Speeches and statements
Statement by President Barroso on Cyprus
"It is extremely important to ensure financial stability because without it Cyprus will probably face a disorderly default this week. Cyprus will need a restart of the real economy", said President Barroso the morning after the Eurogroup had reached an agreement on a programme for Cyprus.
Late on Sunday night, the Eurogroup agreed on a 10 Billion Euro package worth 55% of the GDP of Cyprus. The agreement was preceded by talks at the highest level with the President of Cyprus.
President Barroso said in a statement on Monday that the business model of Cyprus was not viable and could not offer lasting prosperity to the people of Cyprus. Therefore a solution had to be found.
Apart from financial stability, Cyprus will need a restart of the real economy. Therefore President Barroso announced that a Task Force for Cyprus, providing technical assistance to the Cypriot authorities, will be set up.
"We want to alleviate the social consequences of the economic shock by mobilising funds from European Union instruments and by supporting the Cypriot authorities' efforts to restore financial, economic and social stability. We will bring in further expertise to facilitate the emergence of new sources of economic activity. The Commission stands by the Cypriot people", he said.
Furthermore, President Barroso called on Cyprus to show unity and responsibility in the implementation of the agreements reached and on all Member States of the European Union to show solidarity with Cyprus that is facing extraordinary challenges.
EU and Japan launch negotiations for Economic Partnership and Free Trade Agreements
The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy and the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, spoke by telephone today following the postponement of the 21st Summit between Japan and the European Union (EU).
Recalling the deepening of Japan-EU relations since the 1991 Joint Declaration and the profound transformation taking place worldwide in recent years, the leaders shared the view that Japan and the EU, global partners sharing common values, should lift their relations onto a higher, more strategic plane, and make them more enduring. They committed themselves to step up their common endeavours towards that goal.
The leaders decided to launch negotiations for an agreement covering political, global and sectoral cooperation and an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) / Free Trade Agreement (FTA) based on the shared views on the scope and level of ambition arrived at in the scoping exercises. The leaders welcomed the start of the negotiations in April and expressed their commitment to the earliest possible conclusion of these two agreements.
The EPA/ FTA should be deep and comprehensive, addressing all issues of shared interest in order to stimulate economic growth both in Japan and in the EU and to contribute thereby to the development of the world economy. The agreement covering political, global and sectoral cooperation would provide a legal foundation for promoting a stronger partnership in addressing a wide range of bilateral and global issues as part of a shared contribution to global stability, security and sustainable growth.
The leaders affirmed their continued global engagement in enhancing strong, sustainable and balanced growth and securing the financial stability of the world economy. In this context, the leaders exchanged views on the situation in Cyprus as well as on the broader measures to strengthen the architecture of the Economic and Monetary Union. Prime Minister Abe emphasised his understanding of the importance of the EU’s continued efforts towards the stability of the European Economy, and confirmed that Japan would maintain its support for these efforts. He also outlined the policy measures which his government had taken to revitalize the economy of Japan. Recognising the importance of policy actions on both sides as efforts towards the global recovery, the leaders reaffirmed the need to fulfil all G20 commitments, and looked forward to working together in the G20 to this aim.
The leaders also exchanged views on bilateral cooperation and regional issues, including the security environment of East Asia, the Middle East and the Sahel.
The leaders decided to reschedule the Summit as soon as possible and expressed their expectation that it would give a further political impulse to their cooperation.
EU-Russia: from a “partnership of necessity” to a “partnership of choice”
"The European Union and Russia are indeed strategic partners because we are really indispensable to each other’s security, economic development and prosperity", said President Barroso after a meeting of the European Commission and the Russian Government in Moscow.
The European Commission, led by President Barroso, met the Russian Government, led by Prime Minister Medvedev, for executive-to-executive talks in Moscow on 21-22 March.
"Successful cooperation and dialogue do not happen by coincidence. They are the result of joint motivation, continuous consultations, respect for the commitments taken and open-minded solutions. A strategic partnership must be built on strategic trust", said President Barroso.
