Youth Opportunities Initiative
Today the Commission delivered on President Barroso's promise for a Youth Opportunities Initiative made in his State of the Union Address in September 2011. President Barroso said: "The Youth Opportunities Initiative shows young people across Europe that we are attentive to their situation. We have heard their repeated calls from Madrid to Brussels to take part in European society. This starts with having a job. Long-term reforms of labour markets are clearly needed, but they take time to produce the expected results. With today's Initiative we are developing more immediate action that will help drive down youth unemployment." He added that the Commission expects Member States "to address youth employment in their 2012 National Reform Programmes under the Europe 2020 strategy." The Commission will support Member States' efforts by providing policy guidance and financing. "We need to make much better use of existing funds that are not yet committed. €30 billion of the European Social Fund is still not committed to projects and can help Member States to create larger scale support schemes for young people. In addition, we will provide €1.3 million of technical support through the European Social Fund to increase the number of apprenticeships schemes," President Barroso concluded.
Quality Framework for Services of General Interest in the EU
The Commission has today adopted a Quality Framework for Services of General Interest in the EU. They provide an essential safety net for citizens in areas such as health care, care for the elderly, child care, assistance to disabled persons and social housing. They also have a key role to play in the knowledge economy in the area of schools, training centres and university. "I made clear in my Political Guidelines in 2009 that Services of General Interest play a key role in ensuring social cohesion and can also be a driver for new sources of growth," said President Barroso and added that "this quality framework adopted today is a confirmation of the European Commission's determination to support innovative, high quality public services, which are even more essential in the current difficult economic situation". At a time when public authorities are confronted with the need for fiscal consolidation, it is essential to ensure that right framework is in place so that high-quality services can be provided as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.
Decision of 20 December on the application of Article 106(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to State aid in the form of public service compensation granted to certain undertakings entrusted with the operation of services of general economic interest [61 KB]
EU – Ukraine summit
At today's EU-Ukraine summit the negotiations of the Association Agreement were finalized. President Barroso called this "a major step in our relations". He said: "The relationship with Ukraine is very important for the EU. We want Ukraine closer to the European Union and we welcome Ukraine's European choice. At the same time, the values that underpin our relationship need to be fully observed at all times." President Barroso added: "I also had the opportunity to convey to President Yanukovych our concern regarding recent cases of what is perceived as selective justice in Ukraine against members of previous administrations, notably Mrs. Tymoshenko. And we also have discussed reforms, including in the constitutional and judicial spheres. It is precisely at a moment when we are striving to build strong and lasting relations that Ukraine needs to show its commitment to democratic principles, the rule of law, good governance, human rights and fundamental freedoms."
Condolences on the passing away of Mr. Vaclav Havel
President Barroso sent a message of condolence on the passing away of Mr. Vaclav Havel: "It was with immense sadness that I heard the news of the death of Vaclav Havel," the President wrote. "He was a true European and has been a champion of democracy and liberty throughout his life. I recall with great emotion the contacts we have had while he held the office, first as President of Czechoslovakia and then of the Czech Republic and also as a European personality and man of culture. Vaclav Havel's name will remain forever attached to the reunification of Europe and the expansion of its values to Central and Eastern Europe. He was also a source of great inspiration to all those who fight for freedom and democracy around the world. The man has died but the legacy of his poems, plays and above all his ideas and personal example will remain alive for many generations to come. As he said himself in 1975 in an open letter to Gustáz Husák then President of the Communist regime: "Life cannot be destroyed for good, neither can history be brought entirely to a halt".
European Development Days in Warsaw
"The European Union remains open to the world. We need to promote a world order that is fair and multilateral, based on values such as human rights, democracy, but also on common rules for global governance. These are global challenges that require a global response" said President Barroso in his speech at the European Development Days in Warsaw. President Barroso outlined the role of the EU in supporting democratic choices throughout the world and assured that "the European Union is, and will remain, committed to the defence and promotion of democratic principles."
EU-Russia summit – a summit of results
In his statement following the EU-Russia summit, President Barroso outlined a number of issues on which real progress was made. He welcomed the accession of Russia to the World Trade Organization: "It opens new opportunities for trade and for the development of our bilateral economic relations". On the successful conclusion of the negotiations in Geneva on renewed Government Procurement Agreement, President Barroso stated: "This is a significant contribution to the multilateral trading system which proves the relevance of the WTO in particular in the current economic climate. This will lead to more trade and I believe will benefit all economies". Finally, President Barroso announced the launch of "Common Steps towards visa-free travel", the full implementation of which can lead to the opening of visa-waiver negotiations. "Our common goal is to have a visa-free regime between Russia and the European Union", he said.
