Europe needs Business Dec03

LATER this month, European Union heads of government meet to finalise the draft of the new European Constitution which will determine the economic and political evolution of the enlarged EU with a combined GDP of 6,414 billion.


The controversial new constitution, if and when approved by all member states, will inevitably change the number and responsibilities of the European Commissioners. It is my firm belief that when member states appoint their Commissioners next year, it is on the basis of competence and performance. We need people of proven ability, especially those in commerce and industry across the enlarged Union - it's time to end the tradition of appointing failed national politicians because they have an innate inability to work effectively with both the European Parliament and the EU's institutions.


If we must have a Constitution - and as a Conservative, I am opposed to it and demand that the British people have their opportunity to vote for or against it in a referendum - it must offer greater powers to the European Parliament by extending the range of policy issues for co-determination to shape future EU legislation.


In June 2004, the Parliament will expand from the current 626 to 732 members and sadly, the UK's representation will be reduced from 87 to 78 MEPs to accommodate the 10 new states of Eastern Europe. Here in the East of England, we will lose one of our MEPs.


Business, commerce, trade and industry are affected directly by any EU legislation. Therefore, all those engaged in entrepreneurship and job creation must mobilise resources to ensure that right across the EU, including the accession countries, more Members of Parliament - both national and European - are selected and elected only if they have work experience in the real world for at least 10 years. Such experience ensures wider competence, better communication skills and effective parliamentary performance.


I hope that the new composition of the European Parliament from June 2004 will produce an alliance to create a leading political group with new Members from the accession countries who will have the competence, courage, commitment and independence to support legislation that promotes the EU's economic competitiveness and prosperity.


The new MEPs will be more effective and secure meaningful benefits for their countries if they see the EU as a union of nation states founded on a dynamic, knowledge-based, competitive economy. The European Parliament in 2004 and beyond has no room for ideologues with little knowledge of wealth creation or public service. It should not be a parliament for members to score linguistic points or play domestic politics. It should be a parliament that will deliver to its 450 million citizens an in-depth scrutiny of legislation as it affects EU competitiveness, entrepreneurial stimulation, the encouragement of new businesses (especially of small and medium sized enterprises) a flexible labour market, greater mobility and access to lifelong learning.