Speeches and statements
President Barroso welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping
Today Commission President Barroso and European Council President Van Rompuy received President Xi Jinping. Following the meeting, a joint statement was issued.
As part of this statement, all sides stated that they " welcomed the significant strengthening of bilateral ties over the last 40 years, which have benefitted both sides and the world as a whole, and underlined their determination to strengthen the global dimension of their cooperation."
President Xi Jinping's first official visit to the European Union was also the first visit ever by a Chinese President to EU institutions.
President Van Rompuy and President Barroso met President Xi at the European Council and the European Commission respectively, and these meetings were followed by a joint working lunch. President Xi then continued his official visit with a meeting with President Schulz at the European Parliament.
On Tuesday 1 April, President Xi is also set to deliver a speech on EU-China relations at the College of Europe in Bruges.
President Barroso receives report of expert group on joint debt issuance
President Barroso has today received a report from the Commission's expert group on a debt redemption fund and eurobills.
President Barroso has today received a report from the Commission's expert group on a debt redemption fund and eurobills.
The group was set up in July 2013 following a commitment made to the European Parliament. Its mandate was to deepen the analysis on the possible merits, risks, requirements and obstacles of the partial substitution of national debt issuance through joint issuance in the form of a redemption fund and eurobills.
The report was submitted to President Barroso on 31 March by the chair of the expert group, Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell. President Barroso thanked her for the "excellent" report, which he said was a "welcome contribution" to the debate on further integration launched by the Commission in November 2012 with its Blueprint for a deep and genuine Economic and Monetary Union.
"More than a year ago, the Commission launched a reflection on the future of the Economic and Monetary Union, where we said that more responsibility should be matched with more solidarity," President Barroso said.
"The Commission will carefully study the report and decide how to follow it up in due course. But before we do, we need to have a democratic debate on these ideas with citizens, governments and the European Parliament. The upcoming European elections are a prime opportunity to discuss what kind of Union we really want," he added.
President Barroso attended EU-Africa Business Forum
The 5th EU-Africa Business Forum was opened this morning in Brussels with opening remarks by President Barroso and African Union Commission’s Chairperson Dlamini-Zuma.
President Barroso opened the event, which is one of the official accompanying events of the EU-Africa Summit (2-3 April), by saying:
"There is a great sense of optimism in and around Africa these days. And rightly so. Africa has over the last decade become one the fastest growing regions in the world, with 8 out of 10 fastest growing economies being African in 2012 and with a €1.6 trillion economy growing at about 6%."
More than 500 high-level representatives from European and African business, politics and public institutions will be in Brussels for two days (31 March-1 April) to discuss common challenges including the stake of young people in today's economies, the role of banks for inclusive growth and financing issues for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and specific issues such as raw materials, risk capital, sustainable energy or space cooperation.
EC Vice-President, Antonio Tajani, and Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, also participate in it as well to promote sustainable and inclusive growth in both Africa and the EU. Prior to the forum, Commissioner Piebalgs also announced two new EU programmes to support the private sector in West Africa and Madagascar.
Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Rubik's Cube
President Barroso congratulated Professor Ernő Rubik today on the 40th anniversary of his legendary Rubik's cube with an ice cake in the form of the cube.
Professor Ernő Rubik, inventor of the famous cube, met President Barroso today over lunch to discuss the importance of science outreach and education in order to attract young people to careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
President Barroso said:
"Today we are celebrating the 40th birthday of a timeless toy that has become an iconic symbol of European ingenuity worldwide. The Rubik's Cube is the ultimate metaphor for bewildering complexity and triumphant intelligence, creativity and innovation. At a time when we need to mobilise all our capacities in innovation, research and development and promote more than ever our skills in science and engineering, the Rubik's Cube is an encouragement and a reminder to all Europeans that we have the talents and skills boost the European economy and build sustainable growth and jobs. Let's make use of them!"
The lunch was attended by Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor and Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of the European Commission Professor Anne Glover, as well as other participants from the science, business and policy communities.
President Barroso to welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping
Commission President Barroso and European Council President Van Rompuy will receive President Xi Jinping of the People's Republic of China on Monday, 31st March.
President Xi Jinping's first official visit to the European Union is also the first visit ever by a Chinese President to EU institutions.
President Van Rompuy and President Barroso will meet President Xi at the European Council and the European Commission respectively, and these meetings will be followed by a joint working lunch. President Xi will also visit President Schulz at the European Parliament.
On Tuesday 1 April, President Xi is also set to deliver a speech on EU-China relations at the College of Europe in Bruges.
