of the next century if the Maastricht Treaty is developed further. No one wants a centralistic super-state. It does not exist and will not exist in the future. [ . . . ]

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