During the talks a wide range of topics were discussed, from trade to transport, from energy to mobility, from science to good governance and rule of law. President Barroso highlighted trade as one of the pillars of EU-Russia cooperation. Open trade, transparent rules and rejection of protectionism are clearly part of the answer to revive global growth, said the President. Also, the EU-Russia Roadmap for Energy Cooperation until 2050 was adopted. "This Roadmap is an expression of our will to develop a shared vision, common policies, and a joint objective of achieving a Pan-European Energy Space, if not before, by 2050".
According to President Barroso, cooperation between the EU and Russia must deliver concrete benefits to citizens, as it is the case of the mobility agenda. "Today we have moved forward on our upgraded visa facilitation discussions and we are close to reach an agreement", said the President of the Commission, also pointing out the progress made in the Common Steps towards a visa-free regime.
Message of congratulations to Ms Alenka Bratušek
The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Durão Barroso, sent a letter of congratulations to Ms Alenka Bratušek on the occasion of her nomination as Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia.
"Your appointment comes at a challenging time for Slovenia and the European Union as a whole. I am confident that you will make a valuable contribution to our joint efforts to successfully craft a new deal for Europe and its citizens and strengthen our Union", President Barroso said.
President Barroso urges a "partnership of choice" with Russia and expresses concern about Cyprus
President José Manuel Barroso and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev opened a high-level conference on "Russia – European Union: potential for partnership". Referring to the situation in Cyprus, President Barroso said he hopes for a solution.
In a speech delivered today at the "Russia – European Union: potential for partnership" conference, President Barroso shared his conviction that the EU and Russia "should work closer together not only because we have to, but also because we want to".
President Barroso called on a "new EU-Russia Agreement " built on "strategic trust".
At the end of his speech, President Barroso said he is "very concerned with the latest developments in Cyprus", in particular with the consequences for Cypriots". He added: "the European Commission stands ready to assist finding an agreement, and in fact, as you know consultations are going on between Cyprus and the other members of the Eurogroup to find a solution". "We have in the past solved bigger problems; I hope that this time a solution can also be found", he concluded.
President Barroso is in Moscow, leading the European Commission delegation for executive-to-executive talks with the Russian Government, led by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
European Commission statement on Cyprus
Since the autumn of 2011, the possibility of assistance to Cyprus under a programme has been under discussion by the Cypriot authorities with the Commission. In July 2012, Cyprus formally asked for assistance under a programme.
The need for assistance comes essentially from problems in the Cypriot banking sector which was unsustainably large for the size of the Cypriot economy. However, it was not possible to conclude negotiations on a programme with the previous Cypriot government.
Finally, last Saturday, in the Eurogroup, there was a unanimous agreement between the Member States including Cyprus on a programme that met the conditions fixed by the Member States, the ECB and the IMF, agreeing to lend EUR 10 bn to Cyprus. These conditions included reaching an acceptable level of debt sustainability and the corresponding financing parameters.
Whilst this programme did not in all its elements correspond to the Commission's proposals and preferences, the Commission felt the duty to support it since the alternatives put forward were both more risky and less supportive to Cyprus's economy.
This programme was not accepted by the Cypriot parliament.
It is now for the Cypriot authorities to present an alternative scenario respecting the debt sustainability criteria and corresponding financing parameters.
The Commission has done its utmost to assist Cyprus and to work for a Constructive and managed solution. However, decisions are taken by the Member States and no decision can be taken without their cooperation including Cyprus itself. The Commission continues to stand ready to facilitate solutions and is continuing contacts with Cyprus, the other Member States in the Eurogroup, the EU institutions and the IMF.
Regarding the one off levy on deposits BELOW 100.000 €: The Commission made it clear in the Eurogroup BEFORE the vote in the Cypriot parliament, that an alternative solution respecting the financing parameters would be acceptable, preferably without a levy on deposits below 100.000 €. The Cypriot authorities did not accept such an alternative scenario.
Commission sets out next steps towards a deep and genuine Economic and Monetary Union
On Wednesday the European Commission presented two new Communications on the next steps towards a deep and genuine Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).
