Religious leaders to contribute to the debate on the future of Europe
Invited by President Barroso, 18 senior representatives from Christian, Muslim and Jewish religions and from the Hindu community from all over Europe met in Brussels today to discuss European citizenship.
"Now it has become a tradition so probably it sounds trivial, but this is more than a photo opportunity , this is much more than a photo opportunity. Unfortunately there many other parts in the world where this kind of gathering would not be possible, and I want to underline that point", said President Barroso during the press briefing.
He continued: "In Europe we have problems like the ones that have been highlighted and they are serious and we should not underestimate them but I want to call your attention, that at this moment we are speaking here, in many parts of the world people are being killed or persecuted because there is no freedom of religion . And this is extremely important. So, this is more than a photo opportunity, this is a symbol of what in Europe we are trying to do in terms of living together."
The high-level meeting, taking place in the context of the European Year of Citizens 2013, was called by President Barroso and co-chaired by President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and László Surján, Vice-President of the European Parliament.
In his statement, President Barroso said: "Recently, I have also taken the initiative to help formulate a new 'narrative' for Europe with contributions from the world of culture and creativity. Today we are inviting religious organisations across the European Union to voice their ideas about the future of Europe, about our European values, social issues and questions of solidarity."
President Barroso underlined that "the churches, the religious communities have an extremely important role in the very dense fabric of Europe and I know how important is the role they are playing in addressing many of these pressing situations, namely in terms of social needs."
The contribution of the representatives of churches and religious communities fed directly into the broader, on-going Europe-wide debate amongst citizens, businesses, civil society and government organisations, in the context of the European Year of Citizens 2013.
President Barroso meets President Martinelli of Panama
This bilateral meeting takes place during President Martinelli's visit to Europe.
President José Manuel Barroso and the President of Panama met today in Brussels.
The visit reflects EU's and Panama's will to strengthen their ties through the EU - Central America Association Agreement.
The EU - Central America Association Agreement is the first region-to-region Association Agreement concluded by the EU. It was signed in June 2012 and covers all aspects of the relationship: political dialogue, cooperation and trade.
The European Parliament gave its consent to the Agreement in December 2012 and ratification in Central American countries is on-going.
Country-specific recommendations 2013
The 2013 European Semester is in full swing. The Commission has published country-specific recommendations for Member States along with an overarching communication on what is needed to return to growth and jobs.
The recommendations are based on a thorough assessment of every Member State's plans for sound public finances and economic reforms to boost growth and jobs.
In his speech at the press conference President Barroso underlined that today's recommendations are part of our comprehensive strategy to move Europe beyond the crisis.
"Europe needs a consensus on the policies that are both right for us as Union, and right for each Member State," he said and called for everyone to rally around the European Consensus now.
The Commission's analysis shows that most Member States are making progress on fiscal consolidation and are implementing reforms to increase competitiveness. However, President Barroso urged Member states to move quicker and to be more bold on so-called structural reforms that can deliver growth and jobs. "The cost of inaction will be very high," he added.
"We call on all countries to be more ambitious when it comes to growth-boosting economic reforms," the President said. He reiterated that more can be done to create the conditions for businesses to invest and create jobs. Moreover, fiscal consolidation should continue, albeit at a different pace, while remaining pockets of vulnerability in the banking sector need to be addressed.
President Barroso underlined the need to spend smartly on research and innovation to create the jobs of the future and explained that investing in people also means taking care of the most vulnerable: "Specific, focused action is needed to deliver short-term results for the unemployed, especially young people."
"Structural reforms and sound public finances are the foundation of a healthy economy. The benefit of taking action now is that Europe that will emerge stronger from this crisis," concluded the President.
President Barroso awards the first Social Innovation prizes
Social innovation can stimulate new business models addressing unmet social needs. Today three ground-breaking ideas that seek new ways to create more and better jobs in Europe were awarded the Social Innovation Prize.
The President said: "The winning ideas show that social innovation has the potential to make a major difference in creating new opportunities for work. New markets can be developed from grass-root ideas. The current economic crisis makes this more important than ever."
