President Barroso in Frankfurt on 5 November
President Barroso will travel to Frankfurt, Germany, on 5 November. In St. Paul's Church ("Paulskirche"), the seat of the first democratically elected parliament of Germany in 1848, President Barroso will deliver the first Frankfurt speech on Europe ("Erste Frankfurter Europarede").
This event is jointly organised by the government of the Land Hessen and the European Commission's regional Representation in Bonn in the context of the Hessian dialogue on Europe.
In the speech, President Barroso is expected to present his view about the state of European affairs and the political priorities of the European Union in the months to come.
After the German elections in September, the President is also expected to speak about the role of Germany in the European Union and express his expectations towards the new German government.
The speech will be transmitted live on EbS at around 18.45.
In the margin of the event, President Barroso will also meet with the minister-president of Hessen, Volker Bouffier, and the deputy minister-president, Jörg-Uwe Hahn, to exchange views on current European affairs.
President Barroso meets Georgian President Saakashvili
Today, President Barroso met President Saakashvili to take stock of the EU-Georgia relations and to discuss the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius.
President Barroso said that he hopes to initiate an Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area component, between the EU and Georgia at the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius.
“Let me say it clearly: the European Union intends to make the Vilnius Summit a success; a success that fully reflects Georgia’s efforts to associate with the European Union … This remarkable achievement will seal Georgia's political association and economic integration with the European Union”, President Barroso said.
Relations between the EU and Georgia started in 1992 just after Georgia regained its sovereignty in the wake of the break-up of the Soviet Union. Bilateral relations have further intensified since the 2003 "rose revolution" which brought to power a new Georgian administration committed to an ambitious programme of political and economic reforms.
“The European Union is determined to keep supporting Georgia in its strategic transformation and in moving forward with an agenda that embraces democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law. Reinforcing Georgia's democracy is of course a particular priority for us”, the President said to the press after the meeting.
President Barroso also congratulated the President-elect of Georgia Mr Guiorgui Margvelashvili, “wishing every success in fulfilling this solemn responsibility” and he thanked President Saakashvili’s “friendship to the European Union”.
President Barroso congratulates the International Committee of the Red Cross on its 150th anniversary
Today President Barroso visited the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva, Switzerland. He praised the humanitarian workers of the ICRC and highlighted the important cooperation between the European Commission and the ICRC.
During his meeting with the President of the ICRC, Peter Maurer, President Barroso congratulated the ICRC on its 150th anniversary and emphasised that the ICRC is an essential partner of the European Commission in the field of humanitarian aid.
"I want to reaffirm that the ICRC remains a true partner for the European Commission. We are proud in the European Union, Commission, with our Member States to be contributing to around 60% of the budget of the ICRC. It is a great demonstration of the project of peace that the European Union is."
President Barroso acknowledged the important work done by the humanitarian workers of the ICRC.
"I want at this moment to pay tribute to every single humanitarian worker wearing a Red Cross badge. I believe those workers that are all over the world are true heroes!"
The two presidents also discussed the deteriorating situations in Syria and in the Central African Republic. On Syria, President Barroso said:
"Our response, the European response, to the Syrian crisis is a comprehensive one. Of course, our focus is first and foremost humanitarian, but the Commission also makes use of its neighbourhood and stability instruments to cushion the political and economic consequences of the crisis on neighbouring countries."
European Council responds to Lampedusa tragedy
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.
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.
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."
"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.
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."
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.
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 [3 MB] (for other languages please visit this article)
President Barroso's letter to Members of the European Council – dated 27.9.2013
Europe's Digital Challenge: Commission contribution to the European Council of 24-25 October 2013 [2 MB] (for other languages please visit this article)
Tripartite Social Summit: President Barroso favours stronger jobs and social focus in EU economic governance
President Barroso told EU leaders, trade unions and employers' organisations today that he was in favour of taking jobs and social developments better into account in the EU's new economic surveillance system.
He also favours a stronger role for the EU-level and national trade unions and employers' organisations (the social partners) under the new system, known as the European Semester.
