President Barroso travels to Asia
From 3-6 November, President Barroso travels to Asia where he will visit Myanmar and Thailand, and participate in the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM Summit) in Vientiane, Laos.
The President begins his visit in Myanmar on 3-4 November, where he will meet President U Thein Sein, Speaker of the Lower House Thura Shwe Mann, and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. During those meetings, President Barroso will express the EU's comprehensive support to the transition process in Myanmar. The President will also deliver a speech and attend a ceremony in the recently established Peace Centre in Yangon expressing the EU's support for national reconciliation and inter-ethnic dialogue.
In Thailand, the President will on 4 November meet with Prime Minister Shinawatra with whom he will discuss EU-Thailand relations, before he continues to Laos where, together with President Van Rompuy, he participates in the 9th ASEM Summit.
Strengthening EU relations with Benin and Cape Verde
President Barroso met with President of Benin Mr Yayi, and in Cape Verde with Prime Minister Neves and President Fonseca. He commended the stability and strong democratic systems in place in both countries. Several important financing and cooperation agreements were signed.
When in Benin, President Barroso praised the country for its efforts in fostering stronger democracy and sustainable development. "Your country serves as a democratic model for the whole African continent," he said.
He also expressed his appreciation for the work done by President Yayi, notably for the role he plays as head of the African Union, working to stabilise the troubled situation in the region.
President Barroso inaugurated a new library named after Jean Monnet built by the Zinsou Fondation, whose creation was co-financed by the European Union. A budgetary support programme – a "Contract for Good Governance and Development" – worth € 50 million was also signed during the visit.
The President's visit to Cape Verde coincided with the fifth anniversary of the EU – Cape Verde Special Partnership. Cape Verde is currently the only country in Africa that has concluded a Mobility Partnership with the EU. This was strengthened during the visit by the signature of an agreement on visa facilitation which will further simplify travel between Cape Verde and EU countries.
Côte d'Ivoire: President Barroso underlines the importance of strong democracy and regional integration
During his visit to the Côte d'Ivoire, President Barroso met Mr Ouattara, President of the Republic, along with representatives of the opposition and members of civil society. He also gave a speech at the University of Félix Houphouët Boigny de Cocody.
After his meeting with President Ouattara, President Barroso said: ‘We have fully supported President Ouattara in his efforts towards national reconciliation and economic recovery by mobilising more than 430 million euros since April 2011.’
He continued: ‘This commitment will not diminish in the coming years. The European Union will continue to work alongside the Côte d'Ivoire to help it to become, once again, a pillar of stability and growth for West Africa.’
‘And so, in brief: the Côte d'Ivoire has a major role to play. Your country will continue to be an essential partner of the European Union and could be an engine for the region of West Africa,’ concluded President Barroso.
In his speech at the University Félix Houphouët Boigny de Cocody in Abidjan, President Barroso underlined that ‘today, more than ever, at the time of justice and national reconciliation without which there can be no lasting peace or strong democracy, we remain still and always at your side.’
He also encouraged greater regional integration in West Africa in order to work together towards peace, stability and prosperity in the region, including a solution to the crisis in Mali. He underlined the role of the Côte d'Ivoire in this process: ‘The position of the Côte d'Ivoire and its economy make it a key country to enable the process of regional integration to advance harmoniously in West Africa. The active involvement of the Côte d'Ivoire within regional institutions is therefore absolutely essential.’
Commission Work Programme 2013: concrete actions for growth
Return of the European Union to sustainable growth is the number one task for the European Commission and objective of the new Commission Work Programme for 2013 published on Tuesday 23 October.
It requires new thinking and targeted action in a limited number of key policy areas. President Barroso said: "This Work Programme shows how the Commission is working day by day to take the steps needed. 2013 will be a crucial year for showing our citizens that the EU is leading the way in taking the credible, concrete steps needed to lead us out of the crisis and build the right springboard for future sustainable growth."
The Commission Work Programme summarises the objectives for the Union in seven key areas and sets out what is missing today. It then explains how the Commission will tackle these objectives by taking forward key initiatives already on the table, by making new proposals, and by ensuring that the benefits of reform are carried through to citizens by effective implementation.