The winning projects aim to reduce youth employment by sharing jobs among young and older employees, to extend the reach and quality of small-scale social care and health services via an app, and to improve access to the job market for economically deprived by making their skills widely visible.
To boost social innovation, the European Commission launched on the 1 October 2012 the Social Innovation Competition in memory of Diogo Vasconcelos. Europeans were invited to develop solutions for creating new opportunities for work, and for better work. As a result over 600 proposals were received, out of which three were awarded with a prize of €20 000 at the European Social Innovation Awards Ceremony in Brussels today.
World's major regional organisations discuss democracy and the rule of law
Today President Barroso hosted the Third High Level Meeting of the Inter-Regional Dialogue on Democracy. The participants discussed methods to uphold and strengthen the rule of law from a regional perspective, experiences and lessons learned, and challenges and limitations faced.
Before the meeting, President Barroso said "it is a great pleasure to bring the world's major regional organisations, together with the United Nations, around the table to discuss our role and responsibilities in supporting good governance and rule of law around the globe. This event perfectly illustrates some of the EU main convictions: multilateralism, regional integration and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms. These are cornerstones of the European project; they are of paramount importance not only within our borders, but also in our external relations".
Delegates around the table represented the African Union Commission, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the League of Arab States, the Organization of American States, the Pacific Islands Forum and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.
The meeting was co-organised by the European Commission and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA).
President Barroso meets the President of the UN General Assembly, Mr Vuk Jeremic
This bilateral meeting follows President Barroso's visit to the United Nations General Assembly in April.
The EU and the UN have shared a solid and fruitful cooperation for many years, and are continuously looking at ways this can be advanced. On Monday, President Barroso underlined the EU’s willingness to work constructively with the UN and support its engagement towards multilateralism.
President José Manuel Barroso and Mr Vuk Jeremic discussed the work and priorities of the next UN General Assembly. In particular, they addressed the promotion of peace and security, the implementation of Rio+20 outcomes and follow-up on the Millennium Development Goals, with emphasis on a coherent approach to the post-2015 framework, and the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Strengthening the effectiveness of the UN, including reforms in key areas such as management, peacekeeping, field support and financial sustainability, was considered by President Barroso as a strategic issue.
Meanwhile, President Barroso also stressed that climate change evidently remains a key priority, with the aim to adopt a comprehensive, robust and legally binding framework by 2015, applicable to all countries, developed and developing alike.
Barroso: EU-Libya relations shall be upgraded through a new agreement
Today President Barroso welcomed the Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan on his first official visit to the European Union. They discussed the current transition process in Libya and the overall situation in the region.
Today, President José Manuel Barroso met with Libya's Prime Minister Ali Zeidan in Brussels. President Barroso commended Mr Zeidan's attachment to a peaceful and democratic transition in Libya, and offered the support of the European Union.
"We want to be the partners of Libya in this process. We want to be at the side of the Libyans as they build a new modern Libya ", he said.
The EU's total programme of assistance to Libya now stands at €95 million.
President Barroso announced today that upgrading the EU-Libya relations through the conclusion of a bilateral Association agreement is key. "We know of course this will take time but it is something where both sides see an interest in investing time and energy. This agreement will provide the framework for the development of our relations for the long term", he said.
Furthermore, the civilian Common Security and Defence Policy mission, EU Border Assistance Mission Libya, which has just been agreed, will add to those efforts and will seek to reinforce Libyan capacities to manage its borders.
Syria: humanitarian tragedy requires an extraordinary response
The deteriorating situation in Syria, in particular the grave humanitarian picture, was the topic when President Barroso met with leading UN officials in Brussels on Monday.
There are at least 6.8 million people inside Syria who are in need of assistance. The EU is the main donor to the Syrian people, with more than €800 million committed both in Syria and its neighbours, and the UN agencies are the EU's main partners in routing this assistance to its recipients. More than 60% of the EU's assistance is delivered in partnership with the UN.
President Barroso met Mr. António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Baroness Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, and Mrs Etharin Cousin, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme.
