Speeches and statements
Supporting positive momentum in Somalia
"Somalia has turned a page and wishes to take ownership of its future and of the well-being of its people," said President Barroso after a meeting with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on Wednesday that was devoted to the ways the EU can assist Somalia on its path to a stable political future.
"I highlighted to President Mohamud during our meeting the importance of maintaining inclusive and accountable government, respect for human rights and basic freedoms, and the provision of basic social services to all Somalis," said President Barroso, adding that Somalia can count on the European Union's support.
He reiterated that the EU is already the largest donor in Somalia, having mobilized over half a billion euros in development aid since 2008 and €60 million in humanitarian assistance this year alone.
The President also encouraged Somalia's active and positive engagement in the region, highlighting the benefits that regional cooperation can bring to all countries in the Horn of Africa, for example, in trade and in tackling common challenges.
Sustainability at the heart of EU agenda
Speaking at the opening session of the R20 Conference in Vienna, President Barroso emphasised that sustainability is deeply engrained in both the EU growth strategy (Europe2020), the proposed multiannual budget (MFF) and across all EU policies.
In his speech, President Barroso stressed the importance of involvement of all relevant actors, in particular both business and governments on all levels – regional, national and global – to ensure sustainable future for our planet. "R20 is a shining example of this new mind-set in business and in government, because it draws on so many stakeholders and their expertise," said the President.
He stressed, that there is a clear business case for "green investing" and that the terms "green" and "growth" are not in contradiction. It is possible to create smart sustainable growth and real jobs at the same time, as shown for example by the "Green Building Cluster" in Lower Austria which involves the regional government and more than 200 partners, as well as by many other projects supported by the EU across Europe.
The President also recalled the commitments of the EU in terms of sustainability fixed in the EU's growth strategy – Europe2020 (20% emission reductions , 20% share of renewable energy sources and 20% more of energy savings) as well as in currently negotiated EU multiannual budget (20% of all resources targeted on sustainability), proving that it occupies clearly a place close to the heart of the overall European agenda.
While visiting Austria, President Barroso also met with Chancellor Werner Faymann.
New multiannual budget must have means to address the major social challenges
Meeting Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann in Vienna, President Barroso discussed the upcoming European Council on the MFF 2014 -2020 as an instrument for growth, jobs and solidarity. He pleaded in favour of stepping up the fight against youth unemployment which is a serious concern to him.
Answering questions by journalists after the meeting, President Barroso specified that he will insist that the future budget allows for a new instrument, for example under the reshaped European Social Fund, dedicated to the fight against youth unemployment.
He also regretted that the debate so far was about "cuts, cuts, cuts" instead of looking at what the budget – as the most important tool for European investment - can deliver in terms of growth and jobs. He confirmed: "At the same time we are realistic and are working for a compromise, a decent compromise."
He praised Austria for its frontrunner role on issues like the youth guarantee and the dual vocational training system. He also underlined that Austria has been a driving force behind the Financial Transaction Tax – and labeled the agreement to introduce it in 11 Member States as "a victory of fairness". He announced that the Commission would very soon table its legislative proposal for these 11 Member States.
On the same day in the morning, President Barroso also participated in the opening session of the R20 conference in Vienna devoted to sustainable energy and climate change.
"After calming unrest among markets we have to yet raise hope among our citizens"
"We must take even stronger measures to fight unemployment, notably youth unemployment… I believe that we are still on time to address the issue in the discussion for the next Multiannual Financial Framework," said President Barroso at the opening session of the European Parliamentary Week.
He continued by stressing that step by step, Europe is meeting its challenges directly and successfully, but many remain, notably the social challenges. "A lot still has to be done. Stabilisation is not a recovery. We may have calmed unrest among markets; we have yet to raise hope among citizens," he said.
President Barroso pushed again for a strong EU multiannual budget (MFF) that is essential for investments supporting growth, competitiveness and job creation. Warming up for the debate at the European Council at the end of next week, he said that there is still time to address important issues, notably unemployment and youth unemployment, before the conclusion of the talks - if there is political will.