The aim of the two Communications is to strengthen economic policy coordination and integration in the euro area. These Communications follow commitments made in the Commission's Blueprint for a Deep and Genuine Economic and Monetary Union last November, and respond to calls from the European Council to take work forward on these two fronts.
The Communication on the ex-ante coordination of plans for major economic policy reforms contains options on how to organise EU-level discussions on large-scale economic policy reforms in the Member States before final decisions are taken at national level.
The Communication on a Convergence and Competitiveness Instrument (CCI) sets out options for two instruments: contractual arrangements for Member States to undertake specific reforms and financial support to help Member States implement these reforms.
President Barroso said: "With these two Communications, the Commission is driving forward the integration process, as we set out in our Blueprint on a Deep and Genuine EMU last November. These proposals – in particular the Convergence and Competitiveness Instrument - combine the need for more discipline at national level with more solidarity at EU level. They underpin the strength of the common currency and will help drive forward Europe's competitiveness, growth and job creation."
President Barroso discusses competitiveness with Chancellor Merkel, President Hollande and business leaders
On Monday, President Barroso participated in a meeting in Berlin with German Chancellor Merkel, French President Hollande and business leaders of the European Round Table of Industrialists on European competitiveness.
The topics of the meeting included how Europe can generate growth and jobs for its citizens. In his statement ahead of the meeting, President Barroso stressed a growth-friendly fiscal consolidation and the importance of addressing the social consequences of the crisis.
"Growth indeed needs to come from increased competitiveness and productivity, not from debt creation. We have seen in the past that artificial growth fuelled by artificial debt, either public or private, is not a solution", he said.
President Barroso stressed that competitiveness is not an end in itself. "It is essential to our economic success, for growth and jobs. It is also about meeting the challenges our European model of society is facing. It is about defending our influence in the world", he said.
The President reminded about the progress that is being made in a number of countries which are improving their current account balances and public deficits. "But the crisis persists as we can see from the dire growth prospects and record levels in youth unemployment and also the most recent development concerning Cyprus".
In his statement, President Barroso said he was deeply convinced that Europe has the willingness to do more and better. "It has the brains to excel on a global scale. It has a model of society of which we can be proud and which is worth preserving and modernising. And it has also at the same time the modesty to accept that many things can be corrected and that we can go forward to complete many of our work."
Inaugural mass of Pope Francis and ceremony of salutation in Rome
Paying tribute to the newly elected Pope and Head of the Vatican State, His Holiness Francis, European Commission President Barroso participated in the inaugural mass of Pope Francis in Rome – alongside with the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz. The three Presidents participated afterwards in the Ceremony of Salutation for Heads of State.
Joint letter of congratulations to the new President of China
The President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, and the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy sent a joint letter to H.E. Mr Xi Jinping congratulating him on his appointment to the Presidency of the People's Republic of China.
In their letter Presidents Barroso and Van Rompuy stated:
"On behalf of the European Union, we would like to send you our congratulations for your appointment to the Presidency of the People's Republic of China and express our best wishes for your new position.
This year is particularly meaningful for the EU-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership which celebrates its 10th anniversary since its establishment in 2013. The EU is convinced of the importance of bringing forward our relationship in these challenging times and at an important juncture for China's development.
We are confident that, under your leadership, the EU and China will continue to enhance their joint efforts to promote peace and security, strengthen their economic and trade partnership, address global challenges, encourage people-to-people exchanges and promote rule of law. The preparation of the next EU-China Summit foreseen in the autumn, in China will provide us with the opportunity of reinforcing our cooperation in a forward-looking way.
We are looking forward to further exchanges with you on these subjects at the next opportunity."
Joint letter [69 KB]
President Barroso welcomes the endorsement by the European Council of the EU key economic priorities for 2013
President Barroso welcomed this evening the endorsement of the key economic priorities for the EU in 2013 by the European Council. In a statement following the first session of the European Council meeting, the President stated that the Commission's Annual Growth Survey is "a balanced approach that will bear fruit if we stick with it, if we implement it with determination."