The meeting took place ahead of the European Council, where all 28 EU leaders were due to discuss the Commission's recent Communication on strengthening the social dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union, which sets out how the Commission intends to bring employment and social issues into sharper focus. "Our message is clear: social and employment considerations must feature more prominently in current European Union economic governance structures, and social partners at EU and national levels must become more involved in this process," President Barroso said.
He also highlighted the importance of the digital economy and innovation as a way to boost growth and jobs, and said that he would be asking EU leaders to approve a raft of important legislation that, taken together, could add 4% to the EU's collective GDP by 2020. He also said he would be pressing EU leaders to move swiftly to combat youth employment, stimulate bank financing for small businesses and adopt an ambitious EU budget to spur investment in Europe.
"While there are good signs in the economy, the reality is that the recovery is still very fragile, and we are still faced with unacceptably high levels of youth unemployment, which is why, at the European Council today, I will press EU heads of state and government to maintain the momentum to tackle this problem," President Barroso said.
"As the Commission has been saying, at least since 2010, our policy should not be about fiscal consolidation alone, or structural reforms alone. This is important and indispensable, but we need also investment. And since most of our Member States simply do not have the fiscal space for investment, we need to help them through the MFF. Our workers they need the MFF to be approved. That is why I'm asking the Council and Parliament to come as soon as possible to an agreement on the MFF."
The Commission work programme 2014
The Commission adopted its 2014 work programme today. The Work Programme focuses on the delivery and implementation of the priority growth enhancing proposals that are currently on the table, such as the single resolution Mechanism, the digital agenda and free movement of workers to name but a few.
The Commission also identifies a number of new initiatives and looks ahead at the future of key sectors like energy and climate change. In addition, the work programme further reviews the existing stock of legislation to ensure it is fit for purpose (REFIT) and identifies pending proposals that should be withdrawn or simplified.
With the adoption of the Work Programme 2014 European Commission underlines that a great deal of work is on the table and needs to be delivered in the coming year.
President Barroso attends 5th world health summit in Berlin
In his speech at the world health summit in Berlin, President Barroso underlined the importance of reforms of national healthcare systems, effective research and innovation as well as continued efforts in development aid.
On Sunday, 20th October, European Commission President Barroso gave a speech at the 5th world health summit in Berlin. He stressed that health policy is at the heart of the social model of the European Union and an inherent element of its philosophy.
President Barroso underlined that while healthcare lies within the competence of the national governments, the EU can complement national policies and thereby improve the context in which the member states are operating. This is done by supporting and funding research and innovation in this field as well as by helping to improve the efficiency and quality of spending in national systems.
The President pointed out that the EU will continue its commitment to development aid, with health being "one of the strands of the EU's development agenda", as "health is a fundamental right of every human being".
President Barroso welcomes Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi in Brussels
The President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso met Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, the Chairperson of the Lower House Committee for Rule of Law, Peace and Tranquility in the Myanmar Parliament and Chairperson of the National League for Democracy.
The two leaders met in Brussels to exchange views on Myanmar/Burma's economic and democratic transition process, as well as on EU-Myanmar relations.
"I remember making several pleas for her release. It is therefore with immense joy that I meet her now as a free person and respected political leader of her country. What a difference!", the President said ahead of their meeting.
Since President Barroso's last visit to Myanmar, in November last year, the historical changes in the country have continued and the relations with the EU have expanded significantly. The President pointed out that cooperation with Myanmar has "progressed in the area of development and humanitarian assistance and trade and investment", adding that "development cooperation has more than doubled in value and its scope has expanded". In the past two years the EU has committed 150 million in grants.
President Barroso commended Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi's "tireless struggle for democracy, liberty and ethnic conciliation, her resilience and tremendous conviction", which "shall inspire all of us."
EU and Canada conclude negotiations on trade deal
President Barroso and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Friday reached a political agreement on the key elements of a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
This trade agreement will, according to President Barroso, "provide significant new opportunities for companies in the EU and in Canada by increasing market access for goods and services and providing new opportunities for European investors. It will be the basis for gaining a strong foothold in the North American market and so provide a catalyst for growth and the creation of jobs in Europe."
"This is a highly ambitious and far-reaching trade agreement of great importance for the EU's economy," he added.
