European Council of Brussels: common press conference by José Manuel Barroso, Herman van Rompuy and Demtris Christofias
Type: Complete press conference
End production: 14/12/2012 First transmission: 14/12/2012
On 14 December 2012, José Manuel Barroso, President of the EC, Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council, and Demetris Christofias, President of Cyprus, gave a press conference following the December European Council, in Brussels.
On this occasion, Demetris Christofias presented the main results of the Cyprus Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
Only the original language version is authentic and it prevails in the event of its differing from the translated versions.
||Arrival of José Manuel Barroso, President of the EC, Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council, and Demetris Christofias, President of Cyprus, at the European Council, in Brussels
||Demetris Christofias, Herman van Rompuy and José Manuel Barroso arriving on stage (2 shots)
||Soundbite by the moderator (in ENGLISH) opening the final press conference following the December European Council
||Soundbite by Herman van Rompuy (in ENGLISH): Thank you. Good morning. Second press conference today. A few remarks after the concluding session of the European Council, the last one of the year.
This morning, we had a good discussion on our Common Security and Defence Policy. It's been a while – in fact since 2008 – that this issue has been discussed at our level.
There are several reasons why I wanted to bring it back on our agenda. For one thing, the security challenges that Europe faces have, if anything, increased over the last few years; and our countries are being called upon to assume more responsibility in the maintenance of peace in our neighbourhood and beyond. Also, recent crisis operations, including in Libya, have revealed certain gaps that we need to fill-in. All this of course, while the current economic context makes it even more pressing to develop required capabilities in the most cost-effective way.
Before the summer, I already shared my intention to devote the December 2013 European Council to these questions. The purpose of today's discussion was to set into motion our preparations.
Today, even if obviously we do not yet know the final endpoint in twelve months, we set a direction for our work. We want the security and defence policy as a whole to become more effective. This includes also our civilian capabilities, a very important aspect, as well as a more systematic cooperation among EU Member States on defence capabilities. We also want to see a stronger defence industry in Europe, which will contribute to more innovation and competitiveness, and to more growth and employment across our Union.
So in practical terms, we have invited the High Representative, as well as the Commission, to develop proposals and report on them at the latest by September 2013. It's very important that Member States feed in ideas and priorities into this process. The External Action Service and the European Defence Agency will obviously play a key role. On the basis of this work, I will then present recommendations, ahead of the December 2013 European Council meeting itself.
I am pleased that we are launching this process on Common Security and Defence Policy. At the beginning of the week, we made clear in Oslo to our partners in the world that the European Union will stand by those who are in pursuit of peace and human dignity. To fulfil our responsibilities, we have to make sure that we have at our disposal all the means that are needed.
We also had a substantial discussion on the increasingly deteriorating situation in Syria, a situation by which we are appalled. We have a moral duty on this issue, where so many innocent lives are being lost. We underlined the gravity of the situation, and the need to support the coalition of Syrian opposition forces in the most effective way. We stressed the need for Assad to leave office, and for a real political process to take place.
The European Council remains actively engaged and tasks the Foreign Affairs Council to look "at all options to support and help the opposition and to enable the greater support for the protection of civilians." We also address our "support to a future that is democratic and inclusive with full support for human rights and the rights of minorities".
We also examined the Annual Growth Survey – a point I am sure President Barroso will say more about in his intervention. It marks the beginning of the 2013 European Semester. The third edition of this essential policy instrument should take place in a better overall economic context, now that we see a prudent return of confidence in the eurozone and beyond.
Finally, I should like to thank President Christofias for the excellent cooperation during the Cyprus Presidency. It was the country's first Presidency since its accession, fully aimed at the Union's common interest. All along we have worked intensively together, also with many members of the government, in particular on the ongoing budget talks. From the summer, the Cyprus Presidency spared no effort in carefully preparing the ground. It was indispensable work, even if we will only reach the final deal early next year.
Another major contribution is the conclusion of the European Patent thanks to the ultimate agreement reached between the Council and the Parliament. It is the happy end to a 40 year-long Odyssey. And if you allow me to continue that image: even if we do not know for sure on which Mediterranean island the historic Odysseus lived, for Europe, in the patent case, our beloved "Ithaca" clearly is Cyprus!
So, to conclude, this was a very positive European Council meeting, which ended a year where the European Union has covered a lot of ground and which mapped out the way forward for next year.
||Soundbite by the moderator (in ENGLISH) giving the floor to José Manuel Barroso
||Soundbite by José Manuel Barroso (n ENGLISH): Let me start with a warm word of thanks to Cyprus for the Presidency of the Council during the past six months. I want to thank them for their dedication and hard work, and especially President Christofias, my warmest thanks, because in the middle of a very difficult and challenging situation in Cyprus you and your collaborators have shown your commitment to the European ideals. There were real achievements during these six months. I will not quote all of them, but I think the Single Supervisory Mechanism, Schengen governance, common asylum system are especially important.
