Industry's key role in a stronger and greener Europe
"Europe needs manufacturing and manufacturing needs Europe", said President Barroso yesterday during his speech at the European Forum for Manufacturing, in Brussels. "Manufacturing lies at the heart of the European agenda and is a vital element in our drive towards sustainable growth and jobs creation in the European Union".
Organised by the Council of European Employers of the metal Engineering and Technology based industries (CEEMET) and the European Engineering Industries Association (ORGALIME), the meeting focused on the policy manifesto "Manufacturing a stronger and greener Europe". President Barroso stressed industry's active role and engagement as a crucial one for the objectives of a smart, sustainable and inclusive growth of the Europe 2020 agenda.
"Industry can also generate the high productivity needed to restart sustainable growth: since the worst of the crisis in 2009, industrial productivity has risen by an impressive 35%. Moreover, only industry can improve the energy and resource efficiency needed to deliver sustainable growth in the current context of global resource scarcity and high energy prices", he said.
Through its communication on "A stronger industrial policy for growth and recovery", adopted in October, the Commission supports the sector through a range of initiatives including facilitating investment and supporting innovation for industry.
Social innovation is a powerful force to modernise Europe's economy
"Corporate Social Responsibility is an inseparable part of rebuilding a globally competitive European economy on the basis of innovation, trust and European values" said President Barroso while addressing the Enterprise 2020 Summit in Brussels today.
"It is a mechanism for ensuring that our values are well defended here in Europe and more broadly shared in other parts of the world" he continued. The President reminded that sustainable economic growth can be achieved among others through a responsible approach to business. He also insisted on the need of "inventive solutions" at a time when Europe faces major social challenges, such as high-levels of youth unemployment and ageing population, in particular because the future budget 2014-2020 will be less than the Commission would have hoped.
Next Multiannual EU budget must be focused on growth and jobs
At their meeting on Tuesday, President Barroso and President of the Economic and Social Committee Mr Nilsson agreed that the EU budget for the period 2014 – 2020 should reflect its potential to make a very significant contribution to generating growth and jobs in Europe.
President Barroso urged the members of the Economic and Social Committee to back such a budget, known as the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), in ongoing debates in their home countries: "In the end all 27 member states are net-beneficiaries of their membership and this should be made clear," said President Barroso.
The President also briefed President Nilsson about the outcome of the European Council last week. Discussions on the follow-up to the Rio 2020 conference were also held, focused on the importance of mainstreaming environmental sustainability in all EU policies.
The Commission presents a Blueprint for a deep and genuine economic and monetary union
"We must counter this crisis of confidence by showing that we are ready to move ahead and strengthen cooperation and integration in the financial, fiscal, economic and also in the political field. That is what the Blueprint on a Deep and Genuine EMU seeks to achieve."
The Blueprint presented today is the Commission contribution to the report of the four presidents to be presented to the European Council in December. It identifies the weaknesses in the functioning of the current Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and maps out the measures needed to underpin it in future.
"Of course we know that there will be some that will be calling for more discipline. Some will be calling for more solidarity. The main message of the Blueprint is that we need both. We need a process in the economic and monetary union of combining this increased solidarity with this increased discipline, so to make the EMU really credible, and to deepen it, to become a genuine economic and monetary union," said President Barroso.
The measures proposed in the Blueprint include short term, medium term and long term perspective. Many of them can be accomplished through secondary legislation. Some of the longer-term proposals presented will require a Treaty change
In the short term – in the next 6 to 18 months – we are putting forward an ambitious work programme including the start of the fiscal capacity for the Euro Area. It would combine the strong commitment to concrete structural reforms with financial support for them, set out in contractual arrangements between Member States and the Commission. It would be granted for reform packages that are important both for the Member States concerned and for the good functioning of EMU. Another thing we can do without Treaty change in the short term would be to set up a single resolution mechanism for banks.
