European Council of Brussels, 07-08/02/2013: joint press conference by José Manuel Barroso and Herman van Rompuy
Type: Complete press conference
End production: 08/02/2013 First transmission: 08/02/2013
On 7 and 8 February 2013, José Manuel Barroso, President of the EC, and the Heads of States or Governments of the EU met in Brussels for the European Council hosted by Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council. Discussions focused mainly on the Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014-2020.
This video shows the press conference given by Herman van Rompuy and José Manuel Barroso following the European Council.
Only the original language version is authentic and it prevails in the event of its differing from the translated versions.
||Soundbite by Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council (in ENGLISH): It has been a lengthy, but successful 24 hours: the European Council has just agreed on the next multi-annual budget. And not just any budget. It is a balanced and growth-oriented budget for Europe for the rest of the decade.
It was no easy task: this was our single longest meeting so far in my mandate, but it was worth working for this result.
This compromise shows a sense of collective responsibility from Europe’s leaders, but we must remember that a final agreement must still be reached with the European Parliament.
It’s perhaps nobody’s perfect budget, but there’s a lot in it for everybody. Obviously you can look at the end result through many, many prisms.
From the overall European perspective, I want to emphasize that this budget is future oriented, it is realistic, and it is driven by pressing concerns.
These are its three key dimensions, and let me quickly run through each of them in turn.
First: it is a budget for the future. This was the aspect I insisted most upon. We simply cannot sacrifice our investments in education, research and growth. Of course some might have wished to see more here, but let's not loose track of the figures. Compared to the previous Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), there is an overall increase of €34bn (or nearly 40%) in the heading for Competitiveness for Growth and Jobs.
There will also be a real, net increase for programmes like "Erasmus for all" and "Horizon 2020" for innovation.
||Soundbite by Herman van Rompuy (in ENGLISH): Finally, the focus is clearly on triggering new investments and on developing transport, energy and ICT networks, including €30bn for "connecting Europe".
Second dimension: this is a budget of moderation. We simply could not ignore the extremely difficult economic realities across Europe. So it had to be a leaner budget. For the first time ever, there is a real cut compared to the last MFF; we agreed it will be a cut of roughly €34bn for both commitments and payments (compared to the period 2007- 2013), resulting in the overall ceilings of €960,0bn in commitments and €908,4bn in payments. It means a cap on commitments at exactly 1% of total European GNI: a sensible and nicely-round number.
To ensure better spending, new elements are introduced:
- for countries, a macro-economic conditionality to increase synergy between cohesion funding and economic governance;
- and for projects, incentives for results, with money set aside for the best-performing.
Across the board, funding programmes will become simpler and better controlled. In
today’s economic context, increasing efficiency and reducing costs is also in order for the EU administration itself.
||Soundbite by Herman van Rompuy (in ENGLISH): We spent some time on the revenue side, or in EU-language: "own resources".
Three points here:
- we decided on lower collection costs on duties and levies;
- we reached a compromise on rebates;
- and we opened perspectives for possible new own resources, in relation to a new VAT system and the future Financial Transaction Tax.
This brings me to my third and final main point: this is a budget driven by pressing concerns. The most urgent challenge is unemployment, in particular among the youth. That is why we have set aside €6bn for a new Youth employment initiative. A powerful incentive.
In allocating structural funds, special attention was given to countries like Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Ireland, while overall, poorer countries will receive a larger share of cohesion funding.
One avenue for flexibility, among others, is the review clause for cohesion funds that we agreed, "to take into account the particularly difficult situation of … countries suffering from the crisis". Our support to the most vulnerable people remains intact. So does our external action funding, even despite the crisis. This budget will allow Europe to keep engaging on vital global issues, such as climate change, nuclear safety, and development aid.
||Soundbite by Herman van Rompuy (in ENGLISH): Now that we have this agreement, how do we go forward? As I said, the MFF cannot be launched without the European Parliament's consent. Beneficiaries and investors count on this new MFF from 1 January 2014. To avoid any delays and uncertainty, all legislative procedures must be swiftly closed by the Council of ministers and the European Parliament.
Looking back now, I’m satisfied that all along this negotiation we kept the bigger picture in mind. Even in such difficult economic conditions, we have managed to keep essential factors of continuity and of growth.
Today we also talked about trade. Trade can help us achieve as much for growth and jobs, as all the growth investments made possible thanks to our MFF deal.
