Prime Minister of Luxembourg

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 26 June 2002

Mr President, Secretary General, members, it is quite moving for me to address you because I have known the Council of Europe for a good many years. I have never been a member of the Assembly, but that will no doubt come one day. As a law student here in Strasbourg, I followed the work of the Council of Europe most eagerly. In the second half of the 1970s, the Council of Europe was epitomised by the great assembly that met here in Strasbourg, as it does today. And as a law student, I was privileged to attend lectures by an eminent professor of international law, who urged us to follow the work of the Parliamentary Assembly, or the Consultative Assembly as it was known then.

There is not a nook or cranny in the Council of Europe library that I do not know, as I used to spend hours poring over the Parliamentary Assembly’s numerous reports at the time. I was an avid reader of the Council of Europe’s reports, and I still consult them today when taking stock of what the Organisation has contributed to the construction of Europe.

When I was a student in Strasbourg, the Council of Europe was not what it is today. If my memory serves me correctly, it had seventeen member states. There were parliamentarians from Luxembourg who regularly attended the Parliamentary Assembly’s meetings, and I was able to assess their performance outside of our own country when they gave addresses here.

Europe itself was a much smaller place at that time. When you compare the Council of Europe today with what it was in the second half of the 1970s and the people you see here today with those you saw here at that time, it gives me great pleasure to say that Europe has become much larger and more complete than it was. In 1947, when the men we now respectfully call the “fathers of Europe” came together in The Hague, Winston Churchill was at the very height of his moral and political authority. And in the face of the Soviet Union’s refusal to take part itself, or even allow the countries surrounding it to take part in the construction of Europe, Mr Churchill closed the discussions in The Hague by saying that the participants were beginning in the West a job which they would complete in the East one day. I can see what Winston Churchill’s wish has now become, here in the Assembly and at the Council. What might have been dismissed as a vision, a dream or an unrealistic ideal has been shown in recent years to have been profoundly realistic.

I very often read that the Council of Europe is searching for its identity and trying to find the way to a secure position in the future. I am a little surprised by the Council’s modest and timid approach, which has, in fact, marked it since the outset. At the very time when the Council of Europe has found its identity, it has set out looking for it. There is no need for the Council of Europe to seek a new identity, it only needs to remain faithful to what it has always been. Both the Council of Europe and the EU have been made up of a series of success stories.

The Council of Europe sometimes has difficulty defining itself in relation to the EU, which must realise that it does not represent Europe as it exists, as we love it and as we would like it to remain, namely the pan-European greater Europe embodied in the Council of Europe. The EU must not give the impression, either internally or externally, that it is an exclusive club for those who have made it. No, the EU must follow its own path, cherish its own dreams and become more integrated so that, post enlargement, it does not merely end up as a free-trade area, admittedly operating on a very high level, with a conceptual structure incapable of meeting the needs of a continent that remains highly complicated. The Council of Europe, which is also going through an enlargement process, will continue to follow its own path.

There are numerous areas where the approaches and ambitions of the EU and the Council of Europe should intersect. I will take the example of the sector where the Council of Europe has excelled itself, namely human rights. The Council of Europe has succeeded in imposing the rule of law on our continent. In the long term, the EU will be unable to escape the rules that the Council of Europe has established for Europe. By this I mean that it seems only normal – with regard to the European Convention and the Intergovernmental Conference to be held by EU member countries by 2004 – for the EU to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights. It must do so in its own right.

After all, it cannot be right for the EU to require applicant states first to ratify the European Convention on Human Rights, while itself avoiding the external scrutiny provided for under the machinery of the ECHR. It cannot be right for us knowingly to run the risk of conflicts that will be huge if we do nothing to prevent them. EU member countries are required to transpose the rules laid down in European directives into national legislation.

If a citizen brought a case in Strasbourg against his or her national authorities, a situation could easily arise where the Strasbourg Court ruled against a state for having failed to comply with the rules under the European Convention on Human Rights but the state was unable to execute the judgment because it was also subject to binding obligations in respect of the EU. Such a situation is entirely possible to the extent that the EU itself is not subject to the rules that derive directly from the ECHR.