In the medium term, which is in the next 18 months to 5 years, the collective conduct of budgetary policy and also coordination of economic policies need to be strengthened. Given a clearly reinforced economic and fiscal governance framework we could envision the set-up of a debt redemption fund linked to strict conditionality, as well as the issuance of short-term eurobills, requiring of course a closer coordination and supervision of Member States' debt management. These further steps would require a new legal basis in the Treaties.
Beyond five years, the blueprint proposes a full banking, fiscal and economic union equipped with a true stabilization and shock-absorbing function. This would require a more comprehensive overhaul of the Treaties.
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Statement on Greece
"I welcome the agreement reached by the Eurogroup earlier this morning on Greece" said President Barroso in a statement today.
The agreement "underscores the Commission's continuous efforts to help guide the quick implementation of the programme and ensure adequate support to Greece until it has regained market access" the President continued. He added: "The Greek authorities have demonstrated a strong commitment to the programme and the Commission salutes the efforts made by Greek citizens in this difficult time. The Commission continues to consider that these efforts will contribute to a better future for the Greek people."
Meeting philosophical and non-confessional organisations
President Barroso today met with representatives from philosophical and non-confessional organisations. They discussed how to strengthen solidarity between generations across Europe.
Europe "should spare no effort to work hand in hand and restore solidarity between nations, between states and within states, between the rich and the poor, the old and the young", President Barroso said after his meeting with philosophical and non-confessional organisations.
The topic of the meeting, co-chaired by the President of the European Council and the Vice-President of the European Parliament, was "Intergenerational solidarity: setting the parameters for tomorrow's society in Europe".
President Barroso was very clear: "Solidarity is a fundamental value of the European Union. It is the glue that holds our societies together. However, the current crisis is a real stress test for our European values. In crisis times, the added value of the Union and that of its common policies and institutions are often heralded in words but not always translated into deeds and means, as you could for example see at last week's summit on our future budget."
Debate on the outcome of the European Council on the future budget 2014-2020
"The Commission keeps on fighting for a modernised budget that puts growth and jobs creation at its heart. I believe that in the coming weeks, progress can be achieved and of course we will work to build the bridges needed to get an agreement in time" said President Barroso in a meeting with the European Parliament's conference of presidents where he shared his views on the outcome of the European Council on the future budget 2014-2020.
"At last week's summit we had the most difficult and complex MFF negotiations ever" said the President while outlining the main reasons for that: 1) the economic climate across the Union, 2) the number of Member States involved and 3) the fact that for the first time in history we are talking about a real cut on the current size of the budget. In addition, the President reminded that the Member States have been giving more and more responsibilities to the European institutions in order to deal with the response to the crisis, but also following the Lisbon Treaty. "I believe all European institutions must not be deprived of the means to fulfil the tasks that go along with these responsibilities" he said while calling for a "strong, independent, competent, European public service". "The reality is that the EU budget is small, only around 2% of total public expenditure in the EU and 1% of EU GNI. The Commission has carried out and is still performing more ambitious reforms of its administration" he continued.
Finally, President Barroso insisted on the importance of respecting the principle of fair play in these difficult negotiations and reaffirmed the Commission's determination to keep fighting for a "modern budget that puts growth and jobs at its heart". "We need a budget that will allow the EU to live up to its responsibilities at home and abroad for the next seven years" he concluded.
Future budget: Special European Council – working towards consensus
"I believe that in the coming weeks progress can be achieved and of course we will work to build the bridges needed to get an agreement in time" said President Barroso after the members of the European Council concluded that more time is needed to broker a deal on the future budget.
"I think now Heads of State or Government and all the Members of the European Council now understand each other's positions better. From that point of view it was a real constructive debate" said President Barroso.
The President emphasised that not only quantity, but also quality of the finished product is important and explained the five benchmarks and one overriding goal for the Commission – to modernise the budget so that it has an increased impact on creating growth and jobs.