The 7 key areas in the adopted Work Programme are:
Read more in a press release issued on the occasion. At the site devoted to the Commission Work Programme you will also find detailed annex to the Programme in English, French and German. Other languages will be made available soon.
Inauguration of the European School in Laeken, Brussels
The European School of Brussels IV in Laeken was officially inaugurated today, on the 24 October, in the presence of His Majesty King Albert II, Queen Paola, President Barroso and Vice President Šefčovič.
The Secretary of State Mr Verherstraeten and many other dignitaries also participated in the ceremony. President Barroso expressed his gratitude to the Belgian authorities for the provision of this site. The pupils of Brussels IV participated enthusiastically in the celebrations with the school orchestra and choir.
As President Barroso said in his speech, "the European Schools represent, in my view, the symbol of what is at the heart of the European project: living together, in solidarity and in respect of our diversity."
European Council: call for immediate implementation of the Compact for Growth and Jobs
President Barroso stressed that the Compact for Growth and Jobs agreed in June must not stay only on paper. When asking our citizens to make major sacrifices, we need to provide them with hope, a realistic prospect of growth and assurance for the most vulnerable, he said.
"The reality is that the crisis is still with us … I am painfully aware of the difficult situation in which many European citizens find themselves, and this is precisely the reason why we have asked heads of state and government today to immediately implement the Compact for Growth and Jobs," said President Barroso at the final press conference of the October European Council.
While some progress has been made, it is not yet enough: "The reality is that this Growth Compact, an important investment package worth €120 billion, has not yet been fully implemented." The President then gave concrete examples of areas where the implementation must be sped up in such as tax on savings, energy taxation, public procurement reform or boost for venture capital. (Read more in his report to the heads of state and government).
He stressed that the financial sector must also make a fair contribution to the recovery: "Next week the Commission will take the first step towards launching enhanced cooperation on a Financial Transactions Tax and we will present an action plan on tax fraud and tax evasion before the end of the year."
"Next month's special European Council we need to provide the union with a budget for growth and jobs. I cannot promise we will have more sleep at the next European Council, I think it is going to be a long European Council, but I hope heads of state and government will be able to find consensus as they have at this summit," concluded President Barroso.
"We have agreed to have legislative decisions on the Single Supervisory Mechanism by the end of the year" said President Barroso following the first evening of the European Council.
President Barroso also welcomed the clear commitment to a long term vision for economic and monetary union: "The Commission will set out its thinking in a few weeks' time in a Blueprint for economic and monetary union". He then went on to add that "the Commission is a strong advocate of deeper integration, in particular for the Euro area". On Greece, President Barroso underlined the importance of the commitments set out in the euro area statement issued today.
"We are perfectly aware of the very difficult situation"
At Thursday's Social Tripartite Summit President Barroso empathised with those hardest hit by the crisis and urged the European Council to accelerate growth-enhancing measures under the Growth and Jobs Compact.
"Let me address a message to those in Europe that are hit hardest by the current crisis. We are perfectly aware of the very difficult situation in which many of our fellow citizens face themselves. And I want to say to all those who are experiencing hardship from the current crisis that the European Commission is making every effort, together with our Member States and social partners, to move Europe back on the path to growth and jobs," said President Barroso at the beginning of his remarks at the press conference after the summit.
This will require increased efforts from member states to take decisive and immediate action, he said. "Just yesterday I sent out my report to the 27 Heads of State and Government explaining where we stand in terms of implementing the Compact for Growth and Jobs."
"Very frankly, I am not happy with the progress made so far. That's why I call on the European Council to accelerate the adoption and implementation of many important growth-enhancing measures included in the Growth and Jobs Compact … We need to balance the important efforts made in terms of sound public finances with the right measures to have growth enhancing policies," said the President.
Meeting with Mr Ponta, Prime Minister of Romania, in Bucharest
They mainly discussed the justice system and how European funds can best be used in Romania. "I believe it is in Romania's interest that all political forces act with responsibility and restraint as the elections draw near," said President Barroso in a statement.
On the justice system, President Barroso insisted in particular on the importance that the appointments of the new General Prosecutor and the Head of the Anti-Corruption Directorate are done in an objective and independent manner. "These two people will define the reputation of the judiciary and must have a track record of integrity and professionalism," said the President in a written statement after the meeting.
