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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 May 2006, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
EU Constitution
On Sunday 14 May 2006, Andrew Marr interviewed Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Jose Manuel Barroso
Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission

ANDREW MARR: Now, moving to the continent smoothly. Next year the European Union is going to turn 50.

And like many 50-year-olds, its waistline is still expanding. Bulgaria and Romania have been gorged next and it's had its own mid-life crisis.

A year ago voters in France and The Netherlands rejected the European Constitution and Europe's chastened leaders announced a period of reflection.

What the heck do we do now time. And that's got just four weeks left to go. So what will they do?

I'm joined now from Brussels by the man at the very top of the European Union, the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso. Mr. Barroso, welcome, thank you very much indeed for joining us.


ANDREW MARR: Can I start off by asking, can I start off by asking what is going to happen to this much vexed European Constitution? We've had a year of reflection, it's just about to end. What should happen now?

JOSE MANUEL BARROSO: Well when the leaders of Europe will meet next month my advice to them will be don't go for the penalties, penalties can be very cruel, give yourself some extra time. Because, the fact is, that there is not yet a consensus on that. As you know the Constitution has been ratified by the majority of the Member States, but two Member States, Netherlands and France said no.

So the reasonable thing to do now is not to try to get it in June, but on the contrary to move forward with an agenda of resolve and showing concretely what we can do. How can we deliver some things that are important for the European citizens and change the context, and afterwards come back to the text. One thing is sure to me, we need some reforms of institutions because we need a European Union that works more efficiently, more effectively.

ANDREW MARR: Do you think that the Constitution as it was originally envisaged, was simply too ambitions, and that you need to re-write a future Constitution before you take it back to the countries, where there is not much enthusiasm in France, Germany, Britain and other countries, for going ahead anyway?

JOSE MANUEL BARROSO: Well this question we can not yet answer frankly. I myself are going to side with the Constitution. I think it is the right thing, it was of course a compromise. The principles, the values were right. It will make Europe work much more efficiently and much more comfortable.

I think it is a good text. Now, can all Member States agree on that? It's not yet clear, so what I hope is that we create the conditions and then sometime from now we can have an institutional reform of the European Union, probably close to that Constitution but it is too soon, honestly, to say what will be the final outcome.

ANDREW MARR: You see, Mr. Barroso. In Britain there is such a lack of enthusiasm for the Constitution, and the same appears to be true in France. But the very idea of bringing it back again looks to a lot of people completely crackers. What do you think should be done by the national leaders, and by the Commission, to actually enthuse people just a little bit more about the EU?

JOSE MANUEL BARROSO: It's true that there is not much enthusiasm but let me tell that some times there is exaggerations about the scepticism of the British citizens regarding Europe. In fact all the clues we have show that there are more people saying that it's good for Britain membership of the European Union than those who oppose it, honestly. And in fact I believe you are doing something to improve the situation. We are not trying to focus on results, we now trying to focus on delivery.

And it's important that our British citizens understand that if we need a strong market, we need an enlarged Europe, it is a bonus to have also institutions that work. It's a mistake to think that the market alone can solve all the problems. Britain has benefiting, is benefiting a lot from this enlargement. Let me tell you, just in figure, since 1992 that exports of Britain to the ten new Member States have grown almost 400 per cent. 400 per cent, it is ten times more than the growth of exports to the rest of the world. But to keep these markets going we need some institutions. We need a more streamline process of decision.

That's why I think the British citizens can possibly be convinced if they see results and I think that British people are always very pragmatic about it. And of course it's a risk of stability also national leaders to do this. We can not expect everything to come from Brussels. I mean, Europe is not just about Brussels. Europe is about all the Member States that are in this European Union.

ANDREW MARR: Well I was going to ask you about national leaders. Because when they came in, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown made much of being very pro-European, heart of Europe and all the rest of it. Are you candidly a little disappointed by their lack of public enthusiasm for Europe and all its worth these days?