For President Barroso the five quality benchmarks of the future budget are:
- a critical mass of pro-growth investment in infrastructure across Europe to make the single market work;
- guarantee that cohesion policy is in line with our economic and growth strategy and that it benefits our citizens and businesses across Europe;
- ensure that the budget continues to be a lever for continued reform of our common agriculture;
- show solidarity with those most affected by the crisis in Europe and maintain our commitments to the poorest in the world;
- and make financing of the European budget to be fairer, more transparent and simpler.
President Barroso reiterated the relatively small size of the European budget, representing about 2% of public expenditure in Europe and 1% of EU GNI. He recalled that the Commission is fighting for that limited amount of money to be used in a modernised budget that puts growth and jobs creation at its heart, while at the same time he called on all to compromise.
Presidents Barroso and Van Rompuy welcome the proclamation of Gaza ceasefire
"We welcome wholeheartedly the cease-fire that has just been proclaimed in Gaza and that was being strongly called for by the European Union and the international community," said the Presidents in a joint statement on Wednesday evening.
"It is now crucial to ensure its implementation and to prevent the restart of violence. The events of the last days stress the urgent need to move towards a two-state solution allowing both sides to live side-by-side in peace and security. The European Union remains determined to continue working to assist in achieving this goal," they continued.
They also reiterated their deep sorrow for the loss of lives on both sides and conveyed their condolences to the bereaved families.
Multiannual Financial Framework 2014–2020: listen to the voices of European citizens
In his speech to the European Parliament just one day ahead of the extraordinary European Council, President Barroso underlined that ‘what is at stake is the prosperity and stability of Europe, its economic competitiveness and social cohesion’.
‘From the Europe 2020 strategy to the conclusions of the European Council of June 2012, declarations calling for job-creating and sustainable development have come thick and fast. The question now is how the governments intend to match their deeds to their words’, the President underlined.
‘The decisions on the European Union’s future budgetary framework are a key test of our credibility, because the European budget is our main instrument for investing in growth and job creation.’ The President then reiterated that the European budget is not a budget for Brussels! ‘More than 94 % of the budget is spent entirely on European citizens.’
According to President Barroso, even small cuts to the proposed budget could affect a large number of people and companies. He made reference to the strong support expressed recently for the Commission’s proposals.
The President appealed: ‘I would therefore ask the governments who will be in Brussels to listen to the voices of the Science Nobel Prize winners, who remind us that the future of Europe depends on research and innovation.
The voices of Erasmus students, who want the best possible education.
The voices of their regions, European business organisations and trade unions, who tell us how essential investment is for growth. The voices of the unemployed, who look to Europe to offer better prospects for the future.
The voices of entrepreneurs , who are waiting for investment in infrastructure to connect Europe by means of transport, energy and digital technology.
The voices of the people queuing at food banks, who cannot understand why, in this current social crisis, so many countries offer so little hope to the poor.
And I urge the European governments to listen to the voice of this democratically elected Parliament.’
He concluded by calling for compromise: ‘Of course, negotiation is all about making compromises. The Commission will go to the meeting of the European Council with this in mind, but we must remember that we need constructive compromises — compromises that strengthen Europe, not help to destroy it. Everyone has a role to play in this. What is important is that we have a budget that acts as a real catalyst for growth and job creation.’
Welcoming the UK announcement: Northern Ireland to host 2013 G8 Summit
Presidents Barroso and Van Rompuy welcomed that the G8 Summit 2013 under the UK Presidency will be held in Northern Ireland and confirmed their participation on 17-18 June 2013. "We look forward to working with Prime Minister Cameron for a successful G8 Presidency."
"This choice of venue underlines the transformation that has taken place in Northern Ireland, to which the European Union has contributed, notably through the Peace Programme of funding for projects which help reconcile communities," they said in a joint statement.
Presidents Barroso and Hollande meet before the European summit.
During a very cordial meeting, the two presidents exchanged their points of view on the main European issues, such as the negotiations under way on the future financial framework of the European Union for 2014–2020, and the economic situation.
With regard to the future budgetary framework of the European Union for 2014–2020, presidents Barroso and Hollande agreed on the decisive role which the European budget could and should play as a lever for growth and employment, with clear political priorities and targeted investment.
