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Schröder: Poland is in the heart of Europe


Schröder: Poland is in the heart of Europe

On May 26 Chancellor Schröder gave a speech at the Polish Lisbon Strategy Forum in Warsaw under the heading: "The European Union on the way to becoming the world's most competitive economy".

Speaking in Warsaw, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder underscored the enormous economic opportunities that have opened up as a result of the enlargement of the European Union. He indicated that Europe is now the world's largest internal market and that this is a challenge that needs to be addressed. The European constitution was a further topic of discussion between the German and Polish governments.

"The Polish nation is deeply rooted in European history and culture. War, foreign domination, and dictatorship never changed the fact that it is part of Europe."
Gerhard Schröder said.

After his speech Schröder met with President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Prime Minister Marek Belka to discuss European Union issues.

Social security reform indispensable

Schröder noted that if Europe is to succeed in international competition with Asia and America it will need to focus on its strengths, i.e. "the training of our people, European inventiveness, as well as our scientific and engineering capabilities".

He indicated that the welfare state model is also a European strength, but in order to be able to preserve the basic idea it embodies it will be necessary to reform it. The welfare state needs to change course, moving away from old forms of subsidization and towards investments in the future.

Europe will need to address two main challenges in this context: sharpened competition in a globalized world and radical changes in the age structures of our societies. Meeting these challenges is the aim of the EU's Lisbon Strategy: With it Europe is to become the world's most dynamic, competitive, and innovative economic area by the end of this decade.

Chancellor Schröder summed up what has been achieved thus far in the context of the Lisbon Strategy and what remains to be done: He said progress had been made with regard to opening up the telecommunications, rail and road transport, postal services, and energy markets. He added that the EU will need to increase its investments in the future, i.e. in education, research, development, and innovation.
Polish Lisbon Strategy Forum: Poland, too, sees in the Lisbon Strategy an opportunity to increase European competitiveness in the global economy. This is what motivated the country to establish the Polish Lisbon Strategy Forum in March 2003 as a meeting place for governments, non-governmental organizations, and the business community.
A strong Commission for a strong industrial policy

Chancellor Schröder said a strong industrial policy will be a key source of prosperity and a driving force for innovation in the EU. In order to strengthen the European Commission and, as such, European industrial policy, Schröder suggested that:

legislative proposals put forward by the European Commission be assessed to make sure they won't restrict corporate competitiveness and innovativeness;

in the future Commission there be a vice-president responsible for economic reforms who has comprehensive powers to coordinate the work of the economic directorates.

Focus of support should be shifted to new members

"The new member states will have to undertake an enormous development effort to bring them up to the Western European level," Schröder noted.

The German government has proposed limiting EU financing between 2007 and 2013 to one percent of the gross domestic product of the member states. On this basis it will still be possible to have annual increases of 4.5 percent in the EU budget.

Schröder proposed concentrating financial assistance from the cohesion fund on the poorest regions in Europe - and the latter in most cases are situated in the new member countries.

Schröder called upon those member states who have been the main recipients of European Union solidarity in the past to show that that they, too, are capable of showing solidarity . At the same time he urged the new member states to invest their own money in the development of infrastructures.

A constitution will make Europe viable for the future

The European Union must continue to be governable in the post-enlargement situation. Schröder referred to the draft European constitution, saying that it would provide a good basis for this but that it is still under discussion. Poland and Germany are in agreement on numerous points. They both want:

the President of the EU Commission to be elected by the European Parliament;

a strong European Parliament in legislative matters; and

a European foreign minister.

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