On the management and control of EU funds, President Barroso urged the Prime Minister to take immediate measures to solve the issues that led to the interruption of payments for certain EU programmes. "Unless urgent action is taken, the absorption of EU funds will be seriously compromised," he said.
European Council: President Barroso calls for decisive action to implement Compact for Growth and Jobs
President Barroso has sent a report to Heads of State and Government in which he calls on them to redouble their efforts to implement the Compact for Growth and Jobs.
Agreed by the June European Council, the implementation of the Compact for Growth and Jobs needs to be speeded up. This is the key message of the report of President Barroso sent out today to the member states.
While underlining progress made, for example on the capital increase of the European Investment Bank or on pilot project bonds, the report highlights the disappointing results in other areas.
Global growth highlighted at EU Development Days event
Despite the crisis, the EU and its member states remain the most generous donors of development aid in the world. Launching the 7th edition of European Union Development Days, President Barroso urged even greater EU support in 2014-2020.
"The European Commission proposed an ambitious increase of 20% for development cooperation for our new multiannual EU-budget, which would bring our aid budget up to 100 billion for the years 2014-2020," said President Barroso. He stressed that he "will continue making the case for this, especially in difficult times. Because international cooperation is not simply about money, about investing in help and change. It's also about values, about what we are."
The President reiterated the European Union's firm commitment to continue work on the Sustainable Development Goals and to follow up Rio+20 conclusions. He elaborated on the three themes of the 2012 European Development Days (EDD): food security, protection of the most vulnerable in society and ensuring a vital partnership with the private sector, underlining that all are essential elements in promoting inclusive and sustainable growth.
European Development Days is Europe's premier forum on international affairs and development cooperation, organised annually by the European Commission. It attracts representatives from across the globe and is a flagship event which highlights the EU's leading role in development assistance and policy debate.
All together for the Single Market
During the launch of the Single Market Week celebrating the 20th anniversary of its creation, President Barroso called for the urgent approval of the proposals to promote the Single Market and sustainable growth, which the Commission has placed on the table.
In 1992, the European Single Market was born. Today we can see the incredible changes that its introduction has brought to the daily life of European citizens. Generation 92 — those born after 1992 — will have known only the many freedoms and opportunities which we enjoy as a result of the Single Market — being able to live, travel, work, study and do business in an area without borders.
‘And while, during this period of crisis, we see a resurgence of the strong temptation towards economic nationalism and isolationism, it is crucial to remember that the Single Market remains, more than ever, the cornerstone of European integration and sustainable growth’, President Barroso declared, emphasising that ‘our best source of endogenous growth and job creation is to allow the single market to prosper’.
In April 2011, the European Commission adopted the Single Market Act I with 12 priority projects to stimulate growth and restore confidence. These proposals were received favourably by the Council and the European Parliament. However, currently 11 out of these 12 projects are still awaiting approval by the European Parliament and Council. ‘It is now urgent that we push ahead and make every effort to reach an agreement by the end of the year’, urged President Barroso, ‘and this is the message I will also take to the heads of state and government at the European Council this Thursday and Friday, here in Brussels.’
‘However, we must also go further’, the President said, highlighting that the European Commission adopted the Single Market Act II on 3 October. Furthermore, in a month’s time the European Council will meet for a special summit dedicated to the negotiations on the Multi-annual Financial Framework 2014-2020, including the Commission proposal on a new Connecting Europe Facility to fill in the missing links, particularly in the fields of transport, energy and digital infrastructure.
Nobel Peace Prize 2012 for the European Union
President Barroso said: "The Nobel Peace Prize Committee and the international community are now sending a very important message to Europe that the European Union is something very precious, that we should cherish it for the good of Europeans and for the good of the entire world."
"It is indeed a great honour for all the 500 million citizens of Europe, for all the Member States and all the European institutions to receive this Nobel Prize for Peace.
It is justified recognition for a unique project that works for the benefit of its citizens and also for the benefit of the world.
We must never forget that at its origins the European Union brought together nations emerging from the ruins of the devastating 2nd World War and united them in a project for peace, built on supranational institutions representing the common European interest.
