TCS Daily

Some Assembly Required

By Tomasz Teluk - June 17, 2005 12:00 AM

Can the European Parliament be an effective force for change in the EU? TCS contributor Tomasz Teluk talks with former Polish Prime Minister and current MEP Jerzy Buzek about intellectual property, economic growth, and the future of European political economics.

Tomasz Teluk: Professor Buzek, describe the present political climate in Brussels? Is it moving toward free-market principles or more toward market regulations and bureaucracy? Where are you on this scale?

Jerzy Buzek: I am observing a real fight over how this model will play out. Great Britain, Spain, Italy and -- to some extent -- Poland support a free-market model. On the other side: Germany, France and the Scandinavian countries want to keep their social model and market regulations. I am rather in the first group. If the EU wishes to win over its competitors, it should change its system. We cannot do it radically. We do not have as much space in the continent as Americans have, so we must also respect other rules: social and ecological. But Europeans went too far with regulations and that is why Europe is losing its market position.

TT: You work on two important committees in the European Parliament: Industry, Research and Energy and Environment, Public Health, Food Safety. What are you working on now?

JB: I have been appointed as Parliament's official rapporteur for the seventh EU Research Framework Programme for the years 2007-2013, with a budget of €80 billion. This is a great responsibility but also a chance to create a model of scientific research which will give the EU an impulse for development. My work in the Environment Committee is crucial for the Silesian region -- the industrial part of Poland where I come from. We make laws and financial mechanisms to support the transition of regions in ecological danger. The ecological status of some European regions is still very low. I would like the EU to support such regions in a special way. We have to replace the old socialist-style industry, which had a very bad influence on nature, with innovative technologies.

TT: Do you think that the European Parliament is gaining more influence vis-à-vis the European Commission and the national governments?

JB: I think so. Yes, the European Parliament is a very effective way of making multinational politics where national parliaments are weak. Look at some countries that are ignoring the rules they have created, provoking economic and social tensions. The European Parliament and the European Commission sometimes do it better. These multinational bodies sometimes defend less powerful countries in the international area. You know of the case of discrimination against Polish companies trading with Russia. The Commission helped them. Also, the EP had an influence on the political situation in Ukraine last year. This is the right direction and we should support it.

TT: Do you think that the EU needs reforms to compete with the US, China, India, Brazil and other developing countries? How should the intellectual property be protected?

JB: The EU economy is weaker and the flow of new technologies is lower in comparison with the US and Japan. I was against the EU Software Patents Directive in the Commission-Council proposal, but I am for the protection of intellectual property in general. Personally, I am the owner of a few patents. We should protect intellectual property on two levels: copyrights and patents.

TT: More than 80 percent of new drugs are developed in the US. Do you fear that business will not invest in the EU if intellectual property is not as protected as in the US?

JB: Maybe in the case of medicine we should do it as strictly as in the US. The problem is that, in the EU, many companies are not threatened by bankruptcy. In other words: companies should be dependent not on government, but on the market. If they are relying on subsidies they might be not competitive, investing in modern technologies and paying scientists. We should change it if we want to be competitive in the global economy.

TT: In the drug market we observe a strange situation. This is probably the only sector with censorship of information. What do you think about the two propositions of European politicians to change this? First: Pat Cox's proposal to abolish the ban on drug advertisements and liberalization of the pharmaceutical market and second, Günter Verheugen's proposition to create public databases of drugs?

JB: We should partly, step by step, liberalize the market and the flow of information. I am not finding these two propositions contrary but complementary.


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