It is an honour to be here in the European Parliament today.
With your permission, I will come back after each European Council during the UK Presidency and report to you. In addition, I would be happy to consult the Parliament before each Council, so as to have the benefit of the views of the European Parliament before Council deliberations.
This is a timely address. Whatever else people disagree upon in Europe today, they at least agree on one point: Europe is in the midst of a profound debate about its future.
I want to talk to you plainly today about this debate, the reasons for it and how to resolve it. In every crisis there is an opportunity. There is one here for Europe now, if we have the courage to take it.
The debate over Europe should not be conducted by trading insults or in terms of personality. It should be an open and frank exchange of ideas. And right at the outset I want to describe clearly how I define the debate and the disagreement underlying it.
The issue is not between a "free market" Europe and a social Europe, between those who want to retreat to a common market and those who believe in Europe as a political project.
This is not just a misrepresentation. It is to intimidate those who want change in Europe by representing the desire for change as betrayal of the European ideal, to try to shut off serious debate about Europe's future by claiming that the very insistence on debate is to embrace the anti-Europe.
It is a mindset I have fought against all my political life. Ideals survive through change. They die through inertia in the face of challenge.
I am a passionate pro-European. I always have been. My first vote was in 1975 in the British referendum on membership and I voted yes. In 1983, when I was the last candidate in the UK to be selected shortly before that election and when my party had a policy of withdrawing from Europe, I told the selection conference that I disagreed with the policy. Some thought I had lost the selection. Some perhaps wish I had. I then helped change our policy in the 1980's and was proud of that change.
Since being Prime Minister I signed the Social Chapter, helped, along with France, to create the modern European Defence Policy, have played my part in the Amsterdam, the Nice, then the Rome Treaties.
This is a union of values, of solidarity between nations and people, of not just a common market in which we trade but a common political space in which we live as citizens.
It always will be.