Speeches and statements
President Barroso meets the Secretary of State of San Marino and the Head of the Andorran Government
Today, President José Manuel Barroso met Mr. Pasquale Valentini, Secretary of State of San Marino, and Mr. Antoni Marti Petit, Head of the Andorran Government.
These meetings took place as the Europan Commission is working on a report on the possibilities of integration of San Marino, Andorra and Monaco into the internal market. This integration could be done through on one or more Association Agreements with these three European small-sized states.
La politique de cohésion : une politique gagnant-gagnant
Le Président Barroso a participé aujourd'hui à la session plénière du Comité des Régions.
A cette occasion il a rappelé que les leaders régionaux sont des leaders européens et que la politique de cohésion est une politique pour toute l'Union européenne, une politique gagnant-gagnant qui traduit un esprit et des valeurs européennes qui sont une source d'inspiration pour des millions de personnes dans le monde, à commencer par nos plus proches voisins à l'Est et au Sud.
Il a appelé à montrer de la solidarité pour le peuple ukrainien, pour les jeunes Ukrainiens qui veulent pour l'Ukraine un destin européen.
Il a souligné qu'en Europe la reprise est en vue, la confiance est en train de revenir chez les investisseurs, les consommateurs mais elle reste fragile, et il faut la soutenir car "sans confiance il n'y aura pas d'investissements, et sans investissements il n'y aura pas de croissance, pas d'emplois."
President Barroso met Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk
European Commission President Barroso met the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. At the request of the Polish side, the situation in Ukraine was the main topic of this working meeting. They also addressed the economic situation in the EU ahead of the upcoming European Council in March.
At the joint press point of the President and Prime Minister President Barroso stressed that “violence and intimidation must stop as they are clearly not the answer to the crisis” in Ukraine. Both the president and the Prime Minister agreed on the need to continue de-escalating the current tension in Ukraine. “The European Union is determined to keep its full political involvement in the settlement of the crisis in Ukraine. We remain engaged in helping our Ukrainian partners, under the "more for more" principle, to find a democratic and peaceful way out of the current political crisis” – President said. “We expect […]a political solution of the current stalemate, respecting the rule of law, human rights and the will of the Ukrainian people” he added.
Regarding the economic situation in Europe, the President said: “We have made massive efforts to beat the crisis. Signs of recovery are multiplying but many challenges remain and we cannot say the crisis is over when unemployment is still so high.”
Italian government meets the Commission
Today, Commission President José Manuel Barroso and the College of Commissioners received the Italian government. Four months ahead of the European elections and five months before Italy takes over the EU Presidency of the Council, the meeting presented an important opportunity to discuss current challenges and priorities for the European Union and Italy.
Prime Minister Enrico Letta was accompanied by five members of government: Emma Bonino (Minister of Foreign Affairs), Fabrizio Saccomanni (Minister of Economy and Finance), Enrico Giovannini (Minister of Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities), Carlo Trigilia (Minister for Territorial Cohesion) and Enzo Moavero Milanesi (Minister for European Affairs).
At the press point following the visit President Barroso thanked Prime Minister Letta "for his commitment and enthusiasm for Europe, and more concretely for his strong support on key priorities like banking union and the EU 2030 climate and energy package".
He summarised the meeting as follows: "At the heart of our discussions were our efforts to promote growth and jobs in Europe. We all agreed that 2014 can mark a real turning point, for Europe and for Italy. Our comprehensive crisis strategy consisting of fiscal consolidation, structural reforms and targeted investment has started to show some positive results."
President Barroso also congratulated the Italian Prime Minister for having taken very important steps towards ensuring growth and jobs and encouraged the government to maintain and accelerate reforms: "Even if we are coming closer to the finish line, the marathon is by far not over".
The Commission President stressed that Italy can continue to count on Europe's support: "The Commission continues to stand by Italy in the context of our economic policy coordination, and also by making available fresh EU funds for Italy during the period 2014-2020, for example almost 30 billion euros under the Structural and Investment Funds".
President Barroso also underlined the EU's support to Italy regarding the two Italian marines in India.
He concluded by praising the spirit of "European complicity" that could be felt during the visit.