"I believe we should stick with our strategy because it is already showing some results. The reality is that compared to a year ago, the euro is more stable and there are signs that confidence is starting to return with interest rates and spreads generally decreasing", said the President.
In a presentation on growth, competitiveness and jobs made earlier to the European Council, the President stressed that macro-economic imbalances within the euro area are being reduced and competitiveness is improving, especially in the programme countries.
President Barroso stated that faster progress is needed on actions to push growth. "The Commission has put on the table a whole series of proposals to stimulate growth. In fact I believe we have to speed up the implementation. The implementation is too low and too slow", he said.
However, while the macro-economic situation is, in many indicators, improving, and is more stable, unemployment is at an unacceptable level. The President said: "That means we must tackle the issue of fairness head-on. The burden of many of our citizens, in particular in programme countries, is becoming unbearable. So they must feel that the incredible efforts they are making are for a reason, are spread fairly and are shared by all actors in society, including, by the way, the financial sector."
President Barroso concluded by saying the European Commission is putting fairness and the social dimension at the centre of the European Union's economic strategy, with actions as the establishment of youth action teams, the Youth Employment Package, and the Youth Employment Initiative to implement the Youth Guarantee: "We need to work together, country by country, sector by sector to see how we can get people back into work."
Statement following the final session of the European Council
"We had a substantive debate in the Euro Area summit on the analysis of the economic situation," stated President Barroso at the beginning of the press conference and added: "The most relevant point is that to achieve sustainable growth we really need increased competitiveness. And we discussed how we can best achieve that."
In his statement President Barroso also talked about youth unemployment. He underlined that the Commission has moved quickly on the Youth Employment Initiative and already this week has made the proposals needed to make this Initiative a reality.
"Since January 2012 the Commission has been working with action teams in the eight Member States with the highest levels of youth unemployment. Together we have targeted EU financing to support job opportunities for young people and help SMEs get access to finance. The results have been positive. By the start of this year around 16 billion euro of EU funding had been mobilised – double the amount we first expected. Nearly 800 000 young people and 55 000 SMEs are set to benefit. This is of course still work in progress."
According to the European Commission President, is that we simultaneously have high levels of unemployment and skill shortages. The shortfall in ICT professionals could reach 900 000 by 2015. "Job opportunities exist and we must train our young people to fill them," reiterated the President.
"Today we listened to a presentation by Prime Minister Cameron on the G8. The three key priorities, the three "t", transparency, tax evasion and trade presented by the Prime Minister of Britain this morning are issues on which the Commission has led the way in recent months," continued President Barroso. He made it clear that "preventing tax evasion is a priority because everyone should pay their fair share of tax".
On trade, President Barroso outlined that "it is particularly important that we restate our commitment to a strong multilateral trading system."
On Russia, "we need to move from a partnership of necessity to a partnership of choice," concluded the President.
Responding to the journalist question on the European Union's economic strategy President Barroso answered that the European Commission has been advocating the necessary reforms which are the only possibilities to have sustainable growth.
"That's why a Compact for Growth and Jobs was adopted," he explained and added that we need to do more. "We need to combine the policy of solidarity with the policy of responsibility. It's not the question of either or. We cannot oppose growth and competitiveness. We need both," said the President and added: "At the same time we need to have more targeted measures for growth, specifically addressing the major scourge of unemployment, namely youth unemployment."
Congratulations to the newly elected Pope and Head of the Vatican State, His Holiness Francis
The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, and the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, sent Joint message of congratulations to the newly elected Pope and Head of the Vatican State, His Holiness Francis.
"On behalf of the European Union, we convey our sincere congratulations on Your election.
We wish You a long and blessed Pontificate, which will allow Your Holiness and the Catholic Church to defend and promote the fundamental values of peace, solidarity and human dignity. They are essential sign posts in a world facing numerous challenges and undergoing deep change.
We are convinced that Your Holiness will continue to further with determination and strength the work of Your predecessors by bringing the world's people and religions closer together."
President calls for comprehensive strategy to boost growth and jobs
President Barroso today attended the Tripartite Social Summit , where he called for the involvement of the social partners in a comprehensive economic strategy that should include short-term measures to boost growth. "The reality is that the prospects for growth remain extremely worrying and indeed unemployment is reaching unacceptable levels. This is why we need to address these issues with comprehensive policies," he said.