He emphasised that the EU budget offers even to the strongest member states a European dimension to their economic growth, their infrastructure and research. "Frankly, I cannot see how some governments that are speaking about the need to support growth, rightly so, and to support competitiveness, rightly so, when it comes to the discussion of the most important instrument we have at European level to promote investment, the answer is not so clear."
The President also warmly appreciated the European Parliamentary Week project as an initiative to bring representatives from national Parliaments together with Members of the European Parliament, as well as other European institutions. He said that both national and the European Parliament should play a significant role during the European Semester cycle, making full use of the Economic Dialogue as set up by the six-pack legislation. They should also play a crucial role in fostering a debate on the deepening of European democracy and accountability that must follow economic integration, notably in a run-up to the European Parliament elections in June 2014.
Meeting with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti
Ahead of next week's European Council, President Barroso and Prime Minister Monti had an informal exchange of views to help facilitate an agreement among Member States and EU institutions on the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-20.
Both underlined that the MFF is an important tool for investment, for growth and jobs, and for solidarity in Europe for the next 7 years and that any agreement among Member States requires the consent of the European Parliament.
Discussion with Prime Minister Orbán on the MFF and on bilateral relations
President Barroso discussed the upcoming 7 – 8 February European Council, negotiations on the EU multiannual budget, and recent developments in relations between the Commission and Hungary in a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Wednesday.
"The Prime Minister and I agreed that it is fundamental for the EU’s future that a good deal is reached at the end of this second round of [2014-2020 budget] discussions," said President Barroso. He reiterated that the EU's budget is very much part of Europe's overall strategy to deal with the economic crisis and it is a crucial instrument for growth, investment and solidarity.
On relations between the European Commission and Hungary, President Barroso said: "We have cooperated successfully on those legal issues which had caused some concern to the Commission and where EU law was breached. I am happy to see that step by step, case by case, we are finding solutions."
He particularly commended the Hungarian authorities for their swift response to the judgement of the European Court of Justice on the retirement age of judges. The new draft bill has been submitted to the Commission within the agreed timeframe and is now being analysed. The President said that he is confident, thanks to close collaboration throughout the process, that the case can be closed in the near future.
Congratulation message to Mr Miloš Zeman, President-elect of the Czech Republic
"On behalf of the European Commission and myself, I would like to send you my warm congratulations on your election as President of the Czech Republic…
You assume the highest office of state at a crucial moment: the European Union is taking important decisions that will affect its future shape and its position in the world while still being confronted with serious economic challenges.
The citizens of the Czech Republic have elected in you a personality who in his previous role of prime minister made a significant contribution to the country’s transformation and its subsequent accession to the European Union. I am therefore confident that in your new capacity you will contribute positively and constructively to our joint effort to respond to the challenges faced by our union and our member states.
I wish you every success in your term of office and I look forward to our cooperation."
Exploiting the growth potential with Latin America Caribbean
At the first EU – CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) summit, President Barroso emphasised the great potential for growth in fully exploiting bilateral trade relations. In the margins of the summit, he also met with Presidents Santos (Colombia) and Humala (Peru).
President Barroso noted the fruitful nature of bilateral trade in the current decade, which have reached a record 202 billion euros. Moreover, Europe is the second largest trading partner with Latin America and the main source of foreign direct investment (FDI). With over 385 000 million, the total amount of EU investment in the region is greater than the sum of investments in Russia, China and India. Still more can be done: "We need a strong political commitment to curb protectionism and promote liberalisation," said the President.
He stressed that further deepening of the trade ties is a win-win for both parties: "For Latin American and Caribbean countries, a strong partnership with Europe, today and in the future, remains the key to the next phase of economic development. And for Europe closer cooperation with Latin America and the Caribbean is a powerful stimulus for renewed growth," said President Barroso at the business community summit, taking place a few hours before the meeting of the political leaders.
He also expressed deep appreciation of the fact, that despite the strong economic storm, Europe has resisted the temptation to raise trade barriers. "And we continue the process … through trade agreements we have negotiated, from South Korea to Central America, and we continue to negotiate, from Canada to Mercosur," he said.
Free trade agreements with Peru and Colombia signed last June were the main point on the agenda when meeting Peruvian President Ollanta Humala and his Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos in the margins of the summit. While the agreement has been ratified by the Peruvian Parliament in December 2012, Columbia need to finalise the Agreement ratification. "We encourage Colombia to act quickly so that we can soon announce a date for the opening of the implementation of the Agreement," stated President Barroso after the meeting.
Last but not least, President Barroso also encouraged CELAC towards further regional integration in other areas outside beyond trade cooperation. "The European Union as a regional integration process fully supports the consolidation of regional integration in Latin America and Caribbean. This is, I believe, a goal shared by both regions: fairer, more democratic, freer and more prosperous."
In a similar vein, he welcomed the inauguration and initial activities of the EU-Latin America and Caribbean Foundation that will contribute to strengthening the bi-regional partnership by promoting contacts between our civil societies.
Speech at the Business Summit (in Portuguese and Spanish)
Speech at the EU-CELAC Summit (in Portuguese and Spanish)
Statement following the Summit (in Spanish and English)
Deepening ties with Brazil in trade, investment, research and science
At the 6th EU-Brazil Summit the leaders agreed to set-up a joint committee that will help to further exploit the potential of bilateral trade and investment between Brazil and the EU. They also reaffirmed their commitment to deepen trade ties with the entire Mercosur common market.
In his statement following the summit, President Barroso said that one of the most important results of the discussions is the renewed shared commitment to conclude an Association Agreement between the EU and Mercosur (a Common Market shared by Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela) - an agreement that will be "comprehensive, balanced and ambitious," he said.
A concrete decision taken at the summit is an agreement to create an ad-hoc bilateral committee to evaluate the potential of economic relations between the EU and Brazil, particularly in terms of investment. "It is a pragmatic way of seeing what we can do more to further strengthen the economic relationship already exists between Brazil and the European Union," said President Barroso.
On the same day, an agreement between the European Joint Research Centre and the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation was signed that will allow for greater cooperation in many scientific areas, for example in disaster prevention and sustainable management. It also includes a hosting programme for about 100 post-doctoral and senior researchers from Brazil which aims to reinforce an already "very well working" system of mobility of students and researchers between Brazil and the EU.
Montenegro at "crucial moment" on path towards EU
President Barroso has welcomed the decision by Milo Đukanović, Prime Minister of Montenegro, to keep European integration at the top of the country's agenda. The President also encouraged Mr Đukanović to accelerate momentum towards reform.
"The opening of accession negotiations last June marked a new chapter in our relations. It was a fair recognition of the progress that Montenegro had made," said President Barroso following Monday's meeting. "It was also an important signal to the rest of the region, confirming that its European perspective is a reality and that sustained and credible reforms pay off".
He stressed that Montenegro must build on what has been achieved and continue reform efforts, particularly in terms of the constitution and the independence of the judiciary. Further reforms in areas such as rule of law and fundamental rights, and combatting corruption and organised crime, are also key to the country's success on its path towards Europe.
Commission reiterates EU support for Maghreb region
President Barroso met with Mr Habib Ben Yahia, the Secretary-General of the Arab Maghreb Union. They discussed the current state of cooperation with and integration in the region as well as the situation in the wider neighbourhood, notably in Mali, Syria and Egypt.
Meeting Mr Habib Ben Yahia, President Barroso highlighted the importance of closer cooperation with the countries of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) : Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. He also stressed the need for deeper integration in the region in line with the Commission communication of 17 December 2012 . With the overall aim of promoting prosperity, stability and democratic transformation, the EU's support takes different forms, ranging from funding of regional projects to political and technical meetings with the AMU Secretariat.
While in Brussels, Mr Yahia is also meeting Commissioner Füle, member of the European Commission responsible for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy.
Welcoming the Irish Presidency priorities
President Barroso welcomed the priorities set out by the Irish Presidency, especially its commitment to push for an agreement on the "Two-pack" and to reach an agreement next month on the Youth Guarantee to tackle youth unemployment.
On the Single Supervisory Mechanism – a key step we can take in the short term to build a genuine banking union – the President expressed appreciation for the fact that Member States were able to find consensus just three months after the Commission's proposal. He also expressed hope that the Parliament and the Council will be able to finalise the agreement as quickly as possible: "Reaching political agreement on the proposal in time for discussion at your plenary session in early February is not impossible with political will." He also repeated his yesterday announcement that the Commission will present a proposal for a next key step towards the banking union – 'Single Resolution Mechanism' – before the summer.
"But stability means more than financial stability. We must increase our efforts to ensure economic and social stability," he continued; making references to the Commission's work in these areas, which include deepening the Single Market and supporting entrepreneurs and small and medium sized companies. The President pushed again for a swift agreement on the EU's multiannual budget: "It is a new year but the message remains the same, the European budget is the budget for investment, growth and jobs at the European level."
On the issue of international trade, he said that the EU will continue to deepen economic ties with both its well-established strategic partners and the dynamic emerging economies – specifically by concluding negotiations with Singapore, completing negotiations with Canada and starting talks with Japan. "We will also set out a clear vision on deepening economic ties with the United States which remains our single most important economic partner," he said.
Reviewing the Cyprus Presidency in the European Parliament
President Barroso paid tribute to Cyprus for its Presidency, with its centerpiece being progress on the Single Supervisory Mechanism. He announced the Commission's intention to present a proposal for a next step towards the banking union – a 'single resolution mechanism' - before the summer.
The President was speaking during a debate in the European Parliament where he took stock of achievements to date and highlighted what is still on the table.
Commenting on good progress in the Eurozone on budget consolidation, improvements in competitiveness and stabilisation, he said that the EU has turned a page in the crisis: "we are now ready to write the next chapter of the recovery."
"This next chapter will be about building confidence by further strengthening our economic governance, by completing the banking union and by exploiting every means possible to create growth – sustainable growth - and jobs and to address the most pressing social problems in our countries," he said.
Speaking about priorities for 2013, he stressed the need to finalise negotiations on the so-called Two Pack and on the EU's new multiannual budget. He also emphasised the importance of quick approval of the Commission's proposal on Youth Guarantees – designed to help young unemployed people across Europe.
Visit to Marseille and meeting with French President François Hollande
On Saturday 12 January the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso attended the inauguration of Marseille-Provence as the European Capital of Culture 2013. In the evening, he met with President Hollande in Paris.
At the beginning of his speech at the opening ceremony in Marseille President Barroso addressed France's intervention in Mali: "we support you in these difficult times and we support the courageous actions of the French troops," he said.
Later in the evening he reiterated his message to French President François Hollande when they met at the Élysée Palace in Paris. The leaders then discussed various topics including the ways Europe can accelerate its support for areas in humanitarian emergency and the agenda of the upcoming European Council.
The launch of Marseille-Provence 2013 took place during the whole weekend 12-13 January and offered – apart from other events – four festive highlights: a public opening ceremony, the opening of a contemporary art exhibition in Aix-en-Provence, a treasure hunt in Marseille-Provence and a fireworks display in Arles.
The following weekend (19-20 January), the other European Capital of Culture 2013 – Košice (Slovakia) will open its festivities profiling the city as the crossing of old routes between East and West. Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth will represent the European Commission there.
The European Capital of Culture is one of the most high-profile cultural events in Europe. The Capitals are selected on the basis of a cultural programme that must have a European dimension, involve the public, be attractive at the European level and fit into the long-term development of the city. It is an excellent opportunity for the cities to change their image, attract tourism and rethink their own development through culture.
The Commission meets the Irish Presidency in Dublin
On Thursday morning, the College of Commissioners met with the Irish cabinet to discuss their shared priorities over the next six months of the Irish Presidency of the Council of the EU. President Barroso also met bilaterally with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.
President Barroso stressed the need to lay the foundations for lasting growth and job creation. The time for taking emergency decisions should be over, the doomsday scenario of a break-up of the euro area which many were foretelling has not come to pass, he said, but there is still no room for complacency.
"We must complete the repair of the financial sector, pursue fiscal consolidation, enact economic reforms for competitiveness and make targeted investments while being attentive to the very serious social situation in several of our Member States. I welcome the fact that Ireland has placed stability, growth and jobs at the heart of its [EU] presidency."
President Barroso particularly welcomed the Irish presidency's decision to prioritise reaching an agreement on the Commission proposal on youth guarantee schemes, which aims to tackle youth unemployment and social exclusion.
He also stressed the need to finalise the agreement on the Single Supervisory Mechanism for banks before the end of January and to continue to work on this important sector especially through the proposals for a bank resolution mechanism that the Commission will propose during 2013. He also emphasised the importance of trade as a driver for growth.
On the multiannual budget for the EU, President Barroso said he is hopeful that the agreement can be reached in the next few weeks.
President Barroso concluded by commending Ireland for its unwavering commitment to implementing the economic adjustment programme and said that there is clear evidence that the commitment to reform is starting to pay off.
European Year of Citizens launch event
President Barroso participated in a public debate in Dublin City Hall that launched the European Year of Citizens. "We have a lot to discuss, 2013 will be another crucial year for Europe," he said.
In his opening address, he made a case for a united Europe as an effective response to the global challenges that can no longer be solved only at national level.
Taking one example topic which resonates strongly in Ireland – the regulation of the financial sector – he said: "A lot has already been done… Now we need to put a banking union in place so that we can finally break the vicious link between bank debt and public debt. In future it should be the banks and their shareholders who pay to clean up the banks, not the taxpayer." And more support for the Euro – the European Union currency – is still needed, especially in terms of coordination of relevant national policies.
"All of this must be accompanied by greater accountability and democratic legitimacy. Those who take decisions at EU level should be accountable at EU level, just as governments and parliaments are at national level."
He commended the Irish people for fighting their way through the economic crisis with remarkable resilience and resolution. "You are demonstrating that with political will and a shared sense of solidarity, reform and social cohesion can go hand in hand," he said.
Before taking several questions from the audience, he encouraged all European citizens to participate in the debate: " I believe constructive criticism does not pose a threat to the European project. But pessimism and indifference do… I want to see a real debate on how the European Union should evolve in the years to come, both in the economic and in the political sense."
President Barroso at the "Portugal in the World" conference
Speaking on Monday at the conference that celebrated the 40 years of Portuguese weekly newspaper Expresso, President Barroso reviewed Portugal's political, economic and social developments since the country entered the EU.
"Joining the European Union meant, for all Portuguese, a formidable change. In less than a generation, our quality of life has changed deeply: child mortality and illiteracy was reduced, a modern network of infrastructures was created, and investment was made in education, research and development. And the role of the European Union, its policies and funds was essential for this economic and social progress and for the modernisation of our country", he said.
The President said that the economic crisis is a chance to redefine the direction of the country, its society and its economy. "It is necessary to take this opportunity to reform our country, reform that can and should be made within the framework of the European Union".
On 3 January, speaking at the Ambassador's seminar in Lisbon, President Barroso stressed that the European Union is not the cause of the current crisis, but indeed a significant driving force in the process of finding the solution. He firmly defended the synergy effect a united Europe brings to the individual Member States, especially in terms of the internal market and an increased influence in the world.
President Barroso meets Mr Pahor, President of Slovenia
Meeting for the first time after Mr Pahor's election in December 2012, the presidents discussed current political and economic developments in Slovenia and in the European Union.
One topic on the agenda was the state of the structural reforms in Slovenia. President Barroso encouraged Slovenia to continue with its efforts in accordance with the Country Specific Recommendations which the European Commission published in May last year. He assured President Pahor that the European Commission's services are available to help Slovenia with their expertise. President Pahor reiterated his strong commitment to the ongoing reform process.
The situation of the euro area in general and prospects for 2013 were also discussed.