In the afternoon President Barroso and Prime Minister Letta joined the President of the European Council Van Rompuy and the EP Vice President Pittella to open a presentation of Expo 2015 Milan at the European Parliament.
President Barroso's keynote speech on "Industry Matters", BusinessEurope Day
In light of the European Union modestly coming out of the crisis, a sustainable recovery must include a competitive European industry, the basis of the Commission's Communication last week for a European Industrial Renaissance.
During the speech, President Barroso made notably the following points:
President Barroso: space sector key to Europe's competitiveness
The space sector is "at the forefront" of efforts to strengthen Europe's overall competitiveness and bring about an "industrial renaissance", President Barroso has told a conference on EU space policy.
"Space is an essential component of our society: without space infrastructures, our modern societies would grind to a halt," President Barroso said in a video message to the 6th annual conference on EU space policy on 28 January. "Space represents a major high-end engineering, technological and science-intensive sector whose cutting-edge research and development creates important spill-over effects in many other sectors".
"Besides, access to space and the space sector are playing a key role in Europe's security and defence capacity, as highlighted during the December European Council, which gave a renewed impulse to Europe's defence policy," he added.
"Space technologies and space-based services have become so much part of our daily lives that it is difficult to overstate how we rely on space infrastructure and activities, be it in transport, agriculture, weather forecasting or security, to name just a few," President Barroso said. "They also play an important role in the implementation of a large range of European Union policies, from environmental management to co-ordinating responses to natural disasters."
President Barroso explained that the first Copernicus satellite will soon be launched, and along with the launch of new satellites for the Galileo constellation, early services should be ready by the end of the year. On the research side, the first calls for the Horizon 2020 funding programme have been opened and teams across Europe are preparing project proposals. The overall funding for European space programmes will amount to about 12 billion euros between 2014 and 2020, more than double the 5.2 billion euros spent in 2007-2013.
"At a time of significant cuts in the European Union budget, this substantial amount reflects both the strong commitment of the European Commission to support space activities and the perception at the highest political level, in Member States and the European Parliament, of the key role that they can play in our economy and society," President Barroso said.
President Barroso at the presentation of “The crisis of Europe”: “let's ‘fight’ together for a stronger, more united and open Europe”
Today, President Barroso presented the French and English version of the book “The crisis of Europe”. The book, which was written in 1942 by Abel Salazar (1889 - 1946), is now published by Orfeu, the Portuguese bookshop in Brussels. The event took place at the Portuguese Permanent Representation and it was hosted by Ambassador Fezas Vital.
“The European Union is certainly the most impressive creation in the history of international relations. No other political construction to date has proven to be a better way of organising life to lessen the barbarity in this world. It is in many ways a laboratory for globalisation, both in the sense of subordinating power politics to the rule of law as well as by being a testing ground for successful cross-border supranational cooperation. And the success of this process is to be measured in terms of peace, stability and prosperity.”, the President said.
President Barroso highlighted that the “answer to the financial crisis and to a loss of competitiveness of a number of countries is "more Europe", not less”. In reforming their economies, he said, Member States agree to further pool their sovereignty, and “efforts have started to pay off. For Europe, recovery is within sight but there is no room for complacency.”
On the European elections, he said: “We are in a difficult situation where pessimism about Europe has been exacerbated by the economic crisis and the social crisis and when, more than ever, many national politicians tend to nationalise successes and Europeanise failures. This is the moment to mobilize all the pro-European forces and not leave the initiative in the hands of the doomsayers on all sides of the political spectrum. (…) European elections are not just about parties; they are about the people and about ideas, a certain idea of Europe”.
“Abel Salazar's life and writings are certainly a welcome and valuable source of inspiration”, the President concluded.
32nd EU-Russia Summit
The 32nd EU-Russia summit took place on 28 January in Brussels. The EU was represented by European Commission President Barroso, European Council President Van Rompuy and Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission.
"This Summit with President Putin was an important opportunity to reflect on the nature and direction of our Strategic Partnership", said President Barroso. "Our relationship and our common interests are too important to not address our differences".