This agreement will remove over 99% of tariffs between the two economies and create sizeable new market access opportunities in services and investment. Amongst other benefits, it will also improve the protection of intellectual property rights in Canada as well as the protection of the names of our flagship agricultural products.
Once implemented, the deal is expected to increase two-way bilateral trade in goods and services by 23% or €26 billion, fostering growth and employment on both sides of the Atlantic. The overall benefits of the agreement are expected to raise the level of the EU’s annual GDP by approximately €12 billion a year.
The EU-Canada agreement will be the first free trade agreement between the European Union and a G8 country.
President Barroso to participate in public debate on the future of Europe in Liège
During a debate on Thursday 17 October 2013, the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, Didier Reynders, Belgian Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and European Affairs, and Jean-Claude Marcourt, Walloon Minister for Economic Affairs will discuss economic and political issues and the European citizens of tomorrow.
This debate, during President Barroso’s official visit to Wallonia, is part of the series "Citizens’ dialogues" organised throughout the 2013 European Year of Citizens. It will take place a few months before the European elections in May 2014.
The President will also meet students at the University of Liège and inaugurate the campaign tent "Youth on the Move", which will host many active players involved in youth issues from 17 to 19 October.
President Barroso discusses Montenegro's progress with President Vujanović
On Tuesday President Barroso welcomed the President of Montenegro, Filip Vujanović, at the European Commission. They discussed the country's accession process and also focused on Montenegro's recent political challenges, the economic situation and regional cooperation.
President Barroso said that the EU remains committed to assisting the country in its accession effort. "My message today is very clear: the EU remains committed to its enlargement policy and to Montenegro's accession process in particular.
President Barroso called for Montenegro's adoption of the constitutional amendments strengthening the independence of the judiciary, and for the Action Plans in the area of the rule of law. He added: "The overall pace of Montenegro's negotiations will therefore essentially depend on the implementation of these key Action Plans".
In their meeting the two Presidents also discussed the steps needed to overcome the country's recent political challenges, such as the proper functioning of the parliament and the efficient use of public funds.
Concerning media freedom, President Barroso reiterated the call that "media freedom must be ensured and threats and violence against journalists completely investigated".
The economic situation, specifically measures to improve the business environment and fight unemployment, and regional cooperation were also on the table in the meeting.
The European Commission will on Wednesday publish a report on the progress made last year by Montenegro and the challenges for the year ahead. President Barroso concluded: "I am confident that you and the other leaders of your country will continue their strong pro-European commitment and make progress, step by step, on the European path."
2013 Nobel Peace Prize
President Barroso expressed the European Commission's sincere congratulations to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2013.
"The decision of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee is a powerful recognition of the important role of the OPCW in curbing the use of chemical weapons. The EU is determined to assist in the destruction of the stock of chemical weapons.
About 100 years ago, during World War I, Europe has experienced the suffering caused by the use of chemical weapons itself. Syria now demonstrates that these abhorrent acts are still not eradicated from human behaviour. The OPCW faces an unprecedented challenge in its current effort in Syria, where its joint mission with the United Nations is being actively supported by the European Union.
The international community carries a collective responsibility to end the use of chemical weapons once and for all. The OPCW plays a key role in this collective effort, which the European Union fully supports, politically and by being the biggest contributor to OPCW.
In the light of many worrying developments over the last year, the European Union will continue to work tirelessly for peace and reconciliation, for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights and offer concrete support and solidarity to those people and countries in need."
Read more about how the European Union used the 2012 Nobel peace prize award money under the EU Children of Peace Initiative
Message of condolences from President Barroso on the passing away of Wilfried Martens
Following the death of Wilfried Martens, former Belgian Prime Minister, President Barroso offered a condolence message.
"It is with great sadness that I learned this morning of the passing away of Wilfried Martens, a great Belgian and European statesman over many decades. Europe has lost a man of conviction and strong values who will be remembered for bringing people together to forge consensus at home and in Europe. He always remained true to his commitment to a stronger and deeper European Union and it was a great privilege to work closely over many years with a man with whom I shared those values, convictions and an ambition for Europe.