After the meeting, the President said: "I fear that Syria is now the biggest humanitarian crisis of the last decade. To address the deteriorating situation on the ground, we have further increased our humanitarian support as the largest donor. And we plan to do even more in the future, since this extraordinary situation requires extraordinary means. We are also upgrading our comprehensive help to the other countries in the region, notably Lebanon and Jordan, with our neighbourhood policy and macro-economic tools".
The President also stressed: "The EU is strongly backing the current momentum for a peace conference on Syria. Clearly, there is no easy way forward, but a political settlement is still the best possible solution".
The European Union marks the African Union's 50th anniversary
President Barroso today attends the celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The Organisation of African Unity was created by 32 African countries in 1963. On behalf of the European Union, President Barroso is attending an event in Addis Ababa to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this occasion - the creation of the African Union (AU).
Throughout these last decades Africa has been transforming itself for the better and the AU has played a central role in African regional integration, leading “African solutions for African challenges".
President Barroso is expected to reaffirm the EU's consistent and continued support to the African Union Commission, to Africa’s integration, and to their bilateral partnership.
Barroso: available EU resources for Cyprus to be mobilised as quickly as possible
Cyprus is, and stays, firmly anchored in the European Union, said President Barroso at today's meeting with President Anastasiades. He reassured him that the European Union is determined to stand by Cyprus and the Cypriots in these extremely difficult times.
Today's meeting between President Barroso and President Anastasiades of Cyprus followed the European Council on Wednesday and focused on the challenges of Cyprus.
President Barroso noted that the adjustment programme for Cyprus “is the key vehicle for a new departure for the Cypriot economy. It provides remedies that will enable Cyprus to move away from the previous situation that was proven to be unsustainable. It will help Cyprus to revise its growth model and address the vulnerability of an oversized and under-capitalised banking system.”
President Barroso praised the Cypriot authorities for the agreement on the adjustment programme and for the adoption of all prior actions.
"This is a very good sign which allows us to look ahead to the future with confidence", he said.
Nevertheless, the President recognised that the recovery will take time and that Cyprus will need help to face the social consequences of the economic shock.
"The available EU resources for Cyprus have to be mobilised as quickly and as effectively as possible. The dedicated Support Group that I have established will work with the Cypriot authorities to ensure that funding can be channelled where it is most effective", said President Barroso.
President Barroso welcomes commitments on energy and tax evasion and fraud
President Barroso welcomed the commitment at today's European Council to make progress on energy policy and tax evasion and fraud.
Updated: 22 May 2013
On energy policy, the President welcomed the fact that there was support for the Commission's approach for what he called a no regrets scenario, with action in five areas: completing the internal energy market; investing in innovation and infrastructure; committing to greater energy efficiency; exploiting renewable sources more cheaply and diversifying supplies."
He made clear that while "there is no silver bullet to solve the strategic energy challenges that Europe faces, there is much we can do if we act together through Europe. The status quo is not an option, which is why we really need to implement what has been agreed today."
Tackling on tax evasion and fraud, he stressed that "it is also about fairness, because we estimate €1 trillion lost each year to tax evasion and avoidance, the equivalent of a year’s health spending across all member states."
"I’m pleased that some decisions have been taken today. Indeed there was a reference to a principle that I believe it is critically important – the principle of automatic exchange of information at European Union level", he said.
"The reality is that citizens have high expectations that we will deliver a fairer tax deal for everyone. Today's globalised world is also changing in a way that we have to look at these issues in a much more attentive way. Next week’s Country Specific Recommendations that the Commission will present will highlight the scope for member states to improve their own tax systems", the President added.
Presentation and press material available below
21 May 2013
Ahead of this week's European Council, President Barroso on Tuesday addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg. He stressed energy and the fight against tax fraud and tax evasion as the two main topics of the Council meeting.
"These two debates are crucial at this moment in time", the President said.
"They matter for our public finances, for the competitiveness of our businesses and for the cost of living of our citizens. Even more, they are essential for the credibility of our efforts to fight the crisis, for the political capital we are willing to invest in it and the legitimacy of the demands the crisis makes on those who struggle to pay their energy bills or pay their taxes."