President Barroso also emphasised that future investment in research and innovation and the financing of large pan-European networks aimed at 'connecting Europe' are essential. He also noted the added value of common policies and a cohesion policy.
He was very pleased to share with President Hollande the 'determination to work towards a result which all the Member States could support at the European Council next week'.
President Barroso highlighted the importance of the active and constructive contribution of France in the negotiations on the Single Banking Supervisory Mechanism with a view to reaching an agreement before the end of the year.
Meeting with the President of Haiti
'Sometimes the European Union’s humanitarian aid can be the difference between life and death for many people throughout the world,' President Barroso said, following his meeting with President Martelly. He stressed the importance of keeping this in mind during the discussions on the future of the European budget at the European Council this week.
The European Commission and Haiti will work together during the coming weeks to identify the priority sectors which EU aid should target, such as education, security reform and drug trafficking.
President Barroso also congratulated the President and the Haitian government for the 'considerable work aimed at furthering reform, improving the strategic planning capacity of the government, and ensuring that the coordination of international aid is resumed'. In particular, he stressed the need to resume the coordination of international aid: 'All the parties involved, political parties and Haitian institutions, must work together to reach the compromises required to overcome the current deadlock The challenge is significant as it concerns meeting the needs of the Haitian people, who are still confronted by enormous difficulties and precarious living conditions.'
A call for closer ties between the European Union and Latin American Nations
Addressing the 22nd Ibero-American Summit in Cadiz, Spain, President Barroso said: “No other part of the world is closer to Europe than the American continent. We are natural allies and have developed a growing relationship of interdependence.”
He also emphasised the great potential of deeper cooperation for economic growth and international trade flows: “Closer ties between the EU - the world's largest market in terms of value- and some of the rapidly expanding economies located in Latin America, will benefit both regions.”
President Barroso and Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy exchange views on Spanish and EU budgets
Ahead of the European Council on 22 and 23 November, the leaders stressed the importance of the EU budget for creating conditions for investment to growth and jobs in Europe. On Spain, they both welcomed that Spain has taken effective measures correcting its excessive deficit.
President Barroso expressed his appreciation for significant efforts that the government and the Spanish people are making to ensure the sustainability of public finances - efforts that are assuming major sacrifices for a large part of the population - and to boost competitiveness of the Spanish economy.
"The European Commission is using all the tools at its disposal to restore growth in Europe and thus create jobs and address the serious social problems currently facing European citizens," said President Barroso.
Agreement on support for the most deprived in Europe
President Barroso praised the support of the European Federation of Food Banks and five charitable organisations for the Commission proposal to create a fund to help the most deprived persons in the Union.
The proposal was adopted by the Commission on 24 October 2012. ‘It is now the responsibility of the Member States and the European Parliament to quickly adopt this proposal and the associated budget, so that those who need help may benefit from it as soon as possible. I am therefore counting on the European Federation of Food Banks and other charitable organisations to express their support for this proposal to the Member States and the Parliament’, declared the president.
The Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived would support Member State schemes providing food to the most deprived people as well as clothing and other essential goods to homeless people and materially deprived children. The Commission foresaw a budget of EUR 2.5 billion for the fund during the period from 2014 to 2020 as part of its June 2011 proposal for a Multiannual Financial Framework.
10th anniversary of the Association Agreement with Chile
Meeting the President of Chile, Mr Piñera, President Barroso expressed appreciation for the expansion in cooperation in recent years. The leaders also discussed the upcoming EU – CELAC summit that will take place in Chile in January 2013.
"Chile is one of the closest partners of the European Union in Latin America," said President Barroso, referring to the Chile-EU Association Agreement signed in 2002, thus celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The agreement played a significant role in deepening mutual relations, especially in trade – since 2003, bilateral trade grew by 230% reaching a high of €18 billion in 2011.
There are many areas that can profit from yet deeper cooperation between the EU and Chile. "Today we decided to cooperate more closely to promote new technologies," said President Barroso.