The European Union, starting with the European Community, has reunified countries split by the Cold War, and made it around values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, justice, the rule of law and respect for human rights."
Fairness must be at the heart of European actions
At a Friends of Europe debate, President Barroso elaborated on the importance of fairness, solidarity and responsibility in the contexts of combating the crisis, the next multiannual budget, the Financial Transaction Tax and European integration in general.
In his opening remarks, President Barroso reiterated that the answer to the crisis at a European level is to generate sustainable growth. This should be done by combining sound public finances, deep structural reforms for competitiveness and targeted investments. He admitted that the balance between the three has always been a challenge, but emphasised that fairness and solidarity must be kept at the heart of the EU's actions, since they are the glue that holds its societies and Union together.
Fairness will be even more important as Europe strives for more integration initiated by the economic crisis. It is shown in all the recent steps taken, from the so called six pack of legislation, to the creation of more mechanisms of control and shared responsibility.
It is why the Commission has pushed for the introduction of the Financial Transaction Tax to ensure that the financial sector also makes a contribution and returns the offer of solidarity by showing greater responsibility. "I believe now we are going to have the number of countries needed, apparently 11 are already committing. I have not yet received the letters of these 11 countries but I hope to receive them in the next days so that we can go ahead," said the President.
Fairness is also why the Commission is calling for a coherent approach to the proposed Multiannual Financial Framework for 2014-20. "It is very difficult to understand how some are saying all the time that we need more growth, that we need more investment, but when it comes to vote on the budget that is precisely for that, for investment and growth, they change their attitude and in fact they are proposing substantive, very substantial reduction of the very realistic proposal that the Commission put on the table", said the President. These include initiatives such as the Globalisation Adjustment Fund for those who are most hit by the crisis, or support for the poorest and most deprived persons.
Finally, the President made a strong call to the member states to enable Europe to do more in terms of solidarity: "It is interesting to note that governments have been much more open to give the European institutions more powers in terms of discipline and control than to give the European institutions instruments for effective solidarity. And this is a very important point because afterwards people should not be surprised that the image of Europe is not getting better, because if Europe appears systematically as the enforcer, the controller, the great artisan of discipline, if Europe does not have some credible instruments of social cohesion, of course people will tend to blame Europe for the current difficulties even if we know that the current crisis was not created by Europe, nor by the euro."
Meeting with Angela Merkel in Berlin
President Barroso met German Chancellor Angela Merkel for an informal working meeting ahead of the European Council on 18/19 October. They had an exchange of views on the topics on the agenda.
Growth agenda and deeper economic integration discussed with business leaders
President Barroso received a group of CEOs of the Advisory and Support Group of BUSINESSEUROPE. They discussed action to boost growth, jobs and competitiveness and deepen Economic and Monetary Union.
Following the President's State of the Union Address and ahead of October and November European Council meetings, the topics covered in the meeting included progress towards the banking union, a genuine economic and monetary union, and the upcoming new multiannual financial framework.
The President singled out important pro-growth initiatives of the Commission and urged the business representatives to take part in the fight against youth unemployment, in particular by improving education-to-work transitions. They also discussed the Single Market Act II and the industrial policy communication – two key proposals recently tabled by the Commission.
Companies represented at the meeting included for example Accenture, Alstom, Arcelor Mittal, Areva, Bayer, BASF, Bosch, Caterpillar, GDF Suez, General Electric, IBM, KLM, Pfizer, Solvay, UPS, and Schindler.
Barroso and Bono for an ambitious development budget for 2014-20
In their meeting, President Barroso and Bono, representing the ONE campaign against poverty, focused on the Commission's proposal for stepping up the external aid in the 2014-20 budget.
"Saving lives and preventing disease are both a human imperative and a smart investment on which responsible governments and international organisations must deliver. I will therefore push for member states to agree the Commission's proposal for a 20% increase in external aid for the next European budget (2014-2020)," said President Barroso in a written statement after the meeting.
Referring also to his recent visit of Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan, he stressed that "We must do more for these children and refugees all over the world."
They also discussed the proposed legislation on transparency and accountability for the extractive industries that should allow communities in resource-rich areas to know what governments receive for their natural riches.