A true social Christian, Wilfried Martens played a decisive role in the European People's Party, one of the greatest European political parties. His personal work to integrate parties from the new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe was of paramount importance. His action followed the path of the founding fathers of the European Union, like Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer and Alcide De Gasperi.
On behalf of the European Commission, I would like to express my condolences to his family at this difficult time."
President Barroso on restoring socio-economic convergence in Europe
On Thursday, President Barroso spoke at the European Commission conference on restoring socio-economic convergence in Europe, elaborating on his view that safeguarding the future of Europe's social model was one of the main elements of our crisis response and has always been one of the fundamental goals of European unification.
As last week's communication on the social dimension of the EMU made clear, Europe can and must do more to strengthen social integration and institutions in view of the social fallout from the crisis and in line with reinforced economic governance.
"The social dimension is not a new, additional strand, something that we add to what is the core of Europe," the President said, "the social dimension is an inherent part of the European project and of all that we have done over the years."
"There is no contradiction between very advanced competitive economies and strong social mechanisms and a strong welfare state. It also happens that those European countries with the most effective social protection systems have the most developed social dialogue partnerships. And indeed, some of these countries are among the most developed and rich in global terms", the President said.
President Barroso pays tribute to victims and shows solidarity through concrete action and funding in Lampedusa
President Barroso visited today the island of Lampedusa to pay tribute to the many victims and to show the solidarity through concrete action. He also announced that the Commission is ready to mobilise additional funding of up to €30 million still in 2013 to help refugees in Italy.
"We in the European Commission, believe that the European Union cannot accept that thousands of people die at its borders. The challenges that Lampedusa and Italy are facing are European challenges," said President Barroso at a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Letta, Minister Alfano and Commissioner Malmström.
He promised that the Commission will do all it can, with the means it has, to help change the situation. He underlined that the Commission is ready to mobilise additional funding of up to 30 million euros still in 2013 to help refugees in Italy.
President Barroso stressed that the work toward a truly common European asylum and migration policy will continue.
"To find answers to these common challenges, we all need to work together, in a spirit of solidarity and responsibility," said the President and concluded that "this is in our genuine European interest and we expect Member States to act accordingly".
President Barroso to visit Lampedusa on Wednesday 9 October
President Barroso will visit the island of Lampedusa on Wednesday. The visit will take place in the spirit of European support and solidarity expressed by the Commission following last week's tragic events.
The visit to Lampedusa will offer the opportunity for the President to pay tribute to the many victims who have tragically lost their lives trying to reach the European shores and to express solidarity and gratitude to the authorities and people on Lampedusa.
The Commission, within its competencies and resources, continues fully committed to work on further measures and concrete actions that can be taken at European and national level to address the plight of the refugees and the difficulties of the Member States affected, including through joint action with third countries. The President will discuss this with the Italian authorities on this occasion.
President Barroso calls for a smart regional policy
The President of the European Commission on Monday addressed 200 local and regional political representatives at the opening session of the 11th Open Days - European Week of Regions and Cities.
This year's Open Days event is entitled "Europe's regions and cities taking off for 2020". President Barroso encouraged the local and regional leaders to take part in the debate on the future of Europe. Recognising that the difficulties of the financial crisis should not be underestimated, the President also said that they should not be overestimated. The President called for perseverance, determination and creativity in tackling the situation.
In his address, President Barroso also welcomed the strong focus given on urban issues, highlighting that "today, cities are already home to 75% of our population, they account for 80% of energy use, our cities produce 85% of Europe's GDP. And there is no doubt that the 21st century will be increasingly urban. By 2020, up to 80% of our population will live in urban areas."
The President pointed to the "new amount of 325 billion euros for Cohesion policy" agreed this summer, and he added that "every euro spent from the European funds must contribute to bring real, measurable results, which are being felt on the ground … Our idea is not to have a kind of regional policy separate from the rest, giving just money … It is also important to reflect, as I am sure you will do in some of your workshops, on how regional policy funding can most effectively boost research and innovation", he added.
President Barroso presented two examples of start-up companies and innovation centres that are playing an important role in the sustainable development: UPTEC, at Porto, which benefits not only the city, but Portugal's Norte Region not least with the creation of some 800 jobs, and the ECO World Styria in Austria, a good example of where we can have a reasonable programme that also brings added value to a policy of the European Union and to Austria – a clean technology. Both are successful examples of how to boost synergies between business and academia in sectors of innovation in the local economy.