The President also expressed his hope for a successful EU-CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) summit on January 26 and 27 in Chile devoted to "Quality investment" and commended President's Piñera personal commitment to the preparatory works.
Commission welcomes Nobel laureates' initiative urging EU leaders to invest in research and innovation
President Barroso has welcomed a delegation led by Nobel laureates Sir Tim Hunt and Professor Jules Hoffman. They have presented to him an open letter that emphasises the importance of EU research funding and warns against the consequences of budget cuts in this area.
The letter was signed by 44 Nobel laureates and 6 Fields medallists. More than 130 000 people from Europe and around the globe added their signature to the call.
President Barroso said: "I very much welcome the support ... One euro invested in research and innovation at European level has a bigger impact than a euro spent at national level. That is why the European Commission has proposed a substantial increase in research funding for the next EU budget, through the Horizon 2020 programme. We call on EU leaders to listen to this initiative and agree an ambitious, growth-oriented future budget at the special European Council meeting of 22-23 November."
Nobel Peace prize money to support children affected by war and conflicts
The European Commission has today formally accepted the Nobel Peace Prize money on behalf of the European Union and indicated that it intends to allocate the prize money to children affected by war and conflicts across the world.
President Barroso said, "The Nobel Peace Prize stands for reconciliation throughout the world. The prize money should benefit the first hope for the future, but also the first victims of present and past conflicts: children".
The approximate €930,000 will be allocated to children most in need. In the coming weeks, the Commission will decide on the details of the project, including the precise terms of reference, beneficiaries' selection process and legal and budgetary aspects.
The 2012 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the European Union as announced on 12 October. It will be formally jointly received on December 10 at the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony in Oslo by Commission President José Manuel Barroso, the European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and the European Parliament President Martin Schulz.
The presidents will be accompanied by four young Europeans, authors of the winning entries to the competition launched today by the European Union. "Peace, Europe, Future: What does Peace in Europe mean to you?" is the question put to 8 - 24 year olds from the EU and acceding or candidate countries. Children aged 8 to 12 should express their answer in a drawing, young people aged 13 to 24 in a short text of maximum 120 characters, in any of the 23 EU official languages. Anyone within the age range can participate. The contest will be open until 25 November, midnight CET. A jury will select three of the winners (one per age group) while the fourth will be chosen in a public Facebook vote.
Commission reacts on the negotiating box by the President of the European Council
While the new negotiating box preserves the balance and order of priorities of the Commission, it foresees significant reductions in overall amounts allocated. The Commission will cooperate constructively to find an outcome that all Member States and the European Parliament can support.
Discussing the Multiannual Financial Framework with the Friends of Cohesion in Brussels
At a summit of the so-called Friends of Cohesion, President Barroso called on all Heads of State and Government to go the extra mile to reach a consensus at the special European Council of 22-23 November and agreement with the EP by the end of the year.
The President also reiterated his call from the October Friends of Cohesion meeting in Bratislava that he would like to "see the friends of cohesion and the friends of better spending united in a grand coalition as the friends of growth, a truly European coalition for Europe."
He warmly acknowledged support from various actors in civic society. European social partners such as Business Europe and European Trade Union Confederation that were also present at the meeting, supporting measure for growth. Other support comes from artists and scientists defending concrete European programmes such as Erasmus for All or Horizon 2020, and European business leaders that have spoken out in favour of the Commission's plan to invest in strategic infrastructure in transport, energy and internet (the so-called "Connecting Europe Facility").
"I hope that these arguments will be heard in the European Council. I hope that in the European Council the Heads of Government will not only consider in a narrow way what they define as a national interest. That they are able to think European and how much it is important to reach a consensus on a budget for Europe," concluded the President.
Partnering with Georgia for stable democracy, trade and regional security
President Barroso congratulated Georgian leaders for steering the transition to the new government after recent elections. He also encouraged the Prime Minister to continue upholding democratic principles and the rule of law.
"Georgia is a key member of our Eastern Partnership and the European Union is keen in bringing the country closer to Europe," said President Barroso in the statement after meeting the new Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili in Brussels on Monday.