In his statement following the Summit, President Barroso stressed that "another way to reinforce our trust is to work jointly in one of our most important strategic and shared objectives: to create a common economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok. It may seem a dream, but dreams can become reality. To achieve this, we should build on the principles of respect for sovereign decisions, democratic societies and open markets."
President Barroso pointed out that "the European Union's Eastern Partnership is key to achieve this strategic objective. The Partnership is about extending and anchoring stability, rule-of-law, investment opportunities and growth beyond the European Union borders. The Partnership is not against someone, it is for something – it is about making the countries in our neighbourhood more prosperous and giving their citizens better living conditions." He also said that "we need to change the perception that one region's gain is another region's pain. We in the European Union are against the mentality of block against block. We believe the European Union and Russia have all to gain from a cooperative attitude."
Read the full statement here
President Barroso's telephone call to President Yanukovych regarding the situation in Ukraine
In light of the escalating violence in Ukraine, President Barroso telephoned President Yanukovych of Ukraine this morning.
During the telephone call, President Barroso made notably the following points:
President Barroso's meeting with the President of Iran
The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, met the President of Iran, Dr Hassan Rouhani, in the margins of the World Economic Forum in Davos today. The talks, to which the President was accompanied by EU High Representative/Vice-President Catherine Ashton, were held in an open and constructive atmosphere.
President Barroso welcomed the interim agreement reached in November 2013 on the Joint Plan of Action and the start of its implementation on 20 January.
Iran should use this window of opportunity with determination to move to a comprehensive long-term solution on the nuclear issue. This would open up the potential for an improved relationship and broader cooperation.
President Barroso thanks UN for encouragement on climate action
President Barroso has thanked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for supporting the EU's new climate and energy framework to 2030, saying that it should send a strong signal to the rest of the world.
"First of all, Secretary-General, thank you so much for your kind words of support, that are, for us, a great encouragement," President Barroso said at a joint press conference with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in Davos today. "Indeed, the European Union continues to be a pioneer for global climate action," President Barroso continued.
President Barroso was attending the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he highlighted the EU's achievements on the climate cause.
"As you know, we are already committed to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050. We have adopted the world's most ambitious and binding goals for 2020 – and we are on track to meet them. And just yesterday, 22 January, the European Commission proposed an ambitious EU climate and energy package for 2030," he said.
"This is a powerful signal to the rest of the world and shows that we are beyond the debate where you had to either be "green" or a defender of industry. So I call on all our partners globally - on developed countries, emerging economies, the developed world, and especially on big emitters - to come with us and to respond to the clear appeal of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon."
He called on world leaders to start preparing for an ambitious global agreement in 2015 by making clear commitments at a UN summit due to take place in September.
"Already this September, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will host a leaders' summit in New York, which I will attend. I applaud his leadership on the climate cause and, I can tell you, I know President Kim of the World Bank is a very strong ally. I thank him as well," President Barroso said.
"If you want to be ready for 2015, for the conference in Paris where historic decisions are going to be taken, it's now that we have to prepare them," he said.
"For those who believe in this, the need to fight this cause, we need two allies at least. Those are the allies I trust most: science, because science is demonstrating that climate change is indeed a threat with a huge impact on human life, and on the economy, and secondly, public opinion," he said.
"Addressing climate change is not simply an option, it is a must! And it is in the interests of everyone - environmentally, economically and politically."
Keeping the EU's leadership on climate action
The European Commission proposed today an ambitious and realistic framework for climate and energy policies beyond 2020 and up to 2030. At the joint press conference with Commissioner Oettinger and Commissioner Hedegaard, President Barroso presented the 2030 framework.
President Barroso: "We are proposing a binding 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target for the EU of minus 40%. (…) We also set a binding 2030 target for renewables at the EU level. The goal is at least 27% of energy consumption."
According to President Barroso, "Climate action is central for the future of our planet, while a truly European energy policy is key for our competitiveness. Today's package proves that tackling the two issues simultaneously is not contradictory, but mutually reinforcing. It is in the EU's interest to build a job-rich economy that is less dependent on imported energy through increased efficiency and greater reliance on domestically produced clean energy".