Discussion with E. Stoiber on administrative burden reduction until 2014
President Barroso received Dr Edmund Stoiber, chairman of the High-Level Group on the reduction of administrative burdens, to discuss priorities of the group's prolonged mandate. The Commission is finalising work on the new mandate beyond 2012 and intends to adopt it in the coming weeks.
The focus of the prolonged mandate until 31st October 2014 will be that the High-Level Group continues to advise the Commission in improving the overall competitiveness of the European Union by reducing administrative burden resulting from EU legislation.
It is envisaged that the Group's mandate will notably include the task to follow up with Member States on effective implementation of measures adopted under the EU's Administrative Burden Reduction Programme as part of a wider approach to smart regulation and drawing on the best practice report presented in February 2012.
The Group would also continue to pay particular attention to the needs of small and medium sized enterprises, in particular micro companies so as to minimise their administrative burden.
President Barroso on the ESM and the situation in Cyprus
At the press conference following the Informal Ministerial meeting on EU Integrated Maritime Policy in Cyprus, President Barroso commented on the forthcoming European Council, the start of the European Stability Mechanism and the situation in Cyprus.
"We have an important European Council next week where we need to give a clear direction on the adoption by the end of the year of the Commission's proposal for the single supervisory mechanism. I believe it is critically important that we now are seen as taking concrete, important decisions because this single supervisory mechanism will then provide the trigger for the ability to have direct capitalisation of banks," said President Barroso.
He continued: "Europe is making progress in terms of building the integrated capabilities to face the crisis. Just today, in Luxembourg, the first meeting of the European Stability Mechanism Council of governors will take place, so we have this European Stability Mechanism that will be operational." He pointed out that a European Stability Mechanism of this magnitude would have been unthinkable only some years ago.
On the specific situation in Cyprus President Barroso said: "we have discussed the progress on concluding the Memorandum of Understanding … I hope that in light of our discussions we can move rapidly to reach an agreement on the measures to be taken to guarantee a long term sustainability of the Cypriot economy." He also said it is appropriate to give a message of hope to the people of Cyprus, while at the same time he urged all actors in Cyprus including all different political parties and social partners to unite in their efforts. "I know that if they understand correctly how challenging the situation is, they will have the capability to overcome the current situation and also to build together with the other partners of the European Union a future of sustainable growth."
On Maritime policy, the President expressed his satisfaction with the meeting saying that this conference and the Limassol Declaration was a break-through moment on how the European Union understands and promotes European maritime policy. "Today, we have full agreement that the maritime economy can make a crucial contribution to fostering jobs and growth," he said.
Open Days – indispensable platform for debate on cohesion policy
In his video message to participants of the 10th edition of the Open Days, President Barroso underlined the importance of uniting around a credible future European budget for growth.
In his message, President Barroso underlined the importance of the Open Days as an indispensable platform for debate on cohesion policy in the context of the EU's strategy to overcome the crisis and return to growth.
According to him, the EU needs cohesion policy more than ever in times of budgetary constraints. He reminded of the need to pursue fiscal consolidation, structural reform and targeted investments in parallel and recalled that the Commission has enhanced considerably the flexibility of EU structural funds in the crisis to ensure that necessary investments can continue to flow and reach beneficiaries quickly.
As an example, he highlighted higher Community cofounding rates and the fact that between 2009 and 2012, almost 20 billion euros have been reprogrammed to respond to the most urgent needs. In 2012 alone, €10.4 billion have been reprogrammed to help those most hit by the crisis: young unemployed, and small and medium-sized enterprises.
He concluded with an appeal to all pro-European forces to make a concerted push for a future European budget that gives Europeans what they deserve.
New aid for education for refugee children in Jordan
A new €4.6 million donation to UNICEF was signed for emergency education programmes for refugee children in Jordan. While in the country, President Barroso met H.M. King Abdullah II and visited the Za'atari refugee camp.
"We have to ensure that families who have had to flee their country can live in decent conditions and that their children do not lose their right to education and to a brighter future,” said President Barroso at the announcement of a new donation to UNICEF. It means that the total EU contribution for the project will reach €10 million this year.
