At IBF, Merkel affirms: Only Balkan states are assured of accession to EU
Opening remarks detail state of European affairs
Launching the 10th International Bertelsmann Forum, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány and EU Commission President José Manuel Durão Barroso discussed Europe's current and future challenges.

In her remarks outlining the current state of affairs in Europe, Chancellor Merkel called for Europe to be "founded anew." For this to happen, she said, "Europe must become aware of its common roots and enter into an intercultural dialogue with other regions around the globe." At the same time, she added, it must focus on defining its borders, both internally and externally, making clear that the EU will not be able to offer accession to any countries beyond the Balkans in the foreseeable future. On the economic front, she called for the EU to develop a new dynamism as a way of strengthening acceptance among the public for the concept of Europe. "This requires an ongoing liberalization of its markets, the reduction of bureaucracy and the promotion of research at development, beginning at the highest levels," she said. Looking to the future of the European constitution, she announced that the German EU presidency, scheduled for the first half of 2007, would produce a strategic timetable covering the period through 2009, noting that now is not the time for concrete suggestions for alternatives to the European constitutional agreement.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin stressed the need for a common European energy strategy. According to de Villepin, this strategy would require a European "energy diplomacy," an increased convergence of national energy policies and coordination of national strategic energy reserves within the EU.

Guy Verhofstadt, in turn, called for the EU to use its current crisis in order to help Europe take a giant step forward. "Following the 'no' votes in France and the Netherlands rejecting the European constitution, Europe must work all the harder to advance its political union," he said. He called for the creation of a "United States of Europe" with a common economic and social policy, as well as a common sphere governed by security and legal guidelines, and a joint European army.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso called for national politicians in the EU member states to increase their efforts to explain the "vision of Europe" to the public. At the same time, he stressed the necessity of bringing the internal European market to completion, since that would be the only way to boost Europe's competitiveness. "Europe must also develop a stronger presence on the international stage," he said. "For this to happen, the European states must substantially increase their cooperation in the areas of foreign, security and defense policy."

Ferenc Gyurcsány, prime minister of Hungary, used his address to warn of a rising national radicalism in Central and Eastern Europe.


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