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European Council responds to Lampedusa tragedy

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In his statement after the October European Council, President Barroso outlined discussions which had taken place on access to finance for SMEs, regulatory fitness, the trade agreement with Canada, the forthcoming Eastern Partnership Summit, and the issue of migration and refugees.

On Friday 25 October, the European Council continued its discussion on the economic situation, focussing on how to release the wider contribution of services to the economy in particular by increasing access to finance for SMEs. Leaders agreed to significantly increase the funding for SMEs through the structural and investment funds.

The European Council gave a strong endorsement to the Commission's REFIT programme. President Barroso stressed the importance of common rules which underpin the single market, and made clear that the REFIT programme was about the quality of those rules, ensuring that they were fit for purpose and imposed the minimum possible burdens. Europe should act only where it can add real value, and should be big on the bigger things, small on the smaller things.

The European Council welcomed the political agreement on CETA, the trade agreement with Canada, and discussed in detail the forthcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. President Barroso commented that this had the potential to be a truly historic event as the common goal of political association and economic integration with the Eastern Partners was close to being achieved. The European Council discussed relations with Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, and it is clear that continuous engagement will remain crucial following the Vilnius summit.

Finally, perhaps the most substantive discussion of the summit was on Lampedusa and the issue of illegal migration and refugees in Europe. This is not a new problem and the EU has been working on these issues for many years, but there is a new sense of urgency in the light of the recent tragedies. The Commission will lead a Task Force on this issue, and will present a report to the European Council in December. President Barroso called for a stronger response from the European Union to reinforce search and rescue operations; to help the frontline Member States which are most exposed to the situation; to work with countries of origin and transit to manage migration flows; and to fight against organised crime and human trafficking.

President Barroso concluded that this was an important European Council with a vast agenda, and that real progress had been achieved across a whole range of areas.

Thursday, 24 October 2013, Day 1

Following the first day of the European Council, President Barroso called for urgent action and investment in the digital economy. On the economic situation, the President stated that Europe must stay the course on fiscal consolidation and structural reforms and address the issue of targeted investment.

President Barroso called on Member States for urgent action in the digital economy and investment in ICT, after the first day of the European Council.

"We all understand and agree on the urgency of action. Europe has been a global leader in this sector but it has lost ground to key competitors. We are simply not using the full opportunities offered by the digital economy", said the President.

"What we need, first and foremost, is investment in ICT. There is a clear link between the amount you invest in ICT and the competitiveness of our economies", he added.

On the fragmentation of the digital market, President Barroso believes the telecoms reform package tabled by the Commission in September will help Europe to address the gaps. "We agreed that our digital market in Europe is too fragmented. I hope tonight's discussions will create the momentum for swift progress."

The Commission is also pushing for the adoption of the legislation on data protection: "for the digital economy to thrive, citizens have to have trust in it. Obviously, the revelations over recent months and days have shaken trust in privacy and data security", the President said. 

On the economic situation, President Barroso believes there are reasons to be "cautiously optimistic" but "the recovery is still fragile". He said: "We have seen a return to positive growth in the euro area in the second quarter of the year. And most recent indications we have from the third quarter, and also our extrapolations until the end of the year are also confirming this trend."

"We need to continue with determination what we have begun", said the President. "We must stay the course on fiscal consolidation and structural reforms. We also have to address the very important issue of targeted investment."

 The President also called for the completion of the repair of the financial system and for efforts to reach an agreement on the Single Resolution Mechanism before the European elections in May. "Completing the Banking Union remains our top priority", he said.

 Further steps on economic policy coordination, the financing of the real economy and youth unemployment were also discussed at the European Council meeting. "Overall, we have given the necessary push on issues that will further strengthen Europe's economy", concluded the President. 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

President Barroso set out the European Commission's key positions and objectives for the forthcoming European Council of 24-25 October 2013 at today's European Parliament plenary debate.

This week's European Council will discuss a range of very important topics: the digital economy, innovation, services, youth unemployment, financing of the economy, regulatory fitness, EMU and economic governance, EMU and the social dimension, the Banking Union, Eastern Partnership and migration.

"My main message to the European Council tomorrow is that over the next weeks and months, the European Union can, and must, achieve concrete results in all these areas," stressed European Commission President Barroso.

On digital agenda:

"We need a thriving digital sector to drive all other parts of our economy, and the internal market for telecoms has to be at the heart of this problem.

There is now a major reform package for the telecoms sector on the table. Let us all make maximum progress on this file by the end of this legislature.

We need to build this Digital Single Market in a manner that is consistent with our European values. That includes making sure that those who operate in the online world do not escape from fair taxation."

On innovation:

"Member States that have continued to invest in innovation have fared better in the current crisis than those that have not. We will need to increase our efforts – public and private - to keep up with international competition.

On regulatory fitness:

At the European Council tomorrow, I will be looking for a strong endorsement of the REFIT programme. But let me be clear. This is neither about calling into question established policy goals. Nor should it be a battle of competencies between Brussels and national capitals. This is about the right dose in using existing competencies in full respect of subsidiarity and proportionality. I also expect Member States to cut red tape at their level and avoid "gold plating" EU legislation by adding new national burdens to European rules."

On financing the economy:

We need to unblock the flow of credit and help businesses, especially SMEs. Frankly I am disappointed that the Member States are not more ambitious here. And I will tell this tomorrow to the European Council.