REFIT: Commission acts to make EU law lighter, simpler and cheaper
Today the Commission sets out, by policy area, where it will take further action to simplify or consider withdrawing EU laws, reduce the burden on businesses and make sure that implementation of EU laws is becoming easier.
This exercise is at the heart of the Commission's Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT). Ensuring that EU legislation is "fit for purpose" is essential for putting Europe back on track towards more growth and jobs.
President Barroso said: "Europe is there to help find solutions to the big challenges we are collectively facing. However, to be effective, we need to make sure we concentrate on the right priorities and have the right dose of regulation. Not everything that is good is good at European level. Let's think twice whether, when and where we need to act at European level.
This is in line with what President Barroso said in his State of the Union address on 11 September: "the EU needs to be big on big things and smaller on small things."
The President continued: "With REFIT, the Commission has undertaken the most comprehensive exercise to date to make EU law lighter and simpler. Our resolute application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality will not put into question the important benefits for citizens and business of EU regulation, particularly the rules underpinning the Single Market. Today's REFIT package provides a pragmatic outlook for the future of regulation in Europe just a few months ahead of the European elections in May 2014."
The Communication also includes the results of a screening of all EU legislation and defines a wide range of actions which are either already being implemented or which are proposed to the Council and the European Parliament. In addition, the Commission announced that it will publish a scoreboard to track progress at European and national level.
"REFIT - Fit for growth" – Commission takes ambitious next steps to make EU law lighter
EU laws in many areas are essential to ensure fair and equal opportunities for businesses and consumers and to protect the rights of citizens. At the same time, EU laws are often accused of putting too many costly requirements on businesses and of interfering too much in citizens' daily lives.
In response to these concerns, the Commission has made concerted efforts over recent years to streamline legislation and reduce regulatory burdens.
President Barroso said in his State of the Union address on 11 September that " the EU needs to be big on big things and smaller on small things – something we may occasionally have neglected in the past".
On 2 October, the Commission took a further important step to make EU law lighter and "fit for purpose": in a Communication, the Commission sets out, by policy area, where it will take further action to simplify or withdraw EU laws, reduce the burden on businesses and make sure that implementation of EU laws is becoming easier.
The Communication also includes the results of a screening of all EU legislation and defines a wide range of actions which are either already being implemented or which are proposed to the Council and the European Parliament. In addition, the Commission announced that it will publish a scoreboard to track progress at European and national level.
This exercise is at the heart of the Commission's Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT).
Ensuring that EU legislation is "fit for purpose" is essential for putting Europe back on track towards more growth and jobs.
This new, comprehensive review of EU law provides a pragmatic outlook for the future, just a few months ahead of the EU elections in May 2014.
Commission proposes ideas to deepen social integration
The Commission has today proposed to build on the rules under the European Semester to ensure there is a strong social dimension in the Economic and Monetary Union.
The European Commission has proposed to create a new scoreboard to allow for better and earlier identification of major employment and social problems in the framework of the European Semester, the EU's yearly economic policy-making cycle.
Further involving trades unions and employers at both the EU and national level in the definition and implementation of policy recommendations during the European Semester, making better use of EU and national budgets to alleviate social distress and removing barriers to job mobility are also proposals that feature in a Communication on the social dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), adopted by the European Commission today.
The Communication follows the Commission's Blueprint on a deep and genuine EMU, published in November 2012, and will feed into discussions on the future of the EMU at the European Council on 24-25 October.
President Barroso said: "The EU has taken giant leaps forward in terms of economic governance in the last five years, providing financial lifelines to many vulnerable Member States. From the start of the crisis, we have taken targeted action to deal with the social distress created in part of our societies. But the severity of the crisis, particularly in the euro area, has taught us that we need to work even more closely to heal the social scars it has left behind. This Communication is about building on the rules we have already put in place under the European Semester to ensure there is a strong social dimension in the way we run our Economic and Monetary Union. We owe that to the 26 million unemployed and the most deprived in our society."
Read the Communication [189 KB]