"I attach great importance to a high-quality social dialogue at European level. And it's is especially important now because we continue to face a high level of unemployment, and at the same a need for courageous economic reforms."
He said the Commission was pushing an agenda that fights youth unemployment while making Europe more competitive. "This, I believe, is the kind of approach we should have at European level: to keep our commitment to the reforms that are indispensable for European competitiveness, to keep our commitment to the correction of the public finances' imbalances, but, at the same time, to do more to promote growth in the short term and also to have a reinforced commitment regarding the social obligations."
He added that "in some cases, we are reaching the limits of what is socially acceptable, and this is certainly a matter of concern for all of us".
Progress on 'game changing' transatlantic trade partnership
"Today we've made important progress on what I believe is a game changer, not only in transatlantic terms, but for the world in terms of trade," said President Barroso following the Commission meeting in Strasbourg on Tuesday. The Commission met to discuss its recommendation to the Council to authorise launching negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the EU and the United States.
"We have agreed on a draft negotiating mandate for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership," said the President. "I hope the Member States will give the Commission the mandate to negotiate as soon as possible. We would like to start negotiations this summer. And I think the benefits for Europe and for America are really very impressive.
"According to a study just published today, 80% of the gains [from this deal] can come from reducing the regulatory burden and bureaucracy, and it's an agreement that goes well beyond tariffs, it also covers services and procurements. So it's an agreement of a new type that I believe can be of extreme importance for Europe, for the United States and for global trade."
European Council 14-15 March 2013
President Barroso participated today at the European Parliament plenary session on the preparation of the forthcoming European Council. In his speech he set out the European Commission's expectations for European Council focusing on the economic agenda and the key role it plays in the next phase of Europe's reform path.
The President of the European Commission stressed that despite fighting the root causes of this crisis, Europe still has to tackle the most immediate fears and concerns of many Europeans: "We must do everything possible, at all levels, to help them out of the crisis."
He stressed that the Commission's decisions have given a clear signal about the irreversibility and integrity of the euro, and have sent the right message about Europe's capacity to act.
"There should not be any contradiction between the social and the competitiveness agenda," he said and reiterated that social agenda is an integral part of our strategy to exit the crisis.
President Barroso stressed that the Commission has acted very quickly on youth unemployment. These measures will include the 6 billion € agreed at the February European Council meeting to combat youth unemployment – it is now up to the Council and to the European Parliament to examine these texts rapidly and adopt them in order to deliver quick and concrete results. With this initiative, I hope that new momentum can be generated at national and regional level to give hope to our young people.
"At this point in time, when the crisis is particularly hard on the youth, we cannot and will not let our youngest generations down," reiterated the President.
"Our efforts towards competitiveness and growth are of course about the economy, are about the urgent social needs, but also about our position and influence in the world; about our values and how we support them internally and internationally. About the European way of life," he concluded.
Response to Hungarian Parliament's adoption of new constitutional changes
European Commission President Barroso and Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland responded to the adoption by the Hungarian Parliament of the Fourth amendment to the Hungarian Fundamental Law.
They noted that the amendments raise the concerns of the Council of Europe (Venice Commission) and of the European Commission with respect to the principle of the rule of law, EU law and Council of Europe standards. Experts from both institutions will now make a detailed assessment of these new changes to the Constitution.
President Barroso and Secretary General Jagland also took note of the Hungarian authorities' full commitment to European norms and values as confirmed by Prime Minister Orbán in his letter of March. Now they expect the Hungarian authorities to engage in bilateral contacts with the European institutions in order to address any concerns.
President Barroso welcomes Parliament's vote on the economic governance "Two Pack"
President Barroso welcomed the approval today of the Two Pack legislation by the European Parliament. This significantly reinforces the tools for coordinating budgetary and economic policies at EU level, complementing the advances already made through the Six Pack legislation.
President Barroso said that "this vote is further proof of Europe's willingness to move forward together to strengthen economic governance and lay the foundations for a deeper and more genuine economic and monetary union."