Progress on both energy and taxation is crucial to show that, at European level and in Member States, political leaders are willing and able to mobilise every growth lever they have at hand and to give any impetus they possibly can to help citizens and businesses through these very difficult times, the President stressed. "A stronger European energy policy is a particularly important tool to achieve this".
Tax fraud and tax evasion are equally important, he highlighted, not just for their economic impact but for the legitimacy of our efforts as well: "The total loss of revenue due to illegal fraud and unacceptable evasion is estimated to be around one trillion euros a year. How can we explain to honest households and businesses who are feeling the squeeze yet still paying their fair share of taxes, that there are other parts of society and enterprise who are deliberately avoiding paying up? How can we justify that fiscal consolidation is requiring Member States to make difficult choices to reduce expenditure, yet at the same time there are whole piles of cash that should be in the public purse but are never collected?"
President Barroso highlighted the need to come to concrete conclusions and commitments: "At a time when debate about Europe is all too often a futile shouting match between believers and non-believers, this is a discussion that separates those who like to talk from those who are willing to act, and those who prefer to attract attention to themselves from those who are determined to achieve results for citizens".
President Barroso: "An EU strategy for industrial competitiveness”
Speaking at the eleventh European Business Summit in Brussels today, President Barroso debated the European Commission's response to the uncertainty that marks business and industry in Europe today.
"Our policy response is clear: we address in a comprehensive manner the different challenges, challenges of fiscal consolidation. We continue the structural reforms for competitiveness and also we promote the investments that give hope to the real economy. And of course we pursue an active agenda linking Europe even closer to the international economy", he said.
President Barroso stressed that by fighting unsustainable public debt, by creating an integrated system of banking supervision and resolution and by pushing Europe's competitiveness agenda, the European economy can be rebalanced.
However, the President also pointed out that specific policies and investments in areas that provide a support to the real economy are needed. He mentioned investments in research and innovation and pan-European networks like the Connecting Europe Facility as important topics on the Commission's agenda.
As a third important commitment of the Commission, President Barroso highlighted international trade policy.
"At a time when some countries are flirting with protectionism, Europe has resolutely chosen to move further on the way to trade openness, without of course being naïve, and this also means that we also need to protect our industry when others do not play by the rules of the game", he said.
European Emergency Response Centre opens: making Europe safer
Opening the European emergency response centre on Wednesday, President Barroso underlined that the centre is a prime example of how "more Europe" brings added, practical and tangible value to dealing with the challenges we face.
"In Europe, on average every year 10 000 people are tragically killed and 15 billion euro of damage caused by natural and man-made disasters" … "We need to do all that we can, at every level, to reduce this terrible toll and better protect Europe's citizens", said President Barroso.
"The new Emergency Response Centre will play a central role in this regard. Its core function is to bring together the collective knowledge and capacity of our Member States. The Centre will also support the Commission's humanitarian interventions and will be able to provide specialist services across the Commission during emergency situations."
The President emphasised that this will enable Europe to build on our experience of European civil protection from dealing with the tragic "red sludge" disaster in Hungary to mitigating the impact of the terrible explosion at the “Evangelos Florakis” naval base in Cyprus.
These actions were vivid examples for President Barroso of "European solidarity at its most fundamental level".
This solidarity also extends to third countries whenever a major disaster, said the President. He recalled that the Commission already coordinated European assistance in international crisis from the 2004 tsunami in Asia to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the Deep-water Horizon oil spill in the United States.
Presidents Barroso and Hollande host the donors conference "Together for a New Mali"
President José Manuel Barroso on Wednesday hosted a donors' conference to support the development of Mali. Mali is at the heart of the crisis of security and development affecting the Sahel region.
The high-level donor international donor conference mobilised and coordinated support from the whole international community for Mali’s development.
Outcomes of the conference revealed strong support for Mali's recovery strategy with financial commitments of the international community amounting up to € 3.25 billion. The European Union will allocate € 1.35 billion to Mali, of which € 523.9 million comes from the European Commission.