"The best way to achieve this is to conclude negotiations on an Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area," he continued, adding that both he and the Prime Minister hope that the negotiations can be finalised in time for the 2013 Eastern Partnership Summit.
Finally, President Barroso underlined the EU's commitment to Georgia’s territorial integrity. Through the Geneva International Discussions and the Monitoring Mission, the EU plays an important role in guaranteeing Georgia’s security. "We will remain an engaged partner in this front as well," he said.
Video: business leaders strongly support the Connecting Europe Facility
Less than 10 days ahead of the special European Council of 22-23 November on the future EU budget 2014-2020, business leaders express strong support for the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) in a video clip, produced by the European Commission in three languages (EN, FR, DE)
Top-level representatives from Ericsson, RATP, EirGrid, Telekomunikacja Polska, HSBC, Alstom, General Electric, IBM, Airbus ProSky and GDF-Suez as well as the International Energy Agency and the Prime Minister of Estonia leave no doubt about the need for better interconnections in Europe in transport, energy and the internet to enhance Europe's growth and competitiveness, about the need for European action through the Connecting Europe Facility and about the strong potential to leverage private finance through this 50 billion initiative. The appeal comes at a time when substantial reductions affecting the CEF are getting more likely in the on-going negotiations on the future budget.
More than 1000 people, including more business leaders from the Port of Rotterdam, the Port of Antwerp, ÖBB, Maersk, Ferrovie dello Stato, Pirelli, Volvo, Deutsche Post DHL, Munich Airport and other companies have signed already the declaration in support of the Connecting Europe. Click here to sign it too! Follow the events on Twitter with #connectingeurope
Congratulation message to President Obama on his re-election
"We have the pleasure of extending our warm congratulations to President Obama on his re-election as President of the USA," said European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy in a joint statement this morning.
"The United States is a key strategic partner of the European Union and we look forward to continuing the close cooperation established with President Obama over these last four years, to further strengthening our bilateral ties and to jointly addressing global challenges, including in the fields of security and economy.
Creation of growth and jobs remains a priority for both the US and the EU and we will continue to work with President Obama to unlock the unparalleled potential of the transatlantic market. We are also ready to continue our intense cooperation in foreign policy issues and in the promotion of our common values. We look forward to meeting President Obama at an early date in order to reconfirm our priorities and provide renewed impetus to our joint action."
9th Asia – Europe Meeting: Europe is a committed partner to Asia
"The message that we have brought to this gathering was very clear: Europe is a committed Asian partner and we want to be even more present in this part of the world," said President Barroso at the press conference following the 9th Asia – Europe Meeting.
"These two days we had the occasion to discuss how to build on this interdependence in a mutually beneficial way, for our two regions and for the rest of the world," continued the President.
The leaders discussed the economic and financial situation and how only an integrated approach on the part of Europe and Asia and the other major economies can restore strong, sustainable, balanced growth.
However the economy is only one dimension of the Europe – Asia partnership and President Barroso expressed his satisfaction that this summit allowed the leaders to also address important global issues such as climate change and the green economy.
"We are both faced with the challenge of ensuring that growth is both sustainable and inclusive… Environmental degradation is not sustainable; inequality, extreme poverty is not sustainable. In this respect we reaffirmed our commitment to the fulfilment of Millennium Development Goals and to work together on the follow-up to the Rio+20 Summit and in preparing the Climate conference in Doha."
He concluded by encouraging ASEAN countries towards greater integration within the region that is also an important basis for deepening any inter–regional dialogue such as the Asia – Europe meeting.
In his opening statement President Barroso stressed the central role of Europe-Asia relations in today's world and the importance of addressing global challenges jointly.
"We represent half of the world population, more than half of the world's GDP and 55% of the world's trade… But more important than statistics and figures is the common political will to jointly address today's challenges. This relation is indeed key for the world's prosperity and security," said President Barroso.