Congratulation message to Dr Joseph Muscat following his electoral victory in Malta
José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, congratulated Dr Joseph Muscat for the electoral success obtained in the Maltese elections.
"In my own name and on behalf of the European Commission, I congratulate Dr Joseph Muscat for the electoral result obtained. Dr Joseph Muscat can count on the continued commitment of the European Commission to work side by side with Malta and to overcome the challenges we face together as a Union. I wish him every success throughout his mandate," stated the President.
Letter from President Barroso to the Members of the European Council
Ahead of the European Council President Barroso sent a letter to the members of the European Council stating: "We are not yet out of the crisis, as the unacceptably high levels of unemployment show, but we can see that the reform efforts of Member States are starting to bear fruit, correcting very important imbalances in the European economy."
"In my brief presentation to the European Council, I will focus mainly on the challenge of competitiveness and on youth unemployment. Improving competitiveness is not an end in itself but a means to drive prosperity and sustain European living standards and values. It is an indispensable element to underpin growth and jobs and a permanent challenge in today's global environment and for large parts of the EU," said the President adding that "gearing up our economies to tap into the potential of our single market, to compete globally and to take advantage of the trade opportunities we are negotiating should be an important topic for our discussion."
He also announced that before the European Council meeting on 14 – 15 March the Commission will have tabled the legal proposals that will enable the new Youth Employment Initiative to be up and running from the start of the future budget.
The letter and its annexes are also available in all languages on the Europe 2020 website.
Europe 2020: a blueprint for the Post-Crisis world
At the Europe 2020 summit President Barroso set out the EU's approach to facing up to our economic challenges: confidence and competitiveness are the keys to long term sustainable and inclusive growth.
In his speech President Barroso made clear that Europe needs to "stay the course". Our reforms, even if difficult, are yielding results and it's not time to row back on them, despite arguments to the contrary. He was confident that Europe's leaders will confirm their commitment to continue on the reform path.
The EU's policy response to the crisis and to our long term economic challenges, notably globalisation, has many strands. These are mutually reinforcing, not mutually contradictory.
The President emphasised the importance of confidence as a driver of investment and growth. Confidence is built on a clear view of the future and Europe's vision of a deeper economic and monetary Union is crucial.
Barroso calls for mutual understanding in the Middle East
President Barroso today defended a "two-state solution" to allow the peace process in the Middle East to move forward, at the end of a meeting with the President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres. In his statement, the President also mentioned the humanitarian situation in Syria, calling for a stronger role of the Arab League in the country.
"We believe that Israel should be fully recognised by its regional partners and should live in security within its borders. At the same time, the Palestinian aspiration to have its own State must be fulfilled", said President Barroso.
He added: "The European Union remains firmly attached to a two-state-solution. Two states living side-by-side in peace and security. We therefore encourage both sides to support and implement confidence building measures that allow the peace process to move forward."
In the light of the recent elections in Israel, President Barroso stated that the EU expects the new government to commit to develop its relations with Europe and to a negotiated settlement for the Middle East Peace Process.
The President of the Commission also mentioned the deterioration of the humanitarian conditions in Syria, where the number of refugees is reaching 1 million. "This is a stain on the world's conscience", he said. "The international community has the duty to address the situation. We fully back the United Nations/Arab League special representative Brahimi's efforts to bring a political solution for the conflict. And we believe the Arab League should indeed assume a role in this solution".
President Barroso noted the success of bilateral cooperation in research and innovation, and welcomed Israel's request for association to the next "Horizon 2020" programme.
Making life easier for SMEs by easing top 10 most burdensome EU laws
In a broad consultation initiated by the European Commission, around 1000 SMEs and business organisations have identified the top 10 most burdensome EU laws. Today the Commission presented the results and committed to continue making life easier for SMEs.
The purpose of the consultation was to check where EU rules might be impeding jobs and growth in the Member States. The 20.8 million European small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) create 85% of all new jobs in Europe, employ 2/3 of the workforce in the EU and they contribute significantly to innovation and growth. In line with the Small Business Act of 2008, the Commission has put SMEs at the heart of its smart regulation agenda to help growth and job creation in Europe.
