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European Movement welcomes its new President
Charles Kennedy MP

21 November 2007

Baroness Quin, IanTaylor MP, Charles Kennedy MP, Peter Luff in the Jubilee Room of the Houses of Parliament

On 21st November 2007 the European Movement UK held a morning reception in the Houses of Parliament to welcome its new President, the Rt Hon Charles Kennedy MP.

As members will be well aware, the EM has been through a difficult two years of re-structuring to meet 21st century opportunities, during which our branch chair Sarah Leigh played a significant role as co-ordinator of the Strategy Task Force - work which involved a complete review of the aims and methods of the EM, organising a Special General Meeting, and eventual adoption of a new national Constitution.

Now with a revived national website launched the same day, and with fresh printed materials, the European Movement was ready for a "re-launch".

In the Jubilee Room of the Houses of Parliament, situated at the end of the historic Westminster Hall, members from the National Council, the Young European Movement and guests from several European embassies heard Peter Luff, the EM Chairman,  outline the improvements that have been made to the Movement’s internal organisation and call on all those who want to see the pro-European case widely understood in the UK to join the European Movement.

Joined by Baroness Quin (Labour) and Ian Taylor MP (Conservative), Charles Kennedy outlined the future for the European Movement under his presidency:

"I am delighted that the European Movement is re-launching here at Westminster today and look forward to my own active involvement in this new role.

“The European Movement is not, and never has been, a mouthpiece of the EU’s institutions. We have always been a candid and critical friend, never hesitating to point out how the EU would improve and benefit its citizens. But, we are also passionate in our commitment to explaining to the British people why playing a full and creative role in Europe is the best way to guarantee our security, whether in reducing the threat of global warming, ensuring energy security, combating crime and terrorism, negotiating trade deals and building a fairer and more just world.

“The Euro-sceptics have had it their own way for too long and threaten to damage Britain’s interests. A typical example of the nonsense they are peddling is the suggestion that the Reform Treaty represents a change that destroys Britain’s ability to govern itself, leading to the creation of a European super-state. This shows no understanding of the way the European Union works. Their continual carping on the sidelines, lacking the courage to demand complete withdrawal, which they know would be rejected by the British people, is damaging Britain’s ability to push through reforms that could make the EU more efficient in its internal structures and more effective on the world stage.

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“Successive British governments have failed to make the pro-European case dynamically and imaginatively. It isn’t enough just to outline the economic advantages. They are vital to our economic prosperity but there is a much bigger case to make. Not only does the European Union provide its member states with security in an increasingly dangerous world, but it also offers the world a model of democratic and accountable multi-national government that provides hope for all those presently riven by the kind of conflict that for generations destroyed Europe.

“It is an absurdity that opponents of the Reform Treaty accuse the EU of being insufficiently accountable when the Treaty seeks to address that very issue by making Council decisions more transparent, by increasing the power of Parliamentary co-decision making and by involving national parliaments more intimately in the decision making process.

“We urge the British government to get off the sidelines, and make the case for Europe aggressively and imaginatively.”

Part of the audience in the Jubilee Room of the Houses of Parliament

In a substantial article in The Guardian on 24 November, Paul MacInnes asked why the re-launch of the European Movement had been widely ignored in the media.  “After all, it was about the importance of conveying a positive argument about Europe, and people don't want to hear that. Such is the antipathy towards anybody who might make a positive case for stronger relationships with our neighbours, rumours persist that Steve McClaren deliberately flunked the match on Wednesday.

“If attitudes are to change, winning the political argument will not be enough without a cultural shift.”

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