The 2030 policy framework aims to drive continued progress towards a low carbon economy and a competitive and secure energy system that ensures affordable energy for households and industry, increases the security of the EU’s energy supplies, reduces our dependence on energy imports, provides security for investors and creates new opportunities for growth and jobs.
Cooperation and Verification Reports for Bulgaria and Romania
The European Commission adopted today the latest reports for Bulgaria and Romania under the cooperation and verification mechanism.
Today's report concludes that since the Commission's last report in July 2012, Bulgaria has taken a few steps forward. However, overall progress has not yet been sufficient and remains fragile.
Romania has made progress in many areas since the previous cooperation and verification mechanism reports, but concerns about judicial independence remain and there are many examples of resistance to integrity and anti-corruption measures.
Today's report concludes that since the Commission's last report in July 2012, Bulgaria has taken a few steps forward. There have been some improvements in appointment procedures, some useful managerial steps by the Prosecutor General and some progress by the Supreme Judicial Council on the workload issue.
However, overall progress has not yet been sufficient and remains fragile.
The report contains a number of specific recommendations on each of the benchmarks. A few examples: Bulgaria should implement the action plan for the prosecution within the proposed timeline; close loopholes in the effective implementation of court decisions, such as finding ways to prevent absconding to evade prison sentences; entrust a single institution with the task to coordinate the fight against corruption; review the procedures on conflict of interest; and develop a clear policy governing the relationship between SANS and other member state bodies dealing with organised crime.
The report adopted today concludes that Romania has made progress in many areas since the previous cooperation and verification mechanism reports. The track record of the key judicial and integrity institutions has remained positive, even in the face of sometimes difficult circumstances.
However, concerns about judicial independence remain and there are many examples of resistance to integrity and anti-corruption measures.
Recommendations for the future: Romania should ensure that the Code of conduct for parliamentarians includes clear provisions so that parliamentarians and the parliamentary process respect the independence of the judiciary, and that this is fully respected in any changes to the Constitution; Romania should pass the legislative measures to restructure the court system; ensure that there are no exceptions to the applicability of the laws on incompatibilities, conflict of interest and unjustified wealth; and ensure that corruption laws apply to all on an equal basis.
The Commission will continue to work with the two governments to push forward the reform process. The Commission will issue its next reports in around one year's time, subject to a final decision of the next Commission.
The report is available here.
Statement of President Barroso on recent events in Ukraine
"We are shocked to hear the latest news from Ukraine about deaths of protesters, and express our deepest condolences to their families. We deplore in strongest possible terms the use of force and violence, and call on all sides to immediately refrain from it, and start taking steps that would help de-escalate the situation," President Barroso stated today in Brussels.
President Barroso continued: "the overall environment has been worsening for some time and I would like to explicitly underline the fundamental responsibility of the Ukrainian authorities to now take action to deescalate this crisis and in particular the need for them to engage in a genuine dialogue with the opposition and with civil society on the ways to overcome this deep crisis.
We are also following with great concern the recent restrictions on fundamental freedoms including freedom of expression and freedom of the media.
We are genuinely concerned about where these developments are taking Ukraine and will continue following closely these developments, as well as assessing possible actions by the EU and consequences for our relations."
Commission calls for immediate action for a European Industrial Renaissance
The European Commission is urging Member States to recognise the central importance of industry for creating jobs and growth and to mainstream industry-related competitiveness concerns across all policy areas.
On this occasion President Barroso stressed that industry has a future in Europe and that its share in EU economy should be increased from 15% today to 20% by 2020.
The Commission calls on the Council and the Parliament to adopt proposals on energy, transport, space and digital communications networks as well as implement and enforce legislation to complete the internal market.
Furthermore industrial modernisation must be pursued by investing in innovation, resource efficiency, new technologies, skills and access to finance, accelerated by the use of dedicated EU funds. Concretely, the Commission will mobilise €100bn from the EU budget to support industry over the next 7 years.
The Communication promotes a more business friendly Europe through actions to simplify the legislative framework and improve the efficiency of public administration at EU, national and regional levels. And the Commission proposes to Member States to set up a company in 3 days for less than €100, while it takes 5 days and €372 on average today.