The Commission will now address the findings from the consultation via the new Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme, which will screen EU legislation for burdens, gaps and inefficiencies in order to evaluate the rules and, if appropriate, revise them.
"The Commission is making sure that EU legislation is fit for purpose and helps European businesses to grow and to create jobs. This is why we have put smart regulation at the heart of our policy-making", said President Barroso. "And this is why we want to ease the lives of our small and medium sized enterprises, which are most important engines for Europe's economy. I want to thank all those who contributed to identifying the most burdensome pieces of legislation. We will work hard not to disappoint your expectations."
The consultation also revealed that small businesses appreciate reduced payment deadlines – under the Late Payments Directive entering into force on 16 March – as one of the most successful legal improvements, together with allowing more SMEs to benefit from simplified accounting and auditing regimes.
Joint message on the passing away of President Hugo Chávez
The President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, sent today a message of condolences to Mr Nicolás Maduro Moros, Vice-President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
"The European Union has received with sadness the news of the passing away of the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez.
Venezuela has stood out for its social development and for its contribution to South America's regional integration.
Hoping to deepen our relationship in the future, we would like to send our sincere condolences and sympathy to the people and the government of Venezuela."
EU-Thailand relations entering a new era
The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, and the Prime Minister of Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra, met in Brussels today. They announced the conclusion of the negotiations of the Partnership Cooperation Agreement and the launch of negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the EU and Thailand.
Following the bilateral talks with Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, President Barroso said that EU-Thailand relations are moving into "a new era", based on a brand new Partnership Cooperation Agreement (PCA) and on a future Free Trade Agreement.
The PCA, signed at the margins of the talks, "will lift our cooperation to a higher level, better adapted to the current global challenges and our political ambitions", he said.
Furthermore, President Barroso and Prime Minister Shinawatra announced the launch of the negotiations on a FTA, expected to bring "substantial benefits to our already strong trade and investment relations."
During the bilateral talks, international and regional affairs were also addressed, givenThailand's central role in ASEAN. "The EU wants Southeast Asia regional integration to succeed: a strong ASEAN will be good for prosperity of South-East Asia and good for the stability of the wider region," the President said.
At the end of the meeting, President Barroso presented a certificate of 'Geographical Indication' for Khao Hom Mali Thung Kula Ronghai (a type of Thai rice) to the Prime Minister. This rice became the first Southeast Asia product recognised with this status by the EU. During this symbolic ceremony, President Barroso stressed how "cooperation between the EU and Thailand is effective and pragmatic", and concluded by saying that "it delivers tangible benefits to our citizens' lives".
Statement following meeting of President Barroso with Mr Rossen Plevneliev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria
President Barroso met this afternoon with the President of Bulgaria, Rossen Plevneliev, to discuss next week's European Council and the current political situation in Bulgaria following the resignation of the Government.
President Barroso underlined the importance of the forthcoming European Council as an opportunity for Heads of State and Government to concentrate on the priorities of restoring competitiveness and tackling the unacceptable levels of unemployment.
President Plevneliev updated the President of the European Commission on the situation in the country and his actions to uphold the constitutional process following the resignation of the Government. President Barroso expressed his hope that a stable and fully operational government can be established as soon as possible following the early elections on the 12 May 2013. President Barroso welcomed President Plevneliev's commitment to respond to the concerns expressed by Bulgarian citizens and to ensure stability in the full respect of the constitutional process and democratic values.
Meeting the President of Myanmar, Thein Sein
On-going efforts of Myanmar's government for political, social and economic reforms were the main topics addressed today between the European Commission President Barroso and President Thein Sein of Myanmar.
Addressing the press at the end of meeting, President Barroso noted that the reforms and the transition are not yet completed and that much has to be done in the field of fundamental freedoms, especially minority rights. It is also necessary to address the humanitarian situation in the Kachin and Rakhine States, to end conflicts and consolidate peace and deepen democratic reforms.
