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Statement on agreement on the work of the Panama Canal

Press conference by Antonio Tajani on Panama Canal expanding work conflict © European Union

Statement by Vice President Tajani on 28 February 2014

I am very happy to congratulate the Authority of the Panama Canal and the consortium Grupo Unidos por el Canal, on reaching an agreement that will allow the completion of this key element of infrastructure for the global economy. This puts an end to the existing differences after negotiations that led to the result we all hoped for: the completion of a great work within the deadline. This agreement is important for the world economy, for Panama, for Europe, for countries around the world and for the reputation of all parties involved. I wish to thank the European companies for the spirit of cooperation which, together with the support of the Belgian, Spanish and Italian Governments, has allowed us to successfully conclude the negotiation. I also thank the Government of Panama for their contribution and in particular Minister Roberto Roy, with whom I have been in constant touch. When the three European companies urged me to intervene, on Sunday 19th January, I started to discretely work on the resolution of this matter. Today I can inform you that, despite the difficulties preventing agreement on 4 February, I presented on 7 February, in close coordination with the representatives of the three EU Member States, a course of action to the government of Panama. The next day, Saturday 8th February, I received immediate and positive response from Minister Roy. This allowed the resumption of negotiations between the interested parties. Since then I have been in regular contact with the various actors favouring the achievement of the desired result. Europe can and must speak with one voice in the world to solve complex problems, such as the expansion of the Panama Canal, one of the most important elements of infrastructure of our time. We need to recognize that this is the result of a collective work. I would also like to emphasize the important role played by European Commission President Barroso and the High Representative of the EU, Baroness Ashton. Finally, as European Commissioner for Industry, I emphasize the fact that three European companies have decided to ask Europe to intervene in order to reach the solution of the problem. I am convinced that it is a step towards a European economic diplomacy in support of national efforts.



PANAMA: previous statements

Statement by Vice President Tajani on 21 February 2014

Very positive news from Panama indicates that there has been a partial agreement between the parties involved in the building dispute. In recent days, contacts between the Minister of Panama Roberto Roy, governments, European companies and the insurance company Zurich have multiplied. I am pleased that these efforts are paying off. I consider it essential that construction work returns to full activity as soon as possible and that in parallel financial issues are resolved in due time. I agree with the recent statement made ​​by the President of the European Investment Bank that it is important that this matter is resolved satisfactorily. That agreement is reached is very good for Panama, for Europe, for the parties involved and also for the global economy. I hope that the remaining points can also be resolved. Once a final agreement is reached I will carry out a complete policy assessment and explain in detail my involvement over the past few weeks.

Statement by Vice President Tajani on 05 February 2014

I have heard the news from Panama on the absence of agreement between the parties on the work related to the expansion of the Panama Canal. The news is unexpected, as yesterday morning the President of the Republic, Mr Martinelli, made a positive public statement indicating that the parties were very close to an agreement. On my side, I have been following this issue closely since I was asked to intervene by the three European companies involved. I organised a meeting on 23January and since then I have been in contact with the authorities. Last night I spoke with the Minister responsible for the Canal, Roberto Roy. The political relation between the Commission and the Government of Panama has therefore been correct, but it is up to the parties to come to an agreement within the legal framework. I trust and hope that the parties reconsider their positions in the coming days, because the interruption of the work would be bad news for employment, for the worldwide economy, for the expansion of the Canal and for the parties themselves.

Statement by Vice President Tajani on 23 January 2014

Today 23 January 2014, I held a meeting in Brussels to which I had invited government representatives from Italy, Spain, and Belgium, and the companies Sacyr, Impregilo and Jan de Nul, as well as the European Investment Bank, to discuss the current situation in the Panama Canal. The purpose of the meeting was to objectively establish the facts of the situation and identify ways to resolve differences between the parties. European actors should speak with one voice abroad. I note with satisfaction that since I was last asked to intervene on Sunday 19 January by the three European construction companies, the parties have re-negotiated, the high-quality works are well advanced and are 70% complete and there has been significant progress in reconciling positions. Contracts should be honoured. I appeal to the spirit of constructive negotiation that has been recently created and hope the recent differences can be resolved. To this end, I have asked the consortium of European companies to make a special effort and trust that it will be reciprocated by all stakeholders. Finally, I am ready to come into contact with the Government of Panama. I think it may be useful to have a meeting to discuss issues of mutual interest - notwithstanding the eventual conclusion of this particular dispute between the parties under the contract and the laws of Panama. (more pictures)

Declaracion sobre el canal de Panamá de 19 enero 2014

He recibido por escrito en las últimas horas una petición del consorcio de empresas europeas que tienen una divergencia con las autoridades panameñas sobre el coste de la obra de expansión del Canal de Panamá para que intente mediar en la solución del problema. Considero positivo que varias empresas europeas del sector de la construcción, una española, una italiana y una belga, que tienen un problema en el exterior soliciten a la Comisión Europea su mediación. Soy consciente de la dificultad del problema a resolver pero me comprometo personalmente a intentar buscar una solución satisfactoria para todos. Lo más urgente a hacer es que las partes no lleven a cabo el ultimátum que expira mañana 20 de enero de 2014 y que concedan un plazo extra de algunas semanas para que pueda familiarizarme con el expediente. Es muy importante ponerme en contacto cuanto antes con los tres Gobiernos, además de las empresas y el Banco Europeo de Inversiones y también con las autoridades panameñas, para analizar cuál es el margen real de negociación. Conozco bien el problema de los sobrecostes de las grandes obras. Es, desgraciadamente, un fenómeno que también ocurre dentro de la UE. Comprendo la posición de las empresas europeas pero también entiendo bien la posición de las autoridades panameñas. He trabajado mucho con América Latina. Es un continente al que le he dedicado una gran atención durante mi mandato de Comisario Europeo de Industria y Empresa. Una ruptura del diálogo sobre una gran obra que está además muy avanzada, no interesa a nadie. Perdería sobre todo Panamá, que ha impulsado una obra clave para su país pero también perderían por supuesto las empresas europeas y el comercio mundial en general. Pido por tanto desde ahora a todas las partes un esfuerzo para converger hacia una posición común. Sirve de poco repetir las propias posiciones sin avanzar hacia el punto de encuentro. Por último, dada la complejidad de las cuestiones en discusión, es mi intención a partir de este momento trabajar discretamente a favor de la resolución de esta divergencia.

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