English : THE BRUGES SPEECH.
Vincent Carriou 1AFIFB
Former Prime-minister Margaret Thatcher passed more legislation than any other Prime minister in Great-Britain's history, binding Great-Britain (GB) closer to Europe. For instance, in 1973 M. Thatcher supported the entry of GB in the European economic community and in 1986 she signed the European Single Act which liberalised Trade andinstituted the free movement of capital and labour. Yet, she is seen as the most anti-European leader GB has ever had because of her forceful position towards European Comission of J. Delors. Moreover she was not in tune with other European leaders on the question of Europe as showed the rebate of about 1 billion pounds she obtained in 1984 after having declared « we want our money back! » concerningthe fact that GB was giving more to Europe than receiving from it. This is what leads her to Bruges in 1988 to shed light on her conception of the European Community, in one of her most remembered speeches.
In the first part, M. Thatcher begins with an overview of GB's relations with Europe then goes on to discuss what the community should look like, in her opinion. Finally, she explains thereasons why she advises European leaders to open up to wider horizons.
First and foremost, Mrs Thatcher begins by highlighting the conception that most of the European media had of her. Indeed this is why she draws a parallel with Genghis Khan a former-dictator of the Mongol empire, mostly known for being barbarous, which shows that “the iron lady” was seen as a threat to Europe and not thePrime-minister of a European country, which she was. Such vision is omitting GB's past towards Europe and the role GB played in shaping Europe through the past decades. As a matter of fact GB had prevented Europe from falling under the tyranny of a country that would have allowed no freedom nor justice during World War II, “we have fought and we have died for her freedom” even said Thatcher aboutEurope. What'smore GB should not be seen as a threat for Europe is not only a common market but also a common share of culture and history, which is why Thatcher refers to the “Roman empire” and the influence of “the Norman and the “Angevin” in the building of GB's frontiers. In point of fact, both Europe and GB have grown alongside with each other, Europe still has a great influence on GB's literatureand arts but Europe also needs GB to remain in the community. History bounded GB and Europe closer to one another and the debate about a European identity can not wreak havoc on that fact, seems to be Thatcher's point. This is the meaning of her statement “the European Community is one manifestation of that European identity, but it is not the only one”. This is the way through which sheintroduces her discontent with Delors's proposal of a Europe-wide social system which seems to narrow European horizons.
In a second time, Thatcher becomes vocal about her opposition to allowing the European economic community (EEC) to supersede National sovereignty. In fact, she wishes for a more united Europe on various subjects such as trade, defence and in international relations but she wants toensure that all of the EEC members preserve their own traditions as she is in favour of Europe being a “family of nations” and not the European Superstate France had been calling for for years. Indeed the Bruges speech is a response to Delors “social Europe” that was voiced at the 1988 trade unions congress only a few months before Thatcher's visit to Bruges. In fact, Thatcher only considers theidea of peace and prosperity as feasible goals and that's why she's in favour of a Europe-wide free trade area with little regulation and where each country would decide it's own economic and social policies, for instance she rejects any harmonisation of taxes in that, those, should be abolished within the community as she said “Nor must it be ossified by an endless regulation”. Liberalism...
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