President Barroso participates in last Pan-European Citizens' Dialogue
On Thursday, the last pan-European Citizens' Dialogue took place in Brussels during which President Barroso led a Citizens' Dialogue devoted to the "Future of Europe".
President Barroso said:
"While people around the world are looking to Europe as inspiration, […] in Europe there is pessimism. There are many citizens that do not trust our project. […] I think there is an issue here about engagement with the citizens, to have a real pan-European dialogue to avoid prejudices, to avoid stereotypes, to avoid what some extremists are saying, that 'Europe is the cause of the problem and not part of the solution'. […] That's why I very much welcome the opportunity to discuss these matters with you."
After 50 dialogues held in each EU Member State, the European Commission invited over 150 citizens to Brussels for a pan-European debate in Brussels. While President Barroso led a Citizens' Dialogue in the afternoon, ten other Commissioners and Members of the European Parliament debated with citizens in parallel events held throughout the day.
Following today's EU-US summit, President Barroso told U.S. President Barack Obama: "Your visit sends a very strong signal."
"First of all to the European citizens, in the sense of how important the transatlantic relationship is for Europe and for the United States of America; to the American people – and I would like to say to the American people that you can count on us as your best friends and allies; and also to the rest of the world."
The European Union was represented by President Barroso and by President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, and the United States was represented by President Barack Obama.
Following the summit, President Barroso said:
"We remain committed and open. We are decided to engage in all global issues, from free trade to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and to climate action. But at the same time we will also be firm in defending our common values: values of peace, freedom, of the rights of the individual, the rule of law, of international law."
"The most concrete example of the deepening of our relationship is precisely the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. […] Today we have confirmed that we are determined at the highest level to make it happen and to make it a success, not only for us, but also for the global economy."
President Barroso meets Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key
The meeting with the Prime Minister and European Council President Van Rompuy took place in the context of the third Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague
The three leaders decided to deepen all aspects of the relationship between the European Union and New Zealand, including in the political and security sphere, science and innovation as well as trade and investment. They reaffirmed their commitment to transform the existing 2007 Joint Declaration into a new agreement, which will further strengthen their cooperation and relations.
President Barroso, President Van Rompuy and Prime Minister Key reviewed the progress made on this new Partnership Agreement on Relations and Cooperation (PARC) and encouraged the chief negotiators to continue their efforts with a view to concluding the Agreement in the near future.
Furthermore, it was agreed to reflect on options to progress the trade and economic relationship, including the parameters for the possible opening of negotiations to further liberalise trade and investment between the EU and New Zealand.
In light of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, the three leaders recalled and reaffirmed the shared commitment of the EU and New Zealand to international peace and security.
EU-Japan relations: Meeting at the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague
President Barroso and President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy met Prime Minister of Japan Mr. Shinzō Abe at the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague.
They discussed the situation in Ukraine and reviewed the current bilateral relations ahead of the next EU-Japan Summit.
They also reiterated their commitment to the ongoing negotiations for a Strategic Partnership Agreement and a Free Trade Agreement.
Finally they exchanged views on the regional situation in East Asia.
President Barroso meets Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister of Vietnam
President Barroso met today the Prime Minister of Vietnam, Nguyen Tan Dung at the Third Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague.
In the bilateral meeting, President Barroso confirmed his commitment to broaden and strengthen relations between the European Union and Vietnam on the basis of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA). He welcomed the progress made since Agreement was launched in 2007 in Vietnam and encouraged both negotiating teams to continue with the good work in view of concluding the negotiations in October.
On 25th and 26th August 2014, President Barroso will travel to Vietnam for an official visit.
The Hague declaration: G7 leaders reaffirm their support for Ukraine's sovereignty
Following their meeting in the Hague yesterday, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission issued a declaration to reaffirm their support for Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.
They decided to suspend their participation in the G8 until Russia changes course and the environment comes back to where the G8 is able to have a meaningful discussion, and decided to meet again in G7 format in June 2014, in Brussels.
In the declaration the leaders condemned the referendum held in Crimea and Russia's attempt to annex the Ukrainian region: "International law prohibits the acquisition of part or all of another state’s territory through coercion or force. To do so violates the principles upon which the international system is built. We condemn the illegal referendum held in Crimea in violation of Ukraine’s constitution. We also strongly condemn Russia’s illegal attempt to annex Crimea in contravention of international law and specific international obligations. We do not recognize either", reads the statement.