Debate on the conclusions of Polish Presidency
We have laid the foundations on which any further reforms will be built
"The Polish Presidency of the Council under difficult circumstances has delivered very important achievements. The Polish Presidency has worked with great professionalism and enthusiasm," said President Barroso during a debate on the conclusions of the Polish Presidency in the European Parliament. He then thoroughly presented the achievements of the Presidency and underlined that "Poland has constantly pushed for more Europe to address efficiently a crisis."
President Barroso stated: "A strong Europe; a more stable Europe that can withstand all kinds of weather; a Europe that can learn from its own mistakes and can address its weaknesses; building its recovery on sound and sustainable foundations. We have laid the foundations on which any further reforms will be built. The adoption of the legislative package on strengthening economic governance, the "six-pack" has significantly reinforced the Stability and Growth Pact."
The President concluded that "crisis is not behind us and we have a lot of work ahead. As we move forward, I would like that all Member States will show the same level of commitment to Europe as Poland has shown. You will be a tough act to follow. The challenge ahead will now be with our Danish friends."
Presentation of the European Council's Conclusions
The Commission will monitor how the Member States have been living up to their additional commitments.
"The main purpose of this European Council was to show joint determination to tackle persisting market tensions by consolidating these achievements and reinforcing them even further. And indeed, during Thursday night an agreement was reached to create a genuine 'fiscal stability union', a new 'fiscal compact,'" outlined President Barroso today in the European Parliament.
He stressed that it is "indispensable to have more discipline, structural reforms for more investment, more convergence, and credible mechanisms of solidarity. All these elements belong together." In his speech the President also focused on the presentation of the key elements of the new fiscal compact and highlighted a number of important conclusions of the Summit which match the Commission's position held for some time.
He underlined that the Commission will monitor how the Member States have been living up to their additional commitments made in this agreement and concluded by stressing that "coherence and persistence will now be needed for the implementation of the growth agenda for the European Union. This is exactly what our citizens expect from us – Europe of responsibility, yes, but also Europe of solidarity. Europe of stability, yes, but also Europe of growth and employment."
Congratulations to the President of the Tunisian Republic
On behalf of the European Commission, President Barroso congratulated Mr Marzouki on his election as President of the Tunisian Republic: "Your commitment to carry out the necessary reforms, together with the work of the Constituent Assembly, will enable Tunisia to take a decisive step and establish a true democratic State. This process is also a source of inspiration for the whole region."
Message of condolence to the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Belgium
On hearing the news of the attack in Liege which caused many deaths and injuries on Tuesday 13 December, President Barroso sent a message of condolences on the same day to Elio Di Rupo, prime minister of the Kingdom of Belgium: ‘I was shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the attack which caused many deaths and injuries in Liege today, Tuesday 13 December. On behalf of the European Commission and from me personally, I would like send our most sincere condolences. Our sympathy also goes to the families of the victims’.
Council of European Municipalities and Regions
President Barroso welcomed the outcome of the Durban climate conference with a clear commitment of all major emitters to work for a legally binding global agreement. He also commented on the outcome of last week's European Council: "We must do whatever it takes to put an end to this period of uncertainties," stated President Barroso in his address to the Council of European Municipalities and Regions today. Speaking on the outcome of the European Council he stressed that "we need to be at the same time firemen and stop the spread of the sovereign debt crisis. But we also need to be architects and build a strong and sustainable recovery on sound foundations. "
European Council 8 – 9 December 2011
The Commission will be active to ensure swift preparation of a treaty that is fully compatible with EU law.
Updated 9 December (pm)
After the European Council, President Barroso congratulated the Polish Presidency for its impressive achievements. He said he was "extremely pleased that we have strong conclusions welcoming the Commission's 2012 Annual Growth Survey. This is now our reference for the work in terms of economic policy coordination – the European Semester and all the instruments we now have to coordinate the economic policies in the European Union institutions. Proper implementation is crucial to get us back on the growth path." The EU leaders also agreed to fast-track a programme of measures to boost growth and jobs.
"This discussion was an important complement to last night's agreement on the fiscal compact," President Barroso said. "The objective to add to the strict discipline and reinforced convergence we are already introducing through secondary legislation was achieved. And I want to underline the agreement on substance, the very wide agreement on substance when it comes to reinforced discipline and also reinforced convergence in the euro area and indeed beyond. Work will now begin to rapidly flesh out the details of this new treaty. The Commission will be active to ensure swift preparation of a treaty that is fully compatible with EU law and also that preserves the role of the European institutions."
Important conclusions on energy, notably on the need for swift completion of an EU internal energy market and the development of infrastructure, were also reached in the European Council.
Updated 9 December
We have now an agreement to go forward for a new 'fiscal compact' and strengthened economic policy coordination.