Easier access to third country markets through harmonisation of international standards, open public procurement, patent protection and economic diplomacy are also key issues.
Discours du Président Barroso au Comité économique et social européen
Le président Barroso s'est exprimé aujourd'hui à l'issue de la séance plénière du CESE (Comité économique et social européen) en abordant plusieurs sujets d'actualité
President Barroso meets Prime Minister Erdoğan of Turkey to discuss EU-Turkey relations
President Barroso met this morning with Prime-Minister Erdoğan of Turkey. They mainly discussed the state of play of EU-Turkey bilateral relations. The President made clear that Turkey remains a very important partner and that the EU wishes to continue deepening relations.
Being close allies, it is critical that the EU and Turkey sustain and deepen their partnership, which already spans from trade and customs to political dialogue, from energy cooperation to counter-terrorism. "Apart from the very dynamic trade relationship, more than 75% of the investment in Turkey comes from the European Union. This shows how much close we are in economic terms and also, I hope, in political terms", the President said.
The European Commission and the Turkish Government are both central in keeping the momentum in the accession negotiations over the last year. "All this shows our willingness to move forward", said the President.
Regarding the recent events in Turkey, President Barroso welcomed Prime Minister Erdoğan's reassurances of his intention to fully respect the rule of law, independence of judiciary and separation of powers: "I think these are fundamental principles of democracy and they are, in the first place, in Turkey's very own national political and economic interest. But also they are a central and vital element of the Copenhagen criteria for the EU accession negotiations."
He added: "I want to state very clearly that Turkey is not alone in this, and we stand ready to support you, Prime Minister, with our experience on these matters."
Mobility and visa issues, energy and the Cyprus issue were also on the table. President Barroso and Prime-Minister Erdoğan discussed as well the Kurdish peace process and the situation in Syria, Egypt, Iran, South Caucasus, and Westerns Balkans.
President Barroso and Prime Minister Dačić meet at the start of accession negotiations with Serbia
The meeting between the President and the Prime Minister on Tuesday morning took place ahead of the Inter-governmental conference (ICG) at which the EU accession negotiations with Serbia were formally opened.
President Barroso congratulated Prime Minister Dačić on the official start of EU accession negotiations with Serbia. The opening of accession negotiations was possible thanks to the Commission proposal of April last year.
President Barroso paid tribute to the Prime Minister and his government for their courage in the normalisation of relations with Kosovo and he took the opportunity to stress that many challenges still lie ahead for Serbia. The EU has strong expectations that Serbia will pursue the positive momentum of 2013 beyond into 2014, he said. The President emphasised that the progress in the normalisation with Pristina will influence the accession negotiations.
President Barroso expressed his hope that the next dialogue round, which is held on January 27 between Prime Minister Dačić and Prime Minister Thaçi of Kosovo, and under the auspices of Commission High Representative Catherine Ashton, will illustrate the commitment of both sides.
President Barroso meets Gulbenkian Foundation representatives to discuss the oceans
President Barroso received today a delegation of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation - a Portuguese private non-profit institution that supports the arts, education and science – to discuss the Gulbenkian Oceans Initiative and its potential synergies with EU policy.
The President met with the Foundation's President, Mr Artur Santos Silva, and delegates of the institution. President Barroso assured the Gulbenkian representatives that the blue economy is a priority for the European Union.
According to the President, our oceans, seas and coasts are a source of wealth and a driver of the EU's economy. They also have a central role to play in creating growth and jobs, as part of the 2020 strategy.
During the meeting they discussed possible synergies of the Gulbenkian Oceans Initiative with EU maritime policies, such as the Blue Growth strategy – which supports sustainable growth in the maritime sector with a focus in biotechnology – or the Atlantic strategy, an action plan to promote sustainable growth in the Atlantic Ocean Area.
The Gulbenkian Oceans Initiative is a five-year programme launched by the institution in 2013, with the aim of protecting the oceans and marine ecosystems and improving the scientific knowledge and perception of the benefits of marine and coastal ecosystems.