President Barroso also listed where the EU is already supporting Myanmar, mentioning: the EU development cooperation, support to the Myanmar Peace Centre, working with the Myanmar electoral commission to be sure that 2015 elections will meet the highest international standards, and additional EU funding to support internally displaced persons in Rakhine State from both communities (Rohingya and Rakhine). He added that "the EU will continue to play a lead role in the international community in this respect."
"The EU and Myanmar are turning a page in their relationship. We want to increase our collaboration with the Government and people of Myanmar: more dialogue, more and better aid, more trade and investment and more people to people contacts, "concluded the President.
Reforming to become better and stronger
Addressing the Forum For Agriculture President Barroso focused on how to ensure sustainable growth and presented the challenges ahead for a stronger Europe. For a better future for all we need all our policies to pull in the same direction and support the same overall objectives.
In his speech European Commission President Barroso reiterated that when we all pull together we can see the first positive results of this response.
He went on to present the elements (those targeted at agriculture, those aimed at overcoming the crisis and those which are part of EU's broader objective of long term sustainable growth and jobs) of a single coherent response and concluded with the idea that we must continue the drive for reform to make our economies more competitive and our public finances sound and sustainable.
"Reforming to become better and stronger: this is something the agricultural sector is very much a part of."
"Above all, our long term growth requires investment, and investment requires confidence in the future. We therefore need a vision of Europe, a sense of purpose supported by the political will of our Member States."
Filling gaps in e-skills and education for digital jobs
At the launch of a new partnership to address a lack of ITC skills and the hundreds of thousands of unfilled ITC-related jobs, President Barroso stressed the job potential of the ITC sector for Europe. He reiterated that tackling high unemployment is the Commission's top priority.
A Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs was launched on Monday, following identification by the Commission's Digital Agenda for Europe of the lack of e-skills to pursue today's rapid technological changes. This new multi-stakeholder partnership has a mandate until 2015.
"Studies have also shown that ICT-related occupations are much more resistant to crisis than most other jobs. This clearly means that e-skills are definitely key in reducing the risk of unemployment including for senior workers. More and better qualified ICT practitioners, researchers, entrepreneurs, managers and users are needed and will increasingly be needed," said President Barroso in his speech at the launch and noted that the latest study shows that Europe faces up to 900,000 unfilled ICT jobs.
"In a nutshell, a multi-stakeholder partnership approach is the right way to develop a skills agenda in a targeted, innovative and sustainable way," said President Barroso.
The President also talked about the activities and initiatives with which the Commission is actively fighting against unemployment: the EU's growth agenda – the Europe 2020 strategy; the Employment Package; the Multiannual Financial Framework; the Youth Employment Initiative; and the Commission's Digital Agenda. He stressed that "e-skills are definitely key in reducing the risk of unemployment including for senior workers."
Official visit to Rabat, 1–2 March 2013
The Moroccan Head of Government, Abdelilah Benkirane, other Moroccan Government officials, and President Barroso held discussions on the following subjects: internal affairs, bilateral relations and the geopolitical situation in the region. The launch of negotiations on a new Free Trade Agreement was also announced.
Following his meeting with the Moroccan Head of Government, President Barroso praised the political, economic and social reforms made in accordance with the Moroccan Constitution and the legitimate aspirations of the Moroccan people.
The President of the European Commission also explained that Morocco is a strategic partner of the European Union; he added that bilateral relations, which are based on a special statute, are excellent, and will soon develop further with the negotiation and introduction of a Free Trade Agreement.
‘Relations between the EU and Morocco have also recently taken a new direction as a result of the political agreement on the Mobility Partnership, which aims to ensure proper management of the movement of persons between our borders. We are launching negotiations today on an Agreement to facilitate the procedures for issuing visas for certain categories of people, specifically students, researchers and business men and women’, he said.
Today, the European Union and Morocco also signed a financing memorandum for EUR 25 million in the form of grants for combating poverty in 885 rural communities in Morocco.
Lastly, President Barroso promised closer cooperation and greater political dialogue with Morocco on international issues, in particular on the subject of integration of the Maghreb and the security of the region.