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EU Council Presidency (November 29, 2006)

In late 2006 Chancellor Angela Merkel introduced her program for Germany’s six-month EU presidency, which was set to begin on January 1, 2007. Merkel emphasized the need for Europe to adapt to its new larger size and a changed international situation. Above all, she stressed the need for a new EU constitutional treaty, which she believed would “reinforce the foundation of the European house” and provide for “better protection of fundamental rights as an expression of Europe’s value system.” She also expressed a desire to see progress in other areas, so that Europe’s voice would be strengthened around the world.

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Values-based European Politics
Challenges for Germany’s Council Presidency

Only a short period of time elapsed between the historic EU-enlargement celebrations in 2004 and the referendums on the constitutional treaty in France and the Netherlands last year. And for that very reason, the European Union was thrown onto an emotional roller-coaster. It is obvious that many Europeans have not approved of some of the steps taken in European politics in recent years. And for that very reason, one of the most important tasks of all politicians in Europe is winning back people’s trust in European policy [Europapolitik].

Europe’s integration process is an unrivalled success story. Robert Schuman’s initiative to found the European Coal and Steel Community revolutionized relations between the countries of Europe. For the first time, the people of Europe yielded voluntarily to a common order.

These fortunate developments of the last fifty years were possible because, despite all our differences, we Europeans are fundamentally connected. Europe is based on common historical experiences and on the desire to make our future better together. Above all, Europe is based on values that we share, on freedom, justice, democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. These fundamental values developed in Europe over centuries. They are rooted in particular in Christianity and the European Enlightenment, in Greco-Roman antiquity, and in Judaism. European cooperation will have to remain tied to these values in the future if it is to endure.

As eminently important as the Single Market and the Euro and many other things might be for the European Union, it is first and foremost shared fundamental values that connect Europe at its core.

Foundations of the Community

Next year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the “Rome Treaties.” This anniversary, which falls during Germany’s Council Presidency, offers an excellent opportunity to reflect on the foundations of the Community. I have invited the EU heads of state and government, and the presidents of the Commission and the European Parliament to a summit in Berlin. This summit will be entirely focused on moving from a period of reflection and self-assurance to a joint resolution to fulfill the expectations placed upon us. I hope that this will be reinforced in the form of a joint “Berlin Declaration.”*

The Union was built over decades, each with its own special focal point: from coal and steel in the early days of the Community to the economic and monetary union to overcoming the division of the continent. Today the task at hand is further adapting the European Union to its new size and a changed international situation. This includes the economic and social modernization of Europe as a necessary prerequisite for our self-assertion in the world and the reform of the internal “constitution” of the EU. These will also be the focal points of Germany’s Council Presidency, which begins on January 1.

* The text of the Berlin Declaration can be found at: – eds

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