On Multi-annual Financial framework:

The preparations for the next MFF come a very long way but we are not yet there. We need a final push from all concerned in order to conclude. I can assure you that the Commission will continue to do its utmost to facilitate a fair and balanced outcome between the European Parliament and the Council. An outcome as close as possible to the Commission's level of ambition, something I know the Parliament shares.

On banking union:

Completing the Banking Union in particular is the one most significant and important advance we can make to end the unfair distortions of lending conditions in financial markets. So it must remain our absolute priority for the euro area.

On economic governance:

The implementation of the country-specific recommendations is not yet optimal, which is also due to insufficient ownership by each Member State of the recommendations which are addressed to them. The widening of these to the social and employment dimensions will surely contribute to enhance ownership.            

On social dimensions of the EMU:

One of the core proposals is stronger surveillance of employment and social challenges and policy coordination. The role of the European Parliament is crucial in this regard.

On youth employment:

In June the Commission proposed the frontloading of the social funds so that the initial 6 billion euro is invested in the first two years. Adopting the necessary regulations is a matter of urgency and of concern. We are approaching the programming period. Member States with the support of the Commission are in the process of finalising the design of the Youth Guarantee Implementation plans and Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) programmes.

On the Eastern Partnership:

The European Commission launched this initiative back in 2009. Four years later we are now in a position to deliver on our common objective of political association and economic integration with our Eastern partners. Our common goal is to conclude Association Agreements, including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas. The free will of these countries must be respected by everyone.

On migration/Lampedusa:

We must all do more to prevent tragedies like this. I hope the European Council will pave the way for a new chapter in the common management, common responsibility and cooperative management at European Union level of migration policies.

There are no magic or immediate solutions, and we need to be realistic. But the character and the scale of the problem calls for stronger measures to organise search and rescue operations to save lives in danger, to better protect our borders and effectively tackle the criminal networks behind the migration flows and to protect those in need. In this sense, and knowing well that most responsibilities and competences lie at national level, more has to be done in terms of cooperation with countries of origin and transit and of Member States' efforts on resettlement.

These elements form part of the solution, but first and foremost we need the political will. The Commission is doing its part, and, for example, was now requested by governments to lead a Task Force with Member States and EU Agencies such as Frontex, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and EUROPOL. We must not allow the momentum on such vital issues to be fuelled by tragedies alone."

Monday, 21 October 2013, The Summit agenda

EU leaders will meet in Brussels for the European Council on 24-25 October 2013. Discussion will focus on the digital economy, economic and social policy including youth unemployment and economic and monetary union, the Eastern Partnership Summit, and the recent Lampedusa tragedy.

On Thursday 24 October, the opening working session will concentrate on the digital economy. President Barroso will deliver a presentation, after which leaders will discuss and agree Council Conclusions on investing in the digital economy, promoting a consumer-friendly Digital Single Market, and improving skills, innovation and services. A key element of the debate will be the importance of agreeing the "Connected Continent" telecoms package, which is an important step in the completion of the Digital Single Market and will benefit European consumers as well as cross-sector industry.

Over dinner, discussion will focus on economic and social policy and economic and monetary union. EU leaders will discuss youth unemployment, and the Commission will stress the need for Member States to ensure that the Youth Employment Initiative is fully operational by January 2014. Leaders will also discuss financing the economy, and in particular ensuring better access to finance for SMEs, and will also touch on the Commission's REFIT exercise to reduce regulatory red tape. On economic and monetary union, banking union continues to be the Commission's top priority, and there will be discussion of asset quality review, balance sheet assessments and stress tests.

On Friday 25 October EU leaders will meet to discuss the Eastern Partnership Summit, which will take place in Vilnius on 28-29 November 2013, and the recent Lampedusa tragedy.

The President will make a presentation on the European Council to the European Parliament on Wednesday 23 October. 

Further information

Presentation of European Commission President Barroso to the European Council of 24-25 October 2013: Innovating in the digital era: putting Europe back on track pdf - 3 MB [3 MB] English (en) français (fr) português (pt) (for other languages please visit this article)

President Barroso's letter to Members of the European Council  – dated 27.9.2013

Full speech at the European Parliament plenary debate on the European Council, 24-25 October 2013

Watch the video of the speech at the European Parliament, 23 October 2013

Commission proposes major step forward for telecoms single market

Europe's Digital Challenge: Commission contribution to the European Council of 24-25 October 2013 pdf - 2 MB [2 MB] English (en) français (fr) português (pt) (for other languages please visit this article)

"REFIT - Fit for growth" – Commission takes ambitious next steps to make EU law lighter

REFIT Communication

The Commission presents a Blueprint for a deep and genuine economic and monetary union

President Barroso pays tribute to victims and shows solidarity through concrete action and funding in Lampedusa

Read more on current activities of the EU action in the fields of migration and asylum

Website on Youth employment

Statement by President Barroso following the first session of the European Council, 24-25 October 2013

Watch the video of European Council intermediary press conference

Statement by President Barroso a the final press conference following the European Council meeting, 25 October 2013

President Barroso's statement at the European Council final press conference

Statement by President Barroso at the event with EU leaders on Regulatory Fitness, 24-25 October 2013

European Council Conculsions