"We have now an agreement to go forward for a new 'fiscal compact' and strengthened economic policy coordination," stated President Barroso at the press conference following the first day of the European Council. He explained that "it is a decision of the Heads of State or Government of the euro area member states and those that decided already to join," and added that now the key is swift implementation. President Barroso also welcomed the Heads of State or Governments' commitment to examine swiftly the new rules proposed by the Commission on 23 November, namely those regarding the monitoring and assessment of draft budgetary plans, of the correction of excessive deficit in the euro area member states and also the strengthening of economic and budgetary surveillance of member states experiencing or threatened with serious difficulties in respect to their financial stability in the euro area.
"It is extremely important that all the EU shows that the euro is irreversible, that we are all supporting it."
The December European Council will focus on reviving the economy, with most attention on stronger economic governance in the euro area and the discussion on possible Treaty change. Energy issues and the prospect of new countries joining the EU will also be on the agenda.
Ahead of the summit, European Council President Van Rompuy sent an interim report on strengthening the economic union, prepared with President Barroso and Eurogroup President Juncker, to the Heads of State and Government. The report sets out options and a possible two-step approach to Treaty change. President Barroso stressed that this European Council needs to take strong decisions that are credible to our citizens, to our international partners and to the markets – and that allow for the creation of a genuine fiscal compact.
President Barroso said: "The Summit that we are going to start tonight in Brussels is indeed a crucial one. What I expect from all Heads of State and Government is they do not come saying what they cannot do, but what they will do for Europe. All the world is watching us. And what the world awaits from us is not more national problems but European solutions. At the core of this crisis there is a problem of confidence and credibility. This is why we in the European Commission support more convergence, more discipline. It is extremely important that we, all together, all the European Union, show that the euro is irreversible and that we are all supporting the euro. And I believe that this is possible. My appeal, my strong appeal to all the Heads of State and Government is to show this commitment to our common currency. I think this is indispensable – and leadership is about making possible what is indispensable."
Signature of the Accession Treaty of Croatia
"Today's signature of the Accession Treaty is an outstanding moment for the European Union - and for Croatia," said President Barroso, recalling the hard work undertaken by Croatia to meet the strict conditions of the enlargement process. He also underlined the significance of EU enlargement policy, highlighting the positive implications of Croatian accession for other countries in the region – and for the EU as such. The President said: "Today we therefore also send a clear signal to Croatia's neighbours: A signal that our European offer is on the table; that hard work pays off; that the benefits of European integration are within reach if our partners stay the course."
The European People’s Party Congress, Marseille
President Barroso attended today in Marseille the meeting of the EPP before the European Council. In his speech titled ‘The time for political courage’, he underlined that ‘a strong Europe is a Europe which needs stronger institutions and not a Europe which divides its institutions and its Member States.’ He added that ‘if we don’t build European democracy alongside our national democracies, true sovereignty will be the sovereignty of the markets, without any kind of control ... against European sovereignty and European citizens. So yes to sovereignty, but to shared sovereignty.’
Message of congratulations to the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Belgium
"You are taking the controls of a founding member which helped shaped the European Union of today," President Barroso wrote in his message of congratulations to Mr Elio Di Rupo following his appointment as Belgian Prime Minister. The President expressed his conviction that under Mr Di Rupo’s leadership, Belgium will be able to meet the significant challenges of this extremely difficult period and to "confirm its European commitment".
State of the Innovation Union Convention
At the first Innovation Convention 2011, President Barroso presented his views on the key role of innovation in contributing to growth, jobs and wellbeing. "Innovation is our European blueprint to get the economy back on track over the course of the decade", he said. He called for smart fiscal consolidation: "Cutting spending in key areas such as innovation, education, research and development would be exactly the wrong cut to do". He also announced the appointment of his Chief scientific adviser, a new position created in the Commission.
Meeting with EU Heads of Delegation
"There are moments in time when history accelerates, when we reach crossroads, when uncertainties are high, when we have to embrace change, overcome the status quo and take critical decisions that will reshape our environment" said President Barroso in the meeting with EU Heads of Delegation. In his speech titled "A Europe for all weathers" he focused on the overcoming of this crisis, which is "our first priority." President Barroso: "This is essential for our economies, for our citizens, for our social model but also for our foreign policy. As you know well the attractiveness of our model, the strength of our currency, and the size of our internal market are Europe's best assets when facing today's world."
Honorary Doctorate for President Barroso
President Barroso received today an Honoris Causa doctorate from Wroclaw University of Technology, given for his active role in building society based on knowledge and innovation as well as for his determination in overcoming subsequent crises that threaten EU stability. In his lecture, titled "Ever more united we must stand", he stressed that to achieve European renewal, we must stand for our European values by acting and working together. President Barroso said: "More than ever to stand firmly united is our only way forward. This is our future, this is your future."