Special mention on the Unified Patent which, 30 years after the first proposal of the Commission, will finally become a reality. The Commission has put another proposal and through reinforced cooperation it was possible to drive this process to give our companies protection for their ideas at a fair cost. The benefits speak for themselves and hope that eventually all member states will take part.
Let me now focus on the other points of the conclusions that we have discussed today. Annual Growth Survey: there was a full endorsement of the five priorities presented by the Commission for the 2013 European semester, namely the need to pursue differentiated growth friendly fiscal consolidation, to restore normal lending to the economy, to promote growth and competitiveness, to tackle unemployment and the social consequences of the crisis and modernise public administration.
Precisely regarding one of these priorities, employment, the conclusions we reached on Youth guarantee are important: we need to get young people into the labour market to deliver a job rich recovery. Last week Commission presented a youth employment package. I hope it will play an important role in helping Member States tackle youth unemployment, by establishing youth guarantees and a quality framework for traineeships. Within four months after leaving school, we would like to have all young people to get back either into education, training, apprenticeships or a job. This is mainly a national responsibility, but the EU will contribute through a targeted use of the European Structural Funds, especially the European Social Fund.
Other important part of the conclusions is the Single Market. As you know the Commission has put 12 proposals on the table in Single Market Act I. Five have been agreed like the Patent and venture capital funds – need to get the others done quickly. All legislative proposals for Single Market Act II will be presented by the Commission by March 2013 so they can be adopted hopefully before June 2014, so in the current parliamentary cycle. We will set the ambition high – difficult issues exist and need to be tackled to boost growth like opening up network industries. But there was, at Heads of State or Government level, what I think is a real commitment to deepen the Single Market.
A word on smart regulation. The economic crisis has shown the need for good regulation and make the single market work. We need smart legislation to create growth and jobs. We must be careful that laws are not too costly. Much has already been done. The Commission exceeded its 25% administrative burden reduction goal by tabling administrative burden reductions to save our businesses approximately €40 billion.
And now we have launched a new initiative: Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme. We will map our acquis and evaluate its efficiency and effectiveness. We will look at the cost of red tape and compliance. If our assessment points to unnecessary costs, we will reduce them. If the legislation is not achieving its aims, we will change it or, simply, scrap it. That was also an important support to this agenda.
A final word on the European Commission contribution for what I believe is a great priority for us and should be even more in the future - Common Security and Defence Policy. When we think on the future of the European Union and its role as the 21st century actor a decisive element will be how we develop not only our foreign security, but also our common defence and security policy.
The defence sector, apart from the political and other aspects is also crucial in terms of exports, cutting-edge research and provides growth and highly skilled jobs.
The European Council, as the President of the European Council has already said, asked the Commission, together with High Representative Ashton, to work within its competences on this matter and we are ready and willing to play our part in driving forward this agenda, in particular in three key areas: industry, single market and research.
We will therefore present next Spring a "Strategy for enhancing the efficiency of Europe's Defence sector" to make the most of our single market to deliver a strong industrial defence base, this is critically important also for instance in terms of research.
So to conclude:
We had last night also a good discussion on future of the EMU. I believe national ownership and deep discussion is vital on these sensitive issues. No door was closed on steps towards deeper EMU and we will keep moving forward. The Commission will keep driving the ambition. We started this year as you know with many commentators, and not only commentators, many market analysts and actors, also in the financial markets, seriously questioning whether the euro and indeed European integration would survive. That was a common theme. I have got many questions about "Do you think the euro is going to survive, how long is it going to survive, how do you see the dismantling of the euro." I think that those commentators and those analysts have been shown to be totally wrong. We are tackling the crisis and we have a long term vision for our Union. This week was indeed a good week for Europe: Not only the Nobel Peace Prize that means a lot for us, but also, in more concrete terms, the very important agreement on SSM and on Greece, this was extremely important as well.
So I need to say to you that I am really confident that we are going to overcome the difficulties. Of course we have always, as we said, to match the ambition with concrete decisions, we have to find the right balance between the ambition and proper sequencing. But I think that we are making progress and I want to conclude wishing you and your families Happy Christmas.
||Soundbite by the moderator (in ENGLISH) giving the floor to Demetris Christofias
||Soundbite by Demetris Christofias (in GREEK) presenting the main results of the Cyprus Presidency of the Council of the European Union
||Soundbite by the moderator (in ENGLISH) opening the questions/answers session