The G7 leaders also reaffirmed that Russia’s actions will have significant consequences: "This clear violation of international law is a serious challenge to the rule of law around the world and should be a concern for all nations. In response to Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to demonstrate our determination to respond to these illegal actions, individually and collectively we have imposed a variety of sanctions against Russia and those individuals and entities responsible. We remain ready to intensify actions including coordinated sectoral sanctions that will have an increasingly significant impact on the Russian economy, if Russia continues to escalate this situation."
As announced by President Barroso after last week's signature of the political provisions of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, Commissioner Füle visits Ukraine today Tuesday and Wednesday to work with the Ukrainian authorities on a number of issues regarding its implementation.
President Barroso meets the World Leaders for Nuclear Safety
President Barroso participates today and tomorrow in the 3rd Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, the Netherlands. At this occasion, 53 Heads of States and 4 International Organisations get together in an effort to ensure a safe use of nuclear and radioactive material and to prevent nuclear terrorism at a global scale.
This third Summit is an important occasion to measure progress in efforts to strengthen global nuclear security and take stock of results achieved in the past four years since the 2010 Washington and 2012 Seoul Summits, where nuclear safety issues were discussed. These initiatives started after US President Barack Obama called nuclear terrorism one of the greatest threats to international security, in Prague in 2009. This week's summit is expected to conclude with the adoption of "The Hague Communiqué".
President Barroso said: "We come together at a point in time when international stability and security are being put into question in a very serious manner. It is therefore all the more important to show that we are united in our commitment to a multilateral order based on peace and the unequivocal respect of the rule of law."
The EC is strongly committed to ensuring nuclear safety in the EU and in the world. After the Fukushima accident, stress tests on nuclear power plants were applied in many Member States leading to national action plans. A revised Nuclear Safety Directive is expected to be adopted by the Council before summer.
The European Commission is also preparing a communication on off-site emergency preparedness and response measures to be released soon. At a global level, the EU cooperates closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to which is provided an important technical and financial support.
President Barroso meets Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
President Barroso met today the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. They concluded the political negotiations for a Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA).
The meeting took place within the framework of the Third Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague.
President Barroso was pleased with the progress made by the European and Canadian negotiating teams. He called the conclusion of negotiations an important milestone and further encouraged both sides to "continue at the same intense pace with the next phase".
The agreement represents a crucial step towards strengthening the strategic relations between the European Union and Canada, while enshrining the EU's and Canada's joint values. Beyond improving the institutional structure of the relationship, it will contribute considerably to the deepening of ties in all fields of cooperation such as education, transport, energy, the Arctic as well as science and technology. Most importantly it enriches the political dimension of the EU-Canada relationship through enhanced foreign policy cooperation and by a heightened focus on issues such as crisis management and security.
European Council: President Barroso welcomes agreements on Ukraine, climate and energy policy and tax
President Barroso has welcomed the ambitious common positions reached at the March European Council on Ukraine, climate and energy, and savings tax, all of which he said reinforced the EU's global ambitions.
At a press conference following the first day of the summit, President Barroso saluted the "strong and united determination" of EU leaders to support Ukraine and make clear to Russia "that there will be consequences for some of the kind of behaviour that we think is simply unacceptable in the 21st century".
EU leaders at the European Council asked the Commission to:
- evaluate the legal consequences of the annexation of Crimea and propose economic, trade and financial restrictions for rapid implementation.
- prepare possible targeted measures for relations in a broad range of economic areas in case of any further steps by the Russian Federation to destabilise the situation in Ukraine
On the second day of the summit, 21 March, the EU and Ukraine signed the political provisions of an Association Agreement. "This political partnership delivers on the democratic choice Ukraine has made," President Barroso said. "We will help Ukraine to reform and be the stable, sovereign, democratic, and prosperous country its people long for."
The President explained that the Commission would also continue to roll out its planned €1.6 billion in financial assistance for Ukraine – part of an €11 billion package – as well as autonomous trade measures that will open the EU market to Ukrainian products. He added that it was the EU's "firm intention" to sign the remaining parts of the Association Agreement with Ukraine "in due course". He has asked Commissioner Füle, responsible for enlargement and neighbourhood policy, to go to Kiev next week to work with the Ukrainian authorities on these issues.
"Europe is committed to Ukraine for the long term," he said. "We will help Ukraine to reform and consolidate its independence and sovereignty."
The EU has also agreed to bring forward the signature of Association Agreements (including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements), with Georgia and Moldova, setting a target signature date in June.
Climate and energy
"The discussions on Ukraine also reflect the importance of a stronger and truly European energy policy, a policy that strengthens our energy security and competitiveness, and lowers our reliance on imported fossil fuels," President Barroso said.
