Committee of Ministers Chairmanship – Luxembourg: May - November 2002 

Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime Minister, Secretary of State, Finance Minister of Luxembourg

Questions and answers

(Strasbourg, 26 June 2002)

THE PRESIDENT. – 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.

Mr KOULOURIS (Greece). – In the near future it is expected that the European Union 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 conference 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?

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. Would you like to answer this question, Mr Juncker?

Mr JUNCKER replied that he had covered some of these matters already in his speech, but he wished to emphasise that he had become even more convinced that “post-enlargement” was a good time for a new summit which should look at the new institutional architecture. It would also afford an opportunity for dialogue with countries such as Russia and Ukraine who would by then be the EU’s new neighbours.

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

Mr KOULOURIS (Greece). – No. The Prime Minister has given us a full answer.

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

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

THE PRESIDENT. – Mr Juncker, would you like to answer?

Mr JUNCKER recalled that he had spoken in this same room to members of the European Parliament when they had expressed similar concerns before previous enlargements. The number of members had been allocated at the Nice Summit at a meeting which had continued until the early morning. He had never got the impression that the allocation was an exact science or the result of a precise mathematical calculation. Possibly the decision at Nice could be reversed or amended. He confirmed that it was still the intention for the new member states to participate in the next round of European Parliament elections.

THE PRESIDENT. – 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 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 1087. 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 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?

THE PRESIDENT. – Mr Juncker, would you care to reply?

Mr JUNCKER replied that he believed that the new members of the European Union would be able to take part in the elections in 2004.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you.
The next question is from Mr Gross.

Mr GROSS (Switzerland) asked whether the Prime Minister held to his views expressed in a newspaper article in August 2001 in which he said he was against a European Union constitution. He asked whether this was because his was a small country which was against the use of the veto.

THE PRESIDENT. – Thank you. I ask Mr Juncker to respond.

Mr JUNCKER expressed surprise to hear what Mr Gross had said concerning the article from August 2001. The article was expressing the view that some accommodation might have to be found for those countries that were not in favour of a European Union constitution. This needed to be clarified because he himself was in favour of such a constitution. On the issue of the veto, in some areas it was of use and in others it might thwart the decision-making process. It all depended what area one was talking about. There was the problem that people did not always understand what the European Union actually did.

THE PRESIDENT (Translation). – Mr Gross, do you have a supplementary question?

Mr GROSS (Switzerland) said that he had never been so happy to misunderstand an article.

Mr JUNCKER said that he had never been so happy to be misread.

THE PRESIDENT. – The next question is from Mr Jaskiernia.

Mr JASKIERNIA (Poland). – The process of European Union 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?

THE PRESIDENT. – Mr Juncker, would you like to answer?

Mr JUNCKER replied that the direct payments to farmers were part of the Community acquis. The European Commission had put forward some good proposals on this issue and the Council of Ministers would be inspired if they accepted the European Commission’s recommendations.

THE PRESIDENT. – Would you care to ask a supplementary question, Mr Jaskiernia?

Mr JASKIERNIA (Poland). – Do you think that the common agricultural policy will change because of enlargement? There have been mixed signals. As you know, Chancellor Schröder recently presented a different position in the article that has been referred to. Could that be an important shift towards a new policy?

THE PRESIDENT. – I call Mr Juncker to reply.

Mr JUNCKER said that this was a question that concerned him. In the next ten years the common agricultural policy would change, irrespective of enlargement. It was apparent that the common agricultural policy needed change and Agenda 2000 had taken this into account. The common agricultural policy and enlargement should be dealt with separately: enlargement first and then the common agricultural policy.

THE PRESIDENT. – 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.