Sign Up

Pat Cox: Europe’s Parliament — Why It Matters

Our most compelling quotes from the EU Parliament’s president on Europe’s future.

August 5, 2002

Our most compelling quotes from the EU Parliament's president on Europe's future.

As President of the European Parliament, Pat Cox heads an assembly representing more than 300 million people in 15 nations. One of the most frequent criticisms levied against the Parliament is that it has yet to realize its potential powers — something that Mr. Cox is determined to change.

Why is the process of European integration so significant?

We have it in our reach to heal the wounds of the barbaric 20th century on our continent. All in all, it is an extraordinary prospect of transformation.

Considering the European Union's expansion in 2004 welcoming new members from Eastern and central Europe, we are literally being touched by the hand of history.

What are the challenges of global economic integration — and how can the European Union help?

On the one hand, no country can be King Canute, the English king who sat on the shore and tried to command the tide to roll back when it was coming in. In a globalized world, you cannot say 'stop the globe please, we need to get off.'

On the other hand, inside the European Union, we have the mechanism to ease the structural change of globalization.

Do you foresee increased cooperation between the European Parliament and the United States Congress?

None of us has the right to make extraterritorial laws for others. However, in today's networked world, democratically elected legislators will be better able to represent our constituents only if we ourselves become better connected to each other.

We can no longer afford to legislate first — and worry afterwards about the effects of our policies on each other or the rest of the world.

What lessons do you believe the European Parliament can teach the world about governance in the era of globalization?

Moving beyond the old debate about the powers of the European Parliament, we have to recognize one thing. The European Parliament is the only transnational legislative body on earth that already has real powers of oversight and decision-making. It is time people took on board this new reality.

And we need to become much more aware of the processes of international policy-making and governance.

Is the European Union moving toward a common foreign policy? And if so, what will it look like?

In forming and developing strategic partnerships with the United States, with Russia, in building a Euro-Mediterranean dialogue, we are creating a foreign policy.

Plus, all around the world we have great credibility in terms of our appetite to fight global poverty, disease and famine.

Will European Union and U.S. disagreements over trade harm their long-term alliance?

If you take everything that we disagree on in the area of trade – often quite vehemently – it accounts for four percent of our transatlantic trade. Four percent of a $1 trillion relationship between trade and investment.

The European Union and U.S. relationship is the most important bilaterally in the world today.

In the aftermath of September 11, which mistakes should be avoided?

We need to avoid the trap of a clash of civilizations. That could lead to a truly apocalyptic confrontation. Let's always remember that all of us, as human beings, bear a heavy historic responsibility. Our common task is to ensure that we do not stray onto the path of confrontation.

How is the agricultural policy of the Bush Administration viewed in Europe?

For the next round of agricultural reform, our negotiators are working on this reform plan. Think of it like this: we have this very big stone — and they're pushing it up this very steep hill. And yet, somewhere along the way is an American standing with a big boot – ready to kick the stone down again. That boot is called the U.S. farm bill.

What strikes you the most about the current position of the United States?

The United States is not only a superpower today in military terms — but the hyper power. Yet, an extraordinary paradox that I have observed from all my friends and contacts since 9-11 is a hyper power with an extraordinary – almost hyper – sense of the vulnerability of its own people.

What do you think of U.S. objections to the International Criminal Court?

I do not understand them at all. The I.C.C. is designed to make dictators pay. It is not designed to make democrats pay. I would find it inconceivable that U.S. military personnel could find themselves hauled before such a court.

Finally, Americans rally around their flag and find inspiration in it. Can Europeans do the same?

Yes, to me the twelve stars of the European flag are a strong and daily reminder that the world could become a better place — if from time to time we had the courage to look up at the stars.