The European Union is fully behind Jordan's political, economic and social reforms, and its financial assistance to the country is a clear expression of that. To this end the EU has already allocated €220 million for the period 2011-2013 and has recently assigned an additional €70 million from the SPRING (Support for Partnership, Reform and Inclusive Growth) programme. A 'Good Governance and Development Contract' worth €40 million was signed on the day of the visit.
After a meeting with His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan, President Barroso in a written statement underlined Jordan's importance as partner for the EU, as a key regional actor and interlocutor in the Middle East. Both share the overarching objective of promoting peace, stability and prosperity.
The leaders reviewed recent progress in Jordan’s reform process. "Once more, I had the opportunity to convey to His Majesty our firm support and encouragement to pursue with the reforms that will make democracy, the justice system and the rule of law stronger in Jordan," said the President.
President Barroso also commended Jordan for its solidarity towards Syrians who have fled the country seeking refuge. "We have seen in the last few days that the existing state of affairs is not an option. The tragic spill-over effects of the Syrian crisis to neighbouring countries could further escalate, compromising regional security. The priority is to stop the killings in Syria, end oppression and support a peaceful transition. In this context, we fully support the efforts of the United Nations-League of Arab States Joint Special Representative," said the President.
Future budget: unite around growth
At the Friends of Cohesion meeting in Bratislava, President Barroso urged both the "Friends of cohesion" and the "Friends of better spending" to unite in the European Council as the Friends of Growth – sustainable growth.
The President stressed the crucial timing of this high-level meeting in a speech to the group. "In just a few weeks, a special European Council Summit will try to reach an agreement on the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework."
The President pointed out "the importance of cohesion policy as an investment in growth, people and competitiveness". He then highlighted that structural funds account for a significant proportion of public investment in Europe – more than half of all public investment in several member states. He recalled that the Commission has proposed a number of innovative ways to accelerate their disbursement where it is most needed.
"We have to build upon this momentum. I can only invite you to take a positive and pro-active approach on our proposals related to modernisation, thematic concentration, conditionality, and partnership, said the President.
5+5 Dialogue between 10 Mediterranean countries — ‘always a pioneer and a laboratory of ideas’
In Malta, in the presence of President Barroso, the leaders of 10 Mediterranean countries continued their 5+5 dialogue, established in 1990. Together they reflected on the opportunities and challenges which the ‘Arab Spring’ presents for everyone.
The 5+5 Dialogue comprises 10 countries from the Mediterranean basin: Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, and Malta for the northern coast; Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia (the Arab Maghreb Union) for the southern coast.
President Barroso underlined that ‘the 5+5 group has always been a pioneer and a laboratory of ideas’.
He left no doubt that the ‘European Union will continue to support the transition process under way, and political and economic reform’.
He said: ‘I believe in open regionalism, in a Europe oriented towards its neighbours and not inward-looking, and in a natural complementarity between the northern and southern coasts of the Mediterranean’.
The 5+5 group can make a significant contribution to resolving the challenges faced by the region. It can establish links between the 10 countries present here today with a view to proposing new support projects in the region.’
Commission meets European Parliament Committee Chairs
The annual meeting is an important stepping stone before the adoption of the Commission's 2013 work programme on the 23 October.
Following the President's State of the Union address, given this year on 12 September, the meeting is an important part of the "special Partnership" between the Commission and the European Parliament. It provides an opportunity for Committee Chairs to assess the implementation of the 2012 work programme and to signal their policy preferences and expectations for the coming year.
The meeting takes place halfway through six weeks of intensive so-called "structured dialogue" that starts with the State of the Union Address in the Parliament. It rounds off the dialogues between the Commissioners and the parliamentary committees responsible for their respective policy.
The next steps will be the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament, scheduled on 10 October, and the adoption on 23 October of the next Commission work programme for 2013.
Discussing next Council Presidency with Irish Government
Ahead of Ireland's seventh Presidency of the Council of Ministers, leaders agreed that the top priority must be growth, and discussed the Commission's proposal for a banking union, the Multiannual Financial framework negotiations and other priorities.
In talks on growth, President Barroso stressed that the European Commission has a growth strategy – called Europe2020 – "which sets out practical ways we can breathe new life into our economies."