He recalled Europe's key role in Asia's recent development both through partnership in trade and through development aid targeted at the poorest in the region. He also pledged for a joint approach towards common challenges; "achieving sustainable development on a planet of finite resources is a challenge that we can only address jointly," he said.
He continued: "The European Union is building a solid framework for relations with Asia, based on three pillars: Partnership Agreements, aimed at discussing and cooperating on topical issues of mutual interest, from political to scientific, cultural and social matters; Free Trade Agreements to increase prosperity through further opening of our economies; and multilateral cooperation of which this forum, the Asia – Europe Meeting, is the main example."
The ASEM9 Summit brings together 51 ASEM Partners from Europe and Asia. Norway, Switzerland and Bangladesh are joining for the first time. The two-day talks will focus on economic, financial, global and regional issues, social and cultural cooperation and the future direction of ASEM and Asia-Europe relations.
Trade and investment on agenda in Thailand
During his first official visit to Thailand, President Barroso met with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Their discussions focused on strengthening political, commercial and investment relations.
Work towards an EU - Thailand Bilateral Partnership Cooperation Agreement and Free Trade Agreement were central topics of discussions.
Both leaders stated their firm commitment for an early conclusion of the Partnership Agreement and the launch of negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement in early 2013. "These two key documents will form the cornerstones to strengthen the foundations of the Thailand – EU relations," they said in a joint statement.
At the press conference after the meeting, President Barroso also stressed the importance the EU attaches to political stability in Thailand. He commended the determination of the government for national reconciliation and encouraged them to "spare no efforts" in this regard.
He praised Thailand for its proactive role in improving the collaboration of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries and encouraged even greater results in this area. "Thailand can be an economic hub in this part of the world and, politically, can contribute to steer ASEAN towards common positions on global and regional issues. The EU and ASEAN are natural partners; we want ASEAN to succeed; and we believe that a strong ASEAN will be good for the prosperity of South-East Asia and for the stability of the wider region. Therefore, we count on Thailand and Thailand can count on us to deepen regional integration in Asia," he said.
Supporting lasting peace in Myanmar
On Saturday 3 November, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and the Minister of the Office of the President of Myanmar, HE Mr U Aung Min, signed a Joint Declaration at the Myanmar Peace Centre in Yangon.
The Myanmar Peace Centre, established by Presidential Decree, shall serve as a platform for dialogue between all those concerned for Myanmar's ethnic peace processes.
President Barroso said: "Today is a truly momentous occasion. The establishment of the Myanmar Peace Centre is a key step towards ethnic reconciliation and lasting peace in Myanmar. I applaud the initiative of President U Thein Sein and his team, led by Minister U Aung Min. The EU will support the Government and all ethnic stakeholders on the challenging road that lies ahead".
He underlined the EU's role in providing €700 000 funds which helped to start the centre. This sum will be followed by a sizable package later this year which will also benefit ethnic communities. In total EU will provide €150 million in development assistance to Myanmar in 2012-2013, out of which €100 million will be committed still this year. €30 million from these funds are devoted to support activities in ethnic areas.
In his speech at the centre, President Barroso said: "Visiting this Peace Centre now and after my meetings with President U Thein Sein, with Speaker Thura Shwe Mann and with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi earlier today, I can say that peace and reconciliation are within reach in Myanmar."
He encouraged Myanmar's leadership to continue to nurture and strengthen democracy in the country, listening to the needs of the entire population, and to continue releasing the remaining political detainees as "no one should be held in prison for expressing his or her views."
The President also recalled that the EU stands ready to mobilise €4 million for immediate humanitarian needs, provided that access to the affected areas is guaranteed.
The EU closely follows and strongly supports the peaceful transition in Myanmar. It reacted very quickly to the country's departure from authoritarian rule, suspended some restrictive measures and provided development aid to the country. The High Representative / Vice-President Catherine Ashton opened an EU office in Myanmar on 28 April, and President Barroso subsequently met with Speaker of the Lower House of the Parliament of Myanmar Thura Shwe Mann on May 11.