President Barroso discusses human rights with Amnesty International's Secretary General
President Barroso met today with Mr Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, to debate the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms in the EU. They also discussed migration, refugees and asylum issues. The situation in Syria was also addressed.
The President thanked Amnesty International for the relentless fight against human rights violations and for its contribution to improving the human rights situation worldwide.
During the meeting, the President underlined that the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms is at the heart of EU internal and external policies.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU became legally binding through the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009. President Barroso highlighted that the Commission is committed to make sure that the Charter is respected by both the European institutions and the Member States, when they act within the scope of EU law.
Since 2010, thanks to the "Charter Strategy", all Commission proposals and legal acts also undergo a detailed assessment regarding their possible impact on fundamental rights, the President explained.
These steps will be further enhanced by the future accession of the EU to the European Convention on Human Rights, which will allow individuals to seize the European Court of Human Rights against an EU act.
President Barroso also welcomed Amnesty International's involvement in the stakeholder consultation process regarding the future of EU's justice and home affairs policies.
EU migrations and asylum's policies, the social inclusion of Roma and the refugee situation in Syria were also discussed in the meeting.
President Barroso appeals for compromise on bank resolution
President Barroso has urged the Council and the Parliament to reach an agreement on the Single Resolution Mechanism for banks before the European elections. "I'm appealing to the Council and to Parliament to really make an effort for a compromise to have the agreement before the European elections," President Barroso told the European Parliament during a speech on economic governance on 20 January. "And I think both parties have to move, I think it's not acceptable to say: 'we are not going to move at all'," he said.
The President explained that "the European system of governance proved to be too soft", making it imperative to complete the EMU. "An incomplete economic and monetary union provided a false sense of security when times were good, and institutional imbalances allowed speculation to spiral out of control once the economic context took a turn for the worse," President Barroso said. "Uncertainty proved to be our worst enemy."
He said the way to credibly and sustainably correct the situation is to send "political assurances that we would fundamentally update our system and – step by step - construct a Deep and Genuine Economic and Monetary Union".
In this, he called for more ownership at national level and better coordination between the European Parliament and national parliaments. "Economic governance in Europe has fundamentally changed. The outcome of the process now depends not so much on the structure of the system, but success lies in the delivery, namely at national level and in the broad-based legitimacy of the reform efforts in any one member state and in Europe as a whole. We have to understand that in terms of delivery and legitimacy we have the solution for our problems. And we have to understand – as we have not understood before the crisis – that what happens or does not happen in one country can have a real negative impact on the other countries. That's why we need common economic governance," he said.
"I think that most of us have a clear ambition for Europe. I think there is a tremendous amount of economic potential still left untapped and we want to find the best ways to make it happen."
President Barroso receives the Carlos V award: "The dream of European unity is indestructible"
President Barroso received today the Carlos V European Prize by the European Academy of Yuste Foundation, Spain, for his career and commitment to Europe.
"The dream of European unity is indestructible", said the President in his speech at the awarding ceremony, which took place at the Real Monasterio de Yuste, in the presence of the Princes of Asturias, the President of the Spanish Government, Mr Mariano Rajoy, and the Prime Minister of Portugal, Mr Pedro Passos Coelho. "The European Union remains the most remarkable and original political construction, ensuring peace, democracy, solidarity and equity", he added.
According to the President, Europe and the euro are much more than an economic and financial reality. "They are a political project and a Community of destiny."
The President also mentioned the efforts of the European citizens, who are not responsible for the crisis and are yet too often its first victims: "I want to say to all of them that Europe is not responsible for the crisis (…). Europe is not the problem, Europe is part of the solution."
President Barroso said he was delighted to be included "in the prestigious group of awardees of the European Prize Carlos V. I feel proud and deeply touched. It is a great satisfaction as both Portuguese and European." He will donate half of the € 90,000 euros of the award to the renovation of his former high school in Lisbon, Liceu Camões, and to the Cais association, a Portuguese organisation that helps the homeless and poor. The remaining € 45,000 will be given to scholarships promoted by the European Academy of Yuste for studies on the relations between Europe and North and South America.
The Carlos V prize has been awarded previously to names such as Jacques Delors, Mikhail Gorbachev and Helmut Kohl.