To be able to support growth at European level, Europe needs a budget that is fit for that purpose. Negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework have reached a critical stage, and President Barroso said that "Neither the Taoiseach nor I want this to fall to the Irish Presidency to finalise. I am grateful for the very clear support Ireland has given to the Commission's proposal. The Taoiseach fully understands the value that the EU budget brings to Irish citizens and businesses. In the coming months it will be essential to defend the growth-friendly aspects of that budget."
Regarding the Commission's proposals for a banking union, President Barroso said that both he and Taoiseach "are determined to see the single supervisor in place as soon as possible," - not least because it is an essential condition for the future ESM (European Stability Mechanism) to directly recapitalise banks. "I will make clear at the next European Council in October that we must stick to the commitments we made in June," he said.
Leaders also agreed on the importance of continuing to fight high levels of the youth unemployment. A priority would be to establish a youth guarantee scheme and a framework for vocational training before the end of the year.
The President also paid tribute to the steadfast determination shown by the government and the people of Ireland to complete the EU/IMF programme. "I know that you will use the Presidency as an opportunity to showcase Ireland's commitment to Europe, as you have outlined to me today. I look forward to working with you, to help make this the best Irish Presidency ever".
Supporting transition progress in Yemen
The European Union fully supports a peaceful and orderly transition process in Yemen, one which responds to the legitimate aspirations of the Yemeni people for a future of peace, security, democracy and prosperity.
Good progress has been achieved since President Hadi took office last February. "I particularly welcome the decision to establish the National Dialogue – an essential instrument to ensure a Yemeni-led, inclusive transition. This is the right step in the right direction," said President Barroso in his meeting with President Hadi. He also called on all parties and political forces in Yemen to play a constructive role in the country's transition process.
The EU has also shown strong support for the transition in financial terms. €170 million has been pledged for the period 2012-2014 in support of short-term needs which aim at key areas such as governance, social welfare, health, and food security. €40 million from this were mobilised to address immediate humanitarian needs in 2012 – malnutrition, food insecurity and displaced people. President Barroso encouraged President Hadi to develop co-operation mechanisms with civil society and the private sector which would ensure the success of EU-assisted programmes.
"In many of the nations touched by the Arab Spring, the journey is just beginning. There will be set-backs, but we are making a bet on democracy," said President Barroso.
Connecting Europe Facility - conference
Business leaders and policy-makers strongly support € 50 billion plan to invest in infrastructure in transport, energy and internet.
In the opening session, President Barroso said: "The Connecting Europe Facility is about far more than the specific projects. It is a European solution to a European challenge". He strongly emphasised its added value and contribution to European growth, jobs and competiveness. For him, it is one of the most prominent features for growth in the proposed Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020. "The Commission therefore will defend it vigorously" in the ongoing negotiations.
"To support growth, to help generate jobs everywhere in Europe, our citizens need open access to ideas, to markets, to the resources necessary to produce. All too often they are hindered because the infrastructure networks across Europe are incomplete, inefficient or simply non-existent", explained President Barroso.
The Connecting Europe Facility can change this by filling the missing links and removing bottlenecks across Europe, thanks to the transnational – in some cases even a pan-European – dimension and approach. Many cross-border projects would not have happened if the benefits are evaluated only at a purely national level.
"Ultimately Connecting Europe is about building the foundations for a truly united European Union by connecting all the peoples of Europe," the President said.
The conference concluded with overall strong support by business leaders and policy-makers for an ambitious Connecting Europe Facility, able to trigger significant additional investment for Europe's strategic infrastructure.
With a proposed budget of up to € 50 billion between 2014 and 2020, the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) will be a key instrument to promote growth, jobs and competitiveness through targeted infrastructure investment at European level. It will support the development of high-performing, sustainable and efficiently interconnected trans-European networks in the fields of transport, energy and digital services. Within the € 50 billion budget the funds for the three involved sectors are allocated as follows: € 31,7 for transport, € 9,1 for energy and € 9,2 for internet.
Meeting with Mr Jebali, Prime Minister of Tunisia
Twenty months after the Tunisian democratic transition began, the two leaders discussed the political situation and the recent events in Tunisia, as well as progress on deepening the mutual relationship.
