Hangout with the President on Europe
On 19 September President Barroso answered citizens' questions in a debate that touched on a broad range of issues. On the direct election of the Commission President he said: "It would be good", while outlining that it is not possible with the current treaties.
Among the most discussed topics were the economic crisis and possible solutions for high levels of youth unemployment. Also the 'federation of nation states' – as suggested by the President in his annual State of the Union address on 12 September – was raised. The President strongly made the case for a more united and more democratic union.
Giuseppe, representing young people and being concerned about youth unemployment, heard from President Barroso that indeed, fighting youth unemployment is a priority. The President pointed to several actions taken at EU level to tackle it such as redeploying structural funds, or a 'youth guarantee'.
"What next for Greece?" was crucial question for Christos. The President reiterated that Greece should remain in the euro area, while respecting its commitments. He also said that it is important that the new measures and reforms for competitiveness are adopted as soon as possible, so that Greece restores its confidence.
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, the so called ACTA, also came up in the interview. "This is very interesting debate and a very difficult issue," said President Barroso. "All the governments of Europe asked us to conclude ACTA because it is important to protect intellectual property rights … but our intention was never, and will never be to restrict in any way the freedom of expression. For me, the freedom of expression, the media freedom is a sacred right". Finally, the President pointed out that the Commission takes seriously the concerns of citizens and that this is the reason why ACTA was sent to the European Court of Justice to analyse the situation and have a debate on a possible compromise.
The concept of a 'federation of nation states' and the recent surge of nationalism were the most interesting topics for discussion for David from Edinburgh. The President replied that indeed being realistic, "a federation is not for tomorrow … but we should have a horizon". Concrete steps towards that horizon can be taken already, starting with a banking union.
At the end of the interview, President Barroso expressed his conviction that it is very important to reinforce an emotional connection to Europe, not artificially but in a democratic way. "We should be proud of our democracy, of our social market economy – and also avoid any kind of arrogance".
Background: The interview was broadcast live one week after the State of the Union address, as a special edition of the Euronews 'I talk' programme and web streamed on EUtube, the Commission's Google+ site and Europe by Satellite. Euronews chose the most popular questions introduced and voted on by citizens on the internet. Three people also joined the debate live through a "Google+ hangout": Christos (Greece), David (UK) and Giuseppe (Italy).