With that in mind, EU leaders had a first discussion on the Commission's climate and energy proposals to 2030. President Barroso showed that the EU will achieve its 2020 climate and energy targets and should commit to further targets up to 2030.
"I was happy that the European Council, after very comprehensive discussions, has agreed that - already for the UN climate summit in September - we will be sure that the specific European Union target for 2030 for greenhouse gas emission reductions will be fully in line with the agreed ambitious European Union objective for 2050," President Barroso said.
While the European Council was never expected to agree on concrete targets for 2030, President Barroso said he was happy with the fact that the EU leaders have a clear "endorsement of the European Commission's proposal as the basis for our policy in the future".
He explained that the EU's climate and energy policy was based on three goals: "Security of supply, competitiveness and sustainability". "We should not see these as contradictory," he said. "We have already been diversifying our supplies and suppliers over the last years, for instance, with the adoption of this southern corridor. And we have been doing it not just because it is beneficial for the European economy, but also for reasons of a geopolitical nature."
He added that "we definitely need to go much further" and welcomed the clear determination by EU leaders to further diversify energy supplies. "That, I think, was one of the new facts in today's discussions."
On the economy, President Barroso said it was clear that "recovery is there, but we have to work to make sure that the recovery will last". He urged Member States to keep up the pace of economic reforms to address the "serious impact" of the crisis on "many aspects of our economic and social life".
He also welcomed two agreements that show the EU is committed to making the recovery as fair as possible.
- The President said the Single Resolution Mechanism for banks, agreed by the European Council and Parliament on 20 March, would ensure that "in the future, it is banks who will pay for their own failures, not taxpayers".
- He hailed the agreement by EU leaders on the Savings Tax Directive. "It took six long years of negotiations, but we did it. We are bringing an end to banking secrecy in Europe. And we will be in a strong position to negotiate with key international financial centres. I hope we can achieve real progress in this matter by the end of this year."
Read also the brochures on services and Horizon 2020:
President Barroso talks job creation with EU social partners
President Barroso has told trade unions and employers' organisations that high unemployment is still a cause for concern, and has urged them to work together to strengthen Europe's recovery.
President Barroso has told trade union and employers' organisations (the social partners) that high unemployment is still a cause for concern, and has urged them to work together to strengthen Europe's recovery.
"We cannot say we are out of the crisis. How can we say when we still have this social drama for so many families across Europe?" President Barroso said following the Tripartite Social Summit on 20 March. "Only by working together can we strengthen the recovery, creating more growth and better jobs for our citizens," he added.
The theme of the Tripartite Social Summit, which is held twice a year, was 'Rebuilding confidence in Europe: focus on job creation – lessons learnt and future orientations'. The summit took place just before a European Council meeting, where President Barroso will meet EU leaders for talks on the recovery.
President Barroso said reforms were essential to boost job creation in Europe, and explained that the EU budget was on hand to offer important support. "I will urge EU leaders to keep up the pace of reform, and to use EU funding to create jobs and increase skills, ease access to finance for companies and invest smartly in growth," he said.
President Barroso also took the opportunity to welcome the recent political agreement on the single resolution mechanism for banks. "We promised to do this before the European Parliament elections. I'm delighted we have delivered," he said.
He concluded by calling for a united European response to the situation in Ukraine. "We will continue to dedicate all our efforts to the solution of the current crisis – a peaceful and negotiated solution that must respect Ukraine's sovereignty," he said. "I am sure that the European Council will agree on a united European response to the evolving situation," he said, adding that "Member States should see how far they are ready to go in making clear that the type of behaviour we have seen recently in Europe cannot be accepted and that some consequences have to be drawn from this kind of behaviour".
The summit brought together the Commission (including President Barroso and Commissioner Andor), European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and EU-level social partners: the European Trade Union Confederation; BUSINESSEUROPE; the European Centre of Employers and Enterprises providing Public services; and the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises.
Joint statement by President Barroso and President Van Rompuy on Crimea
The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, and the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, have issued a statement on the referendum in Crimea.
The statement reads as follows:
As stated by all 28 EU Heads of State or Government on 6 March 2014, the European Union considers the holding of the referendum on the future status of the territory of Ukraine as contrary to the Ukrainian Constitution and international law. The referendum is illegal and illegitimate and its outcome will not be recognised.