We must not be afraid of taking this step, and I hope that the European Convention and the Intergovernmental Conference will do so, not for cosmetic reasons but for reasons of legal efficiency so as to prevent us ending up with two sets of human rights legal doctrine in a single continent. In so doing and moving forward hand-in-hand, if I dare say, in the same direction, we will perhaps avoid misunderstandings and disagreements about other subjects.

I note that the work of the recent Seville Summit has triggered a number of concerns within your Assembly. I have read your President’s speech and fully understand that some misunderstandings may have arisen. The fact is that the serious problem of immigration and, in general, of migration can be solved only at EU level. The EU gives the impression of wanting to focus solely on the consequences of illegal immigration, thereby neglecting the need for management of legal immigration. As a body that tries to be pragmatic and deal with short-term issues, there is a risk of the EU giving the impression of wanting to turn its fifteen member states into a kind of fortress.

Absolute clarity is essential here. The EU needs immigration and cannot simply close its external borders. All countries in Europe must continue to offer refuge to people from around the world who are persecuted on the grounds of their race, gender or religious or political beliefs.

The Council of Europe must take part in Europe-wide efforts to combat illegal immigration, which produces unhappy migrants in the countries of origin and unhappy immigrants in our countries. In this vast area, the EU and the Council of Europe have everything to gain from cooperating as closely as possible.

I could put forward the same arguments about international terrorism and its consequences. The events of 11 September 2001 have fundamentally changed the international situation, in particular with regard to combating terrorism. Nevertheless, we must not forget the reasons that can lead wrongheaded individuals to commit terrible acts like those that hit New York, Washington and Pittsburgh. Terrorism cannot be separated from its underlying causes. The EU and the Council of Europe must tackle them. Until such time as poverty is eliminated and large sections of humankind no longer live in misery, terrorists will always find fertile breeding grounds that enable them to commit despicable acts.

As a young student in Strasbourg in the past and as Prime Minister of my country today, I have always believed that the Council of Europe and human rights go hand-in-hand. In looking for a new identity, if the Council of Europe were purely to remain faithful to its own traditions of respect for the rule of law and human rights, while recognising the importance of local government and focusing on Europe’s cultural dimension, I believe there would be no grounds for concern about its future.

The EU is beginning its enlargement process, while the Council of Europe is on the point of completing its own particular enlargement process. The EU, whose political concept is narrower than the Council of Europe’s, must seek ways of combining its own enlargement with the enlargement of the Council of Europe.

In my view, the Council of Europe should convene another summit of heads of state and government before the end of2003 to celebrate, on a pan-European level, the reunification of European history and geography and the end of the terrible historic legacy that divided Europe into two blocs in the second half the twentieth century, seemingly forever. Admittedly, the world was easier to understand then. We knew which countries were “good” and which ones were not on our side. That Europe, however, was infinitely more dangerous than today’s! To avoid giving certain Council of Europe member states the impression that they have been excluded from the EU for good, Council of Europe heads of state and government should meet at the end of 2003 to celebrate the tremendous progress we have seen in Europe over the last fifteen years.

If the Council of Europe remains faithful to its most noble traditions and continues to cherish ambitions that are not at odds with those of the EU, it will enable Europe’s people to love their continent – as, indeed, it has always done.


Thank you very much, Mr Juncker, for your most interesting statement. Members of the Assembly have expressed a wish to put questions to you.

I would remind them that questions must be limited to thirty seconds and no more. Colleagues should be asking questions and not making speeches. The first question is from Mr Koulouris, on the possibility of a third Council of Europe summit following enlargement of the EU.


In the near future it is expected that the EU will have new member states, namely the Republic of Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Malta, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia. In addition, large-scale changes are taking place in Europe due to continued human migration. Do you believe that, in view of the above developments, the Council of Europe should consider more seriously the organisation of its third summit in the second half of 2003 with the task of clarifying the Council’s orientation in the major fields of its relations with EU policies?