Ten Heads of African States and more than 100 worldwide delegations attended conference. President Barroso said he was delighted to see the positive results of the conference, including the genuine solidarity and generosity of the international community. "By securing the pledged aid required by the country to achieve its development priorities, the international community has sent a strong signal that, collectively, we can feel proud of", the President said.
In the margins of the Conference, the European Commission signed four financing agreements with the government of Mali, regarding water supply and support to the Mali's administration, for a total of € 300 million. The European Commission also signed a € 15 million agreement with the United Nations Development Programme to support the organisation of credible, inclusive and transparent presidential and legislative elections, which is priority number one of the Mali Transitions Roadmap.
Also in the margins of the Conference, President Barroso met with Mr Thomas Yayi Boni, President of Benin; Mr Alassane Ouattara, President of Ivory Coast and President of the Economic Community of West African States; Mr Faure Gnassingbé, President of Togo; Mr Mahamadou Issoufou, President of Niger; Mr Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, President of Mauritania; and Mr Blaise Compaoré, President of Burkina Faso.
President Barroso and the European Commission receive President Hollande
President Francois Hollande was in Brussels on 15 May to meet President Barroso and the College of Commissioners.
The visit served as an opportunity to discuss the major issues facing Europe: how to come out of the crisis together? How to stimulate growth without increasing deficits and debt? How to respond to the emergency of youth unemployment? How to combat tax evasion and implement a real European energy policy? What should Europe’s policy be for the steel industry?
These are some of the many issues that the Commission and France wish to collaborate on in order to move Europe forward.
The bilateral meeting with President Barroso, followed by the working lunch with the College, enabled discussion of the concrete economic reforms which France plans to implement in order to stimulate growth and create jobs.
It was also an opportunity to discuss subjects such as the banking union and the future of the Economic and Monetary Union, in greater depth.
This was the first visit by a French president since 1997 (Jacques Chirac). It forms part of the political discussions which the Commission wishes to have with members of the European Council in order to work constructively with Member States.
Afterwards, the French president and President Barroso held a press conference at 15:00 which can be viewed on EBS. On the same day, the two presidents also participated in the Donor Conference "Together for a new Mali".
Meeting of President Barroso with German Vice Chancellor Philipp Rösler
President Barroso received on Tuesday morning Philipp Rösler, Vice Chancellor of Germany and Federal Minister for the Economy and Technology.
In a frank exchange, they notably discussed the policy mix needed to enhance growth, jobs and competitiveness. They agreed that this policy mix needs to encompass continued efforts towards sound public finances in full respect of the strengthened Stability and Growth Pact, reforms for competitiveness and targeted investment.
They also agreed that Germany and the Commission see eye to eye in this regard and underlined the need to stay the course.
They also discussed the need to work for a better understanding and support of this policy mix so as not to endanger its effectiveness.
Other topics raised were the envisaged reform of regional state aid, trade matters and the reform of the European Emissions Trading System (ETS).
President Barroso meets President Traoré: a new momentum for Mali
President José Manuel Barroso on Tuesday welcomed in Brussels the President of Mali, Dioncounda Traoré. The two presidents discussed issues of bilateral interest and prepared the high-level donors conference to support the development of Mali. The conference takes place on Wednesday in Brussels.
On 15 May President Barroso convenes a high-level international donors conference on Mali with French President Hollande and Mali's President Traoré.
On the eve of the Conference, President Barroso met President Traoré. They discussed the situation in Mali/Sahel region, EU-Mali relations, and the Donor Conference “Together for a New Mali”. The conference aims to integrate and coordinate the international community’s support for the development of Mali in the period 2013-2014.
After the bilateral meeting, President Barroso said he expects the donors conference to give "a strong and decisive push for Mali's stability, unity, democracy and development". "The European Commission funding will amount to 520 million euros", he added.
Ten Heads of African States and more than 100 worldwide delegations will attend the donors conference.
Europe Day, 9 May, State of the Union debate, Florence
On Europe Day 2013, President Barroso attended the State of the Union conference, organised by the European University Institute.