The President and Tunisian Head of Government discussed the preparation of the new Constitution and the general elections, and also the reforms under way. ‘I am delighted by the guarantees you have given me today, Mr Jebali, on the irreversible nature of the democratic transition, as well as the unfailing commitment of your government to defending fundamental rights and freedoms for all Tunisians’, the President said.
They also discussed the recent events that have led to the attacks against American diplomatic representatives. President Barroso said that he was ‘encouraged’ by the statements made by the Head of Government, who confirmed that ‘the position of an extremist minority must not be confused with the feeling of the large majority of the Tunisian people who reject violence, hatred and extremism’.
This meeting has provided a fresh opportunity for the Commission to reaffirm its full support for Tunisia’s democratic transition and to underline the special nature of the relationship between the European Union and the new Tunisia. ‘The European Union has doubled its financial aid to Tunisia for 2011–2013 to EUR 400 million. We are also prepared to do more in 2013 to support the Tunisian authorities’ recovery programme’, the President said, referring also to the two financial agreements which have been signed today: one on Justice, and the other on social inequalities and healthcare services, which amount to more than EUR 35 million.
‘The cooperation and dialogue between Tunisia and the European Union is becoming greater and more in-depth, and it is our desire to continue to work towards a strong and solid partnership between Tunisia and the European Union’, the President concluded. He also confirmed the firm commitment to reach a political agreement on the privileged partnership between the two partners at the next Council Association meeting due to take place in November, and to advance negotiations on the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement.
Message of congratulations to José María Olazábal, Team Europe Ryder Cup captain
The President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso has sent the following message this morning to the Team Europe Ryder Cup Captain, José María Olazábal:
"On behalf of the European Commission, I would like to congratulate you and your team on a magnificent victory. To beat such a talented US team, to retain the Ryder Cup and win on American soil, is a great tribute to your superb leadership and the unity of the European team. You have fittingly honoured the legacy of Seve Ballesteros and cemented your own place in the history of this great competition.
You have brought together under the European flag a team of players with many different nationalities, languages and cultures from many different parts of Europe. Your victory will be an inspiration to so many people in Europe."
Androulla Vassiliou, the Commissioner responsible for sport, added: "What an extraordinary comeback! We were staring into the abyss with a seemingly impossible deficit to overcome, but Team Europe stuck together in the face of adversity, let their talent shine and pulled off a magnificent victory. I am sure Seve Ballesteros will be cheering in heaven!"
The United States started the final day requiring only four points from the 12 on offer, but Europe's players took eight and a half to clinch a narrow 14½-13½ win and retain the trophy which they won at Celtic Manor in 2010.
Launch of the European Social Innovation Prize in Lisbon
Social innovation means creating better ways to tackle some of the most challenging social problems. The current financial and economic crisis makes it more important than ever. European Commission plays its vital part in supporting innovation paving the way out of the crisis.
"Unlocking today's potential for tomorrow's work" is the subtitle of the competition named after the late Portuguese innovator Diogo Vasconcelos. It invites participants to come up with ideas to create new and better jobs in Europe. Everybody can participate: entrepreneurs, students, charities to name only a few. All semi-finalists and finalists will benefit from a 9 month professional mentoring process helping them to transform their idea into a sustainable business venture. In May 2013, three prizes of 20 000 EUR will be awarded by the Commission to the winning contributions.
While launching the Competition, President Barroso gave his personal tribute to Diogo Vasconcelos, who was at the origin of both European Social Innovation in general and the idea of launching a Competition across Europe: "Diogo used to say that people have to be empowered and not just be passive users of today's new technologies. Each of us is like a small pixel and once connected with the other pixels we can play a big role." This Competition's aim is exactly that: to connect little pixels so they can form a beautiful picture together.
The launch of the Competition is not by far a lone initiative by the European Commission in this field. On the contrary, the Commission fully acknowledges the importance of social innovation and social enterprises for Europe's future. Since 2011, the budget for Social Innovation in the Research Framework has tripled from 4 million to 12,5 million foreseen in 2013. Important provisions enabling and encouraging Social Enterprises as well as Corporate Social Responsibility are included in the Europe 2020, Europe's growth strategy, as well as in the key regulations such as Single Market Act I and Single Market Act II that is on the Commission agenda this Wednesday.