Mr Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

Mr President, I have already replied in part to the question. To be brief, I believe more strongly than ever that, once the two enlargement processes have been completed, the Council of Europe and the EU, whose members are all in the Council of Europe, should convene a summit of heads of state and government to discuss the new European architecture that will have begun to be put in place by then.

I should like EU member countries within the Council of Europe to be able to discuss their relations with the EU’s new neighbours. That should provide an opportunity, at Council of Europe level, to describe and develop our relations with countries like Russia, Ukraine and so on that will be the EU’s new neighbours.

I said that we should regard the third summit as a celebration of European history and geography. And after a few hours of celebrations, we will also have to get down to some work. When drawing up the agenda for the third summit, it therefore seems obvious to me, given the problems caused by immigration and the serious trends affecting the whole of Europe, that some time should be devoted to discussing the issues the honourable member just mentioned.


Thank you. Would you like to ask a supplementary question, Mr Koulouris?


No. The Prime Minister has given us a full answer.


The next question is from Mr Hegyi on representation of the enlargement states in the European Parliament.

Mr HEGYI (Hungary)

In accordance with the Nice Treaty, Hungary and the Czech Republic would get twenty seats each in the European Parliament, despite the fact that – due to the size of their population – they should get twenty-two seats each, like other member countries with the same population. How do you view this issue and generally how do you view the chances of participation of the candidate countries in the European Parliament elections in May or June 2004?

Mr Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

I often used to speak in this Chamber when it was occupied by the European Parliament. The question just put to me reminds me of those that MEPs discuss rather than the issues that should be of priority concern to the members of your Parliamentary Assembly. However, it is no problem for me to pretend that we are in the European Parliament! After all, the same questions can and should be of interest to both bodies.

In discussions that went on into the early hours at the European Council summit in Nice, the member states agreed the exact number of seats the new member countries should have in the European Parliament. At no time during the discussions did I consider that we were engaged in an exercise that was anything like an exact science, so the number of MEPs allocated to the various applicant countries does not correspond to exact mathematical or demographic analyses. I assume that when the accession treaties are concluded, a number of points agreed at the Nice European Council may be amended.

On the second point, I believe that the EU’s timetable should enable the ten countries that we expect to join soon to take part in the next elections to the European Parliament. The timetable provides for the accession negotiations to be concluded by the end of 2002 and for the accession treaties to be drafted immediately thereafter so that they can be ratified during 2003 or at the beginning of 2004, which should allow all the new member countries to take part in the European Parliament elections.


Thank you. I am sorry, Mr Juncker and Mr Hegyi, but I have to interrupt our proceedings for a question of order. It is now nearly 12.30 p.m., and I have to ask whether any member still wishes to vote in the election of the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe. Anyone who so wishes must do so immediately, as the ballot will close in one minute sharp. The count will take place under the supervision of the chosen tellers. I invite them to go to Room 10S7. The results will be announced at the beginning of this afternoon’s sitting.

I now ask Mr Hegyi whether he has a supplementary question.

Mr HEGYI (Hungary)

This is a most important matter for the electorate and for public opinion in Hungary. Do you think that there is a good chance of our country participating in the European elections in 2004, and what could endanger that possibility?

Mr Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

Mr President, I can only repeat what I just said. I firmly believe that the new member countries of the EU will take part in the elections to the European Parliament in June 2004. I do not see what could cause problems in that regard.

Mr GROSS (Switzerland) (translation)

Thank you, Mr President. Prime Minister, I wish to refer to an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper last August in which you surprised many people by saying you were against a European constitution.

My first question is: is this still your opinion? Secondly: if so, were you not prompted to say this by the hope of being able to retain the right of veto, even though you already know as a European that the veto is no longer compatible with the future organisation of the EU?