We concluded today with developments in the Arab world. Two years after the start of the Arab spring it was the right moment to take stock of Europe’s support to the democratic transitions in the region. Recent events underline once more how these transitions can be challenging. The Union remains engaged.
Finally on Mali: we welcome the decisive action taken by the Malian army, supported by France and other European and African partners. The Union is committed to support this effort by using its full range of instruments to help restore democracy and constitutional order in Mali.
||Soundbite by José Manuel Barroso, President of the EC (in ENGLISH): Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,
The President of the European Council has just presented the political agreement reached by Heads of State and Government for the Multi-Annual Financial Framework 2014-2020.
The Commission would of course have preferred an outcome closer to its original proposal. As you know, in 2011, the European Commission made a proposal that was more ambitious than this result today, a proposal that received the support of a clear majority of the member states at that time. But I must recognise that the political deal made now was the highest possible level of agreement that the Heads of State and Government could reach at unanimity.
The levels agreed today by the Heads of State and Government are below what the Commission considers desirable given the challenge of promoting growth and jobs across the European Union in the coming years.
During the discussions I underlined that this political agreement launches a process. The next step is to obtain the consent of the European Parliament.
One essential condition for this agreement to work – and I have stressed this very clearly – is the maximum possible flexibility. This will allow us to adapt to changing developments for example by moving spending from one year to another. Without an agreement on flexibility the commitments foreseen cannot be translated into payments.
||Soundbite by José Manuel Barroso (in ENGLISH): Now regarding the substance: the deal that has been agreed tonight can still be an important catalyst for growth and jobs.
The positive elements, among others, that I want to underline are the following:
Firstly, the basic structure of the Commission proposal and some innovative instruments have been preserved, including the Connecting Europe Facility which provides for investment in transport, energy and the digital agenda. This makes our budget a tool for competitiveness and growth with a pan-European logic.
Secondly, in some areas we will be able to invest significantly more than in the past. This is true for research and innovation (the programme called Horizon 2020). It is true for Erasmus For All. We will also have, and this for the first time, a dedicated programme for SMEs, a programme called COSME. It also makes our budget more modern.
Thirdly, we have agreement on a new and very important Youth Employment Initiative. This is a commitment to act at European Union level on today’s main political and social challenge which is getting our young people back in work. This rightly reinforces the social dimension of our Union. And it builds on the action launched last year by the Commission with 8 Member States. It will also fund the Youth Guarantee and other measures at European and national level. I am also very pleased it was possible to preserve the aid programme for the most deprived people. Given the opposition in some quarters, we can consider this a very positive result.
Also externally, we kept our commitment to development aid and humanitarian aid, focusing now our support to the poorest countries.
Fourthly, the amounts allocated for cohesion and agriculture are significant and will be more targeted to sustainable growth and job creation. By the way, sustainability is a very important policy and indeed it's a commitment that we are keeping across policies. In this regard, the greening of agricultural policy deserves to be mentioned, as for instance our commitment to climate protection.
Fifthly, the solidarity dimension is reinforced by adapting the rules for co-financing and pre-financing to take into account the specific situation in the most vulnerable regions of Europe. And I know how important and urgent this financing is for some of the Member States, which without this European support will simply not be in a position to make the public investments they need.
||Soundbite by José Manuel Barroso (in ENGLISH): To sum up, this has been a difficult negotiation, but a fair assessment should recognise that this deal is not perfect but it offers a basis for negotiations with the European Parliament. I hope these negotiations will be successful.
A very brief word on trade.
I am glad that the European Council has adopted strong conclusions that endorse the Commission’s ambitious trade agenda.
We need to move forward on free trade agreements as better access would increase GDP by at least 2% - double what we have agreed today. Opening to trade is a powerful leverage for the modernisation of our economies.
The Commission will push ahead to realise the full potential of an integrated transatlantic free trade agreement. I hope that very soon the High Level Working Group will present to us and President Obama a recommendation to launch negotiations on a transatlantic trade agreement. We will also soon launch negotiations with Japan. Widening the trade agenda with these two partners would be transformative not only for the European, but for the international economy.
These will be far-reaching agreements going beyond tariffs by integrating markets and removing barriers.
Finally, delivering on our commitments to our partners in the Southern Mediterranean continues to be a top priority. The case for engagement remains stronger than ever. I am pleased with the resolve shown by the European Council to continue supporting the transition to democracy in the region.
So, as President Van Rompuy said, it was a marathon and it was a marathon with very important results. We have covered very important matters during these very intense and rich negotiations.
I thank you for your attention.