President Barroso visits the Court of Justice
President Barroso was today in Luxembourg to take part in a roundtable at the Court of Justice of the EU.
President Barroso met with Mr. Vassilios Skouris, President of the Court. They discussed issues of common interest to the European Commission and the Court.
The President also took part in a roundtable with the Members of the Court of Justice. The roundtable focused on the current challenges for the Union, including the crisis in the euro zone and the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, the judicial system and prospects for constitutional reform.
During his visit, President Barroso underlined the “exceptional work” of the Court. “The European project has been designed from the outset as a community of law, which makes all its specificity compared to other international integration projects”, he said, highlighting the central role of the Court.
In the evening, the President meets the Portuguese community at the Embassy of Portugal.
Three words we owe to Greece: Europe, democracy and pragmatism
At the start of the Parliamentary debate in Strasburg President Barroso stressed the main priorities shared by the Commission and the Greek Presidency, and the strong determination of both to succeed.
'It is a fitting coincidence that we end this Parliamentary term under the Presidency of Greece,' he noted, 'a country that has been the focus of so much political energy and public attention during this mandate and that, in the end, has emboldened us to do all we can to fight both the root causes and the social consequences of the crisis.'
The Commission and the Greek Presidency will not let the European election campaign overshadow the work still on the table, President Barroso underlined, warning that a number of sensitive files will require sensible handling in the months to come. 'Completing the European banking union is not just one of our main deliverables, but also our primary duty before the elections. Parliament and Council now need to do everything they can to reach a final agreement on the Single Resolution Mechanism. … As Parliament and Commission, we should now work together to ensure that the intergovernmental dimension is kept to the absolute minimum of what is politically necessary.'
Free movement of people is another issue that is 'already in danger of being subject to all kinds of populist rhetoric rather than objective assessment', he cautioned, even if it is 'a fundamental principle of Europe, a fundamental principle of the treaties, one of the core elements that distinguish our Union. Free movement is an indispensable ingredient of European citizenship. Free movement contributes to economic growth and to European competitiveness.'
President Barroso debates Lithuanian Presidency in Parliament
Opening the debate on the Lithuanian Presidency in Strasbourg, President Barroso highlighted that Europe is in a far better place than at any time since the start of the financial crisis.
Through a lot of hard work together with the Lithuanian Presidency, he stressed, we have been able to push forward a number of decisive initiatives that now need to be concluded, notably the banking union.
His message on the difficult talks to follow on this issue was clear: 'Parliament and Commission should now work hand in hand to achieve our goal: a Single Resolution Mechanism that is the indispensable, final piece of a European banking union. For that, we need to fight to the limit to ensure that the intergovernmental dimension is kept to the absolute minimum of what is politically necessary. We should also be very vigilant to make sure the outcome remains fully compatible with, and upholds the primacy of, EU law.'
Overall, reviewing what has been achieved by the Lithuanian team and the groundwork that has been done for the Greek Presidency, the President struck a positive note: '2014, I am sure, will be a year of positive change for the European economy. Let's work together for that to happen sooner rather than later.'
President Barroso: Latvia's euro entry positive sign for EU economy
President Barroso has welcomed Latvia's entry to the euro area on 1 January as a positive signal – both for Latvia and the EU.
During a visit to Riga with Vice-President Rehn on 10 January, President Barroso said: "I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Latvia for this major achievement, which was made possible through the impressive efforts and unwavering determination of the Latvian authorities and the Latvian people, to whom I pay tribute."
During the one-day visit to mark Latvia's euro membership, President Barroso held a joint meeting with Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, after which he told the gathered press that Latvia was a "shining example to other member states that it is possible to come out the other side of the crisis stronger", and that its accession to the euro area is "a sign of confidence in our common currency".
"Not long ago, people were predicting the euro's demise. Latvia's membership shows that the euro remains attractive and open to those that meet the required conditions," he said. "In a year when voters go to the polls in the European elections we must remind our citizens of the benefits of a united Europe – and also of the dangers of disunity."
He also took the opportunity to welcome the economic turnaround, and predicted 2014 would see Europe "turn the page" on the crisis. However, he warned against complacency.