Mr Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

Mr President, I am surprised about what I am supposed to have said in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung last August. This is precisely what I did not write. If I remember correctly, I said in that article that, if no agreement was reached on all the aspects of a European constitution, there should at least be a number of basic articles that each state should incorporate in its national constitution so that we have the same wording in all the constitutions of the EU member states. I am, in fact, in favour of a European constitution.

My remark in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung last August was actually only meant for those who do not share my opinion and was supposed to establish a path to accommodate those who are, in principle, not in favour of a European constitution and could take a roundabout route via constitutional provisions that are worded the same and could be laid down in all the constitutions of the EU members.

I do not get worked up about the issue of the veto. There are some areas in which it is doubtless useful for us to stick to the principle of unanimity but also many others in which it would be more sensible if we were to accept majority decisions. With regard to those areas where unanimity is still necessary, I think this requirement could be replaced by majority decisions if we agreed in advance on the policies to which they are to apply.

In Europe, or, to be precise, in the EU, people often speak about decision-making, and institutional reforms but they do not say enough about political issues and are then surprised when the citizens do not understand what we are actually doing in the EU.

I am very much in favour of reaching majority decisions to establish a minimum standard of employee rights in Europe. I am also very much in favour of our taking decisions by a majority on issues to do with co-ordination, such as the harmonisation of tax policies. I should just like to know what policies these instrumental changes are to apply to once we have made them.

People are not interested in who takes the decisions but they are very interested in knowing on what issues decisions are taken. We should learn that it is the political substance that is important for the citizens of Europe and not the seating plan in the meeting rooms.


Thank you. Mr Gross, do you have a supplementary question?

Mr GROSS (Switzerland) (translation)

I should just like to say to the Prime Minister that I have never been so happy to have misunderstood him.

Mr Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

Mr President, I have never been so sad at being misread.


The process of EU enlargement is approaching its final stage. Among the issues yet to be resolved is that of agriculture, and especially direct payments to farmers. What is your government’s position on that, and can you envisage dialogue on it in the final stage of negotiations?

Mr Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

Mr President, once again, I find myself plunged back into a parliamentary debate, but one that concerns another European organisation, which I said should not be confused with Europe. I would not therefore want the Council of Europe to confuse it with Europe.

With regard to the honourable member’s question, I believe that direct payments to farmers are part of the acquis communautaire. It is true that, in the decisions taken in Berlin in 1999 in connection with Agenda 2000, we neither included nor excluded financial ceilings and confined ourselves to putting in place the types of subsidy to which he alluded. However, I believe that the direct support payments to fanners introduced in 1992 are part of the acquis communautaire.

We believe that the proposals the European Commission has made on the matter are very sensible. When it comes to adopt a joint position, most probably in October, the Council of Ministers would do well to base its own decisions on the Commission proposals. It is a question of consistency. It is also a question of treating the applicant countries with dignity.


Do you think that the Common Agricultural Policy will change because of enlargement? There have been mixed signals. As you know, Chancellor Schroder recently presented a different position in the article that has been referred to. Could that be an important shift towards a new policy?

Mr Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg (translation)

The question is interesting, as I believe that the Common Agricultural Policy, which remains a cornerstone of European policy, will see some changes over the next ten years.

Regardless of the enlargement of the EU and the accession of our friends from central and eastern Europe, the Common Agricultural Policy needs some reform. We began looking into this when drafting Agenda 2000. In my view, there are some areas of the Common Agricultural Policy, in particular in the field of rural development, where the idea of co-financing by Community and national budgets deserves attention.

I believe that reforms should be initiated, but I would not wish to establish a link between reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and enlargement. I would like enlargement to be agreed upon first, after which the fifteen existing EU members could join with the new member countries in reforming the Common Agricultural Policy. I do not like the suggestion made in some quarters, either orally or in writing, that there is a causal link between enlargement and reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. My position is clear: enlargement first, followed by reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.


That brings to an end the questions to Mr Juncker. I thank him most warmly on behalf of the Assembly for his statement and for the remarks he has made in the course of questions.

May I add that we all appreciate the way in which you delivered your speech. Thank you for making this important statement here.