He made a vigorous plea for action promoting growth and jobs, while continuing the path towards sound public finances. He highlighted the need to make rapid progress on banking union and the fight against tax evasion where he announced new Commission proposals. He also said that Europe's democratic legitimacy and accountability must keep pace with its increased role and power.
President Barroso calls for progress on energy and tax fraud and evasion
President Barroso has today made a push to make significant progress on energy and tax fraud and evasion at the European Council on 22 May.
Writing to other European leaders, President Barroso highlights the considerable difference in energy prices across the EU because of the fragmented EU energy market and the failure to tap the benefits of energy efficiency. He says that the EU has part of the solution to high energy prices in its hands – if we complete our internal energy market and implement existing legislation. President Barroso says that it is urgent to complete the transposition and implementation of the third energy package and to take urgent steps to facilitate sustainable private and public investment, including on EU-level, in our energy infrastructure.
On tax fraud and evasion, President Barroso highlights the amount of tax revenue that member states are losing. He calls for member states to decide on the savings tax directive and the implementation of the Commission's action plan on strengthening the fight against tax fraud and tax evasion and the two recommendations presented by the Commission on tax havens and aggressive tax planning. President Barroso announces that the European Commission will present a legislative proposal to extend the scope of automatic exchange under the Administrative cooperation Directive. This will ensure the full and consistent coverage of all relevant types of income across all member states.
President Barroso urges EU to "seize the initiative" in debate on future Economic and Monetary Union
President Barroso on 7 May set the scene for a Europe-wide debate on the future of the Economic and Monetary Union, laying out the Commission's vision for further fiscal, banking and political integration.
President Barroso explained the "new reality" brought to light by the crisis and the rationale for the Commission's Blueprint, which aims to provide a vision for the future.
"If the crisis, at this stage, has made one thing clear, it is that economic governance, democratic legitimacy and social commitments need to move forward hand in hand, keeping pace with one another," he said.
While acknowledging the progress the EU has made in repairing the economy since the start of the crisis, he underlined the need for further reform in the Economic and Monetary Union.
"A lot of progress has already been made over the last two years, more than anyone would have deemed possible before, and these are certainly important steps to move towards economic union. But focusing on the individual institutional reforms we were still missing a bigger picture of the changes – or even more – a sense of purpose - to move forward on the road to complete the design of the EMU," the President said.
This is where the Blueprint fits in, offering a comprehensive vision for the future alongside the concrete reforms - in the banking, fiscal, economic and political spheres - needed to make it a reality.
"The Blueprint also sets out the major questions of where we will land eventually, and how we advance on all fronts at the same time," he said.
The President stressed that further reforms will only be successful if they are accompanied by a broad public debate on how far we want to go down the path of further integration.
"However difficult it may be to convince citizens in times of crisis, however hard it is to explain often technical and sometimes very unpopular decisions, there is no other option in a democracy. Europe will be open and democratic, or it will fail," President Barroso said.
President Barroso: political stability is back in Italy
On Thursday President Barroso received the new Prime Minister of Italy, Enrico Letta. They both called for urgent action on growth and jobs backed by healthy public finances.
"I am very positively impressed with the strong European commitment of a Prime Minister who sees his country firmly anchored in the European Union and recognises the enormous benefits of Europe to its citizens", said President Barroso following his breakfast meeting with Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta.
The President pointed out that stability is now back in Italy.
"I think this stability is extremely important, because stability is a vital precondition for adopting and implementing the right policies that will help the country recover from the crisis", he said.
During the meeting it became evident that the President and the Prime Minister consider growth and job-enhancing measures as a top priority. However, President Barroso underlined:
"We are also both firmly convinced that you can only build lasting growth and competitiveness on the back of healthy public finances. Every euro spent on debt is a euro not invested in jobs, not invested in youth, not invested in entrepreneurs or education or research".
Asked by journalists on the eventual conclusion of the Excessive Deficit Procedure for Italy, the President said: "I am very confident that it will be possible, provided that now Italy details the measures that it intends to take, that Italy will be able to go out of the excessive deficit procedure. But that of course now depends on the presentation in concrete terms of the plans of the new Italian government."