"While we should acknowledge the positive, we must resist the temptation to think our work is done," he said. "This is exactly the moment to keep up the reform drive, when we can see that it is starting to pay off."
President Barroso also gave a speech at the solemn ceremony on the introduction of the euro in Latvia, highlighting the influence Latvia now has as a euro area member.
President Barroso welcomes start of Greek EU presidency
President Barroso has welcomed the start of the Greek EU presidency, saying he is confident that it will be a success for Greece and for Europe. "Let's not forget that not so much time ago, people were making speculations about a Greek exit, about the implosion of the euro, also about the implosion of the European Union," he said following a series of meetings between the college of commissioners and the Greek government in Athens. "The very fact that we are here in Athens today celebrating the beginning of the Greek presidency - of a full member of the European Union and a full member of the euro area – is clear evidence that those predictions were wrong and that Greece was able to make notable efforts," he said, adding that "we are on the right track".
President Barroso ushered in 2014, describing it as the year when Europe and Greece would emerge from the recession. He said 2013 had been a "year of a change of perceptions and expectations regarding the European economy", and that Europe had now "turned a corner". "Ireland became the first euro area member state to emerge successfully from its adjustment programme. We welcomed our 18th euro area member state, Latvia - another country that has made a huge very demanding financial assistance programme, and now it's the country with the highest growth rate in the European Union," he said. "This shows that the programmes do work when they are properly implemented."
During the day-long trip to Athens, the President took note of Greece's priorities for the next six months, which he said were largely in step with the Commission's own. He welcomed the presidency's focus on combatting high unemployment, boosting loans for SMEs and deepening integration in the euro area. He was also glad to see mention of single market, trade, climate, migration and maritime issues.
Turning to the EU-IMF programme, he said that sometimes there was a failure to appreciate the progress Greece has made in turning its economy around over the last 18 months. "Greece is set to emerge from recession this year and is on track to reach a primary budget surplus," he said. "This progress is restoring confidence among Greece's European partners and attracting the attention of international investors."
However, he went on to say that while the worst of the crisis was over, there was still work left to do. "We know well that there are extremely difficult situations, including in a country like Greece - social difficulties, hardship, very important sacrifices - and we know that those positive facts that we are already seeing are not immediately felt by the man and woman on the street. I'm also fully aware of the difficulties the Greek people are going through and I really want to pay tribute to them for their courage and their dignity, and I encourage the Greek people, under the leadership of their government, not to give up and jeopardise what already has been achieved. I think we can say to the Greek people that your efforts and sacrifices are opening a better future."
He concluded by wishing the presidency well. "The Greek presidency is of course very well prepared and that I see a real determination on the Greek authorities to make it a success for Greece and for Europe, and Greece can count on the full support of the European Commission for that purpose," the President said.
President Barroso receives German minister for foreign affairs
On Monday evening, Commission President Barroso received the German minister for foreign affairs, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, on his first visit to Brussels after taking up office.
The informal working meeting lasted more than an hour and took place in a constructive and cordial atmosphere.
A variety of current European affairs and foreign policy issues was discussed.
President Barroso welcomes Latvia's euro membership
President Barroso has welcomed Latvia's accession to the euro area on 1 January 2014 as a "major event, not only for Latvia, but for the euro area itself".
"I am delighted to welcome Latvia as the 18th member of the euro area. This is a major event, not only for Latvia, but for the euro area itself, which remains stable, attractive and open to new members," President Barroso said.
President Barroso continued: "For Latvia, it is the result of impressive efforts and the unwavering determination of the authorities and the Latvian people. Thanks to these efforts, undertaken in the aftermath of a deep economic crisis, Latvia will enter the euro area stronger than ever, sending an encouraging message to other countries undergoing a difficult economic adjustment. On behalf of the European Commission and myself, I offer my sincere congratulations to Latvia and best wishes for the future."
Latvia adopted the euro on 1 January 2014 – the 15th anniversary of the launch of the euro. Now 18 Member States and 333 million Europeans share the same currency.
President Barroso will visit Latvia to mark its euro accession on 10 January.