Major attacked by MEPs over unemployment

Click to follow
The Independent Online
JOHN MAJOR yesterday defended the results of the Edinburgh summit against charges that the European Community had failed to do enough to create jobs, and resisted renewed attempts to push Britain to a deadline for ratification of the Maastricht treaty.

'We never expected our presidency to be easy . . . but we have solved the main problems confronting the Community now. We can go forward more confidently as a result,' he told the European Parliament.

MEPs last night passed a resolution condemning the growth initiative as unambitious and failing to put job-creation at the top of the EC's economic agenda. The resolution demanded that ratification should be completed in all member states by 30 June 1993, or the process of European Union should continue only with those states that had endorsed the Maastricht treaty. The Prime Minister was firm that 'we are committed to completing our ratification before the present session of Parliament ends next year.'

The Bill would have to be gone through line by line, he said, and explained that external pressure was counter-productive because 'the House of Commons is a very proud place. It does not like to be pushed around.'

But, in private, he told Conservative MEPs that he could not push the Maastricht Bill through too quickly: 'I cannot afford to lose a single clause; that would mean fresh ratification across Europe and I know and you know I cannot afford to take that risk, he said, predicting 'very long days and very long nights' steering the legislation through both houses.

His comments that the Edinburgh growth initiative would stimulate new investment and new jobs drew loud heckling from Socialist MEPs. 'If you spent less time talking and more time thinking you would realise how valuable this is, that it will lead to more jobs everywhere,' Mr Major countered. To the laughter this prompted he said: 'I'm surprised some people think creating jobs is funny. Perhaps because they think they have a secure job here, they don't mind about the 17 million unemployed.'

The leader of the Socialist majority, Jean-Pierre Cot, made sure his criticism hit home by delivering his speech in faultless English. 'It is the duty of all Community institutions and above all of the European Council to accept that the creation of jobs should be the Community's top priority in the months to come. At Edinburgh, unemployment was the forgotten part of the agenda.'

The only characteristic of the British presidency had been, he complained, 'the traditional British sense of humour in playing quite successfully Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde with the talent you have just shown, perhaps a bit heavy-handed on the Mr Hyde side'. The President of the European Commission, Jacques Delors, said that the EC had given Denmark six months to decide 'if it wants to stay on the EC train' and was confident Britain would follow. He scotched talk of a two-speed Europe where 'one group considers itself to be an elite and a second group tags along behind'.

AMSTERDAM - The Dutch Foreign Minister, Hans van den Broek, offered to step down from his new post as Dutch European Commissioner to open the way for the Dutch Prime Minister, Ruud Lubbers, to become president of the Commission, Reuter reports.

Mr Lubbers has been widely tipped to succeed Mr Delors as president in 1995, but the Netherlands is entitled to only one representative on the Commission.