JOSE MANUEL BARROSO: I can't figure out, where, because I've been working with your Prime Minister and I can tell that he's feeling a great contribution for Europe in fact. He is trying to move the agenda for reform in Europe so Europe that is more accountable that is more modern. And I fully share this idea and we are in fact working together, also with other leaders. So I really appreciate the contribution given by Prime Minister Blair to a more modern, more open Europe, a Europe that can modernise itself in this globalised world.

And I hope that this line is the line to be kept in the future, because very frankly, I mean, we need a strong Britain in the centre of Europe because Britain is a very important country for all Europe. And I believe that it is also an advantage for Britain to be at the centre of this project because in these globalised world it's quite obvious that even the biggest Member States alone they can not have all the leverage when they meet, as the Russians or the Chinese or other emerging powers. We are stronger if we show the value added of this union almost 500 million people that is the first block, trade block in the world, the first donor of environment aid, so increasingly a very, very serious power in global politics.

ANDREW MARR: And yet, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, says that something fundamental has to change. Do you agree with that? And if you do what?

JOSE MANUEL BARROSO: I agree profoundly in the propositions I made last week. I suggested that next year it is the 50th anniversary of the birth of the European Community we should have a kind of a political declaration with a new commitment of the leaders of Europe to explain why we need this European Union. And Mrs. Merkel, by the way we are working also very closely with her and with this new German government.

She's also committed to a kind of reformation of Europe and this, if this is the case, the more open and more accountable and more democratic and also a more efficient Europe, I think we are all in the same line. But it is very important this point I was making. This can not be done just by Brussels. This has to be done by all the leaders at the national level. Because, I mean, the national leaders are also European leaders and we need this input and so I welcome the commitments of Mrs. Merkel for a new impetus for Europe.

ANDREW MARR: Finally Mr. Barroso, the next two countries coming in are meant to be Bulgaria and Romania, as Europe spreads further and further. There seems to be a bit of confusion about when they're going to be able to come in, because there was some suggestion that it's going to be delayed, there've been problems over crime, over the economy, and a lot of anger, particularly in Bulgaria about this.

JOSE MANUEL BARROSO: We are going to take the decision Tuesday. We can not yet tell you which decision because that's a collective decision. But there are three possibilities. One is to say everything is perfect, come in just now for 2007.

Another is you have not done your homework, you can only come in 2008. There is a third possible solution is, OK you can come on the 1st January 2007 if until there is this, this. And so, I'm in favour of, very much in favour of having as soon as possible Romania and Bulgaria. It think it is good for Europe and good for them, provided they meet exactly all the criteria including in questions of judicial affairs and tackle corruption and tackle of course organised crime.

ANDREW MARR: Everybody is obsessed at the moment with security, with terror, for obvious reasons. And one of your suggestions for a more active Europe has been that police cooperation should become a community matter to be voted on by majority voting and so on. A lot of people here say even in Britain our security forces and our police force sometimes find it difficult to communicate. To make this even more complicated, to put the European Union into the equation is crackers.

JOSE MANUEL BARROSO: I mean, first of all Britain has an opt out in that matter and if Britain wants to keep that opt out it has the right to do it. But really I think more and more it is clear that we need the European dimension because global terrorism is global, it's, a Member State alone it's much more difficult. And let me give you an example, a suspect of terrorist attacks in London was caught in Italy and it took only 40 days to send it back to Britain before, before it could take two three years.

Because now we have the European arrest warrant. So and of course if you want to make some deportation they are much more effective if it is not only deportation of one country but deportation from all European Union States. So I really believe that there are more and more arguments now with this global threat that is terrorism and organised crime, if we do it together, of course respect international sovereignty, but with increased mechanisms of cooperation in fields such as police cooperation against terrorists or tackling illegal immigration.

ANDREW MARR: Mr. Barroso, thank you very, very much indeed for joining us this morning. Very grateful indeed.


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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