The solution to the crisis in Ukraine must be based on the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, in the framework of the Ukrainian Constitution as well as the strict adherence to international standards. Only working together through diplomatic processes, including direct discussions between the Governments of Ukraine and Russia, can we find a solution to the crisis. The European Union has a special responsibility for peace, stability and prosperity on the European continent and will continue pursuing these objectives using all available channels.
We reiterate the strong condemnation of the unprovoked violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and call on Russia to withdraw its armed forces to their pre-crisis numbers and the areas of their permanent stationing, in accordance with relevant agreements.
In advancing these goals, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs will evaluate the situation tomorrow in Brussels and decide on additional measures in line with the declaration of the Heads of State and Government of the EU of 6 March.
Letter by President Barroso ahead of European Council
In preparation of the European Council, taking place in Brussels on 20-21 March, President Barroso has sent a letter to the Heads of State and Government of the European Union.
The letter reads:
We will have a busy agenda when we meet for the March European Council (in particular because of events in Ukraine and the likelihood that we will need to devote some time to discussing the EU's response). To maximise the time we will have for discussion I would like to share some interesting background material with you in advance of our meeting.
One of the topics on our agenda is industrial policy. You have already seen the Commission's latest Communication on this important policy area. I believe we can all agree on the importance of creating the right environment to support Europe's industrial competitiveness. Among the many factors that determine this are the way manufacturing and services increasingly work together and investment in research and innovation. I am enclosing two short documents, one on Horizon 2020 and the other on services which I hope you will find useful.
The Horizon 2020 programme will play an important role in the coming years in fostering industrial competitiveness. Through our MFF decisions we have committed to increase the budget available and will now have considerable funds to boost European research. The enclosed document illustrates some of the many programmes that will be used to help strengthen our capacity to innovate and successfully market new products and services.
The situation in the services sector is clearly described in the enclosed text. Since it is increasingly clear that manufacturing and services should be looked at together, I felt that this background would be helpful for our discussion. One of Europe's strengths, which comes directly from the ways our companies have learned to use our Internal Market, is their ability to participate in global value chains where we can maximise the added value of our traditional manufacturing capabilities combined with services such as business services and logistics. The enclosed data shows that we are making progress but also that with better implementation by Member States we could tap into more growth potential in this sector.
Issues such as competitiveness will also be prominent in our discussion on energy and climate change. I hope you found useful the energy cost analyses which the Commission published in January. It is clear from the factual analysis that parts of the price we pay for our energy is determined nationally by policy choices. It is also clear that our climate policies do not add significantly to the high cost of energy in the EU.
I look forward to our discussions on these and other issues on 20/21 March.
G-7 Leaders Statement
The leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission, have issued a statement today.
The statement reads as follows:
We, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission, call on the Russian Federation to cease all efforts to change the status of Crimea contrary to Ukrainian law and in violation of international law. We call on the Russian Federation to immediately halt actions supporting a referendum on the territory of Crimea regarding its status, in direct violation of the Constitution of Ukraine.
Any such referendum would have no legal effect. Given the lack of adequate preparation and the intimidating presence of Russian troops, it would also be a deeply flawed process which would have no moral force. For all these reasons, we would not recognize the outcome.
Russian annexation of Crimea would be a clear violation of the United Nations Charter; Russia’s commitments under the Helsinki Final Act; its obligations to Ukraine under its 1997 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership; the Russia-Ukraine 1997 basing agreement; and its commitments in the Budapest Memorandum of 1994. In addition to its impact on the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea could have grave implications for the legal order that protects the unity and sovereignty of all states. Should the Russian Federation take such a step, we will take further action, individually and collectively.
We call on the Russian Federation to de-escalate the conflict in Crimea and other parts of Ukraine immediately, withdraw its forces back to their pre-crisis numbers and garrisons, begin direct discussions with the Government of Ukraine, and avail itself of international mediation and observation offers to address any legitimate concerns it may have. We, the leaders of the G-7, urge Russia to join us in working together through diplomatic processes to resolve the current crisis and support progress for a sovereign independent, inclusive and united Ukraine. We also remind the Russian Federation of our decision to suspend participation in any activities related to preparation of a G-8 Sochi meeting until it changes course and the environment comes back to where the G-8 is able to have a meaningful discussion.
Earlier today, at the European Parliament's plenary meeting in Strasbourg, President Barroso said:
"This is, in a way, a test of our Union. And the outcome of the current situation will greatly impact in the geopolitical configuration of our continent for the years to come. What happened in Crimea was an unprovoked and unacceptable violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and its territorial integrity."
"Ukraine should not be seen as a problem for Europe, but an asset for a more united European continent. […] A united, inclusