President Barroso outlines Commission position before European Council on EU budget, trade and neighbourhood policy
In his speech in the European Parliament, President Barroso strongly emphasised the solidarity aspect of the EU's multiannual budget (MFF) and called on the Heads of State and government not to miss this opportunity to use it to fight youth unemployment.
The President stressed that the crisis is far from over and the MFF is an indispensable part of our response to both the economic and the social crisis: "There are member states which simply do not have the means to support their local workers when a company decides to move its plants elsewhere. There are some member states which do not even have the means to take care of the most deprived. Do we want these people, do we want these societies to turn their back to Europe?"
The same applies for the 25 million young unemployed people in the European Union. "I want to make an appeal to the Heads of State and government not to miss this opportunity to use the European budget to fight youth unemployment. We have a chance to take the right decisions, to offer our young men and women the perspective of a life in dignity," said President Barroso.
The President also stressed he will fight hard to preserve the European dimension of the multiannual budget – initiatives like Horizon 2020 for research, Connecting Europe, COSME for SMEs and Erasmus for All.
On trade, President Barroso recalled the vital contribution it brings to Europe's economic recovery. In 2012 external demand was the main source of growth for the European economy – almost an extra 1% to EU GDP and about 30 million jobs which depend on exports. He referred to recent milestones for the Commission in this policy, such as the successfully concluded Free Trade Agreement with Korea last year and completed negotiations with Singapore. The talks with Canada will be hopefully concluded in the near future, negotiations with Japan will start shortly and the possibility of such an agreement is being explored intensively with the United States. "If we are to benefit as fully as possible … we must be pro-active and ambitious", said the President
Another point on the agenda of the 7 – 8 February European Council will be the situation in the countries of the EU's southern neighbourhood, two years after the start of the "Arab Spring" uprising. President Barroso pointed out that the EU external credibility will be largely judged by the capacity to act with partners in this region so as to jointly shape the common neighbourhood.
"The mass movements across the region were about the desire for democracy and freedom. We will continue to support these ideals so as to avoid that extremist forces hijack the political transitions underway. We will be especially attentive to the respect of fundamental rights, namely the rights of women," he said, recalling the special support the EU has generated for the region since 2012.