François Fillon: Those who are constructive about Europe have been rewarded

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The Independent Online

We have just had a European election, and it's up to each of our political groups to draw lessons from it. I want to single out two of them.

The first is that the majority of electors who voted in this ballot voted on and for Europe. Fifty-eight per cent of our fellow citizens maintain they didn't vote on domestic policy issues, which is an encouraging sign for European democracy. Those who sought openly to use this ballot to punish us have been punished.

Conversely, those who talked about Europe, those who put forward constructive or alternative proposals, have been rewarded. This was particularly the case for "Europe-Ecologie" [the Greens], whose breakthrough confirms the growing importance of the environment.

I say to the majority that they can be proud of this result. It recognises the work accomplished by the French European Union presidency under President Sarkozy. It also stems from the majority's unity and the clarity of its goal of a political Europe.

We take the consequences of this success seriously because the high expectations the French have of Europe bring us far more duties than rights. It impels us, in particular, to act to meet two major challenges.

First: the economic crisis. The whole of Europe must do more to emerge from the recession as soon as possible. And it must punch its full weight in the effort to regulate the international financial system.

The second challenge: global warming. At France's instigation, Europe has adopted the world's most ambitious legislation in this sphere. But we now have to convince the whole international community to follow us.

The second lesson from the European election is the high abstention rate which has risen continuously since the 1999 election, in France as elsewhere. Widespread public indifference to one of the greatest political adventures of all time must be a serious warning to us.

The more we need Europe, the more people's indifference grows. It's our collective duty to overcome this contradiction by giving the European Union the ability to deliver results and the passion it too often lacks.

Taken from a speech by the prime minister of France to the French National Assembly this week