ECR Co-Chairman Raffaele Fitto's plenary speech in preparation for the European Council meeting on 16-17 December 2021:
I would like to begin today’s speech with a thought, not just as an MEP but as a European citizen. I am reading the agenda of the next European Council, and listening to the debate in the Chamber, and it seems to me that time has stopped. For months now European summits have been addressing the same issues over and over, with many declarations of intent on the various topics, which I am sure will not be lacking this time either, but with few concrete solutions.
All this while the epidemiological situation remains difficult and threatens the recovery. We should not be alarmist, but rather work to reinforce our fight against the pandemic, protecting health while avoiding new restrictions.
We need to improve support to Member States, not least through an effective and consistent communication on the science and technology that lie at the root of vaccinations. Moreover, as the President of Ghana rightly pointed out here yesterday, no one will be safe from covid until everybody is. One of the most immediate challenges is to increase vaccine distribution and production capacities in Africa as a contribution to ending the global pandemic, and to avoid the development of new potential variants.
At the same time, growth could also be threatened by other factors on which the response has so far been ineffective. Starting with the energy price crisis, which will continue for a long time if divisions are not overcome and clear choices are not made in terms of supply and use of resources. Gas and nuclear power are key to achieving environmental transition targets. In the same way, it will be essential to support a real investment policy by the Member States, which can be achieved by reforming the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact and the rules on state aid, issues that are once again absent from the European agenda. We need to be realist and pragmatic to avoid that these “green initiatives” turn into an economic and social bloodbath for European citizens and businesses, also in light of the results of COP 26.
IMMIGRATION AND FOREIGN POLICY
We would also like to see decisions on immigration. After March, June and October, let us avoid this Council being yet another one of intentions and no progress. The Commission’s proposals on the new migration and asylum pact and the Schengen reform will probably be adding to the problems and burdens that are already being faced by border states. It is time for a real policy on the external dimension, enforcing without further delay a comprehensive vision and strategy on the three routes, in order to limit irregular migration flows and the pressure on external border states, but also to counter the attempts of third countries to exploit migrants to destabilise and blackmail our continent.
All this must be accompanied by political and diplomatic action aimed, on the one hand, at strengthening cooperation with the countries of the southern neighbourhood, and, on the other hand, putting an end to the destabilisation under way on the eastern front by Belarus, as well as Russia’s attempt to challenge Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We are facing an unprecedented hybrid attack on Member States and the EU as a whole, to which we must respond in a resolute manner, and in a spirit of full cooperation with the US and our NATO allies. With the growing threat from Russia, increased hostility from China and a constantly unstable Middle East, EU-NATO cooperation is more necessary than ever. It is therefore essential to avoid duplication and ensure complementarity, burden-sharing and close transatlantic cooperation.
On all these issues, we hope that there will be a real shift from words to facts. Let us not have yet another inconclusive summit, and let us give answers to European citizens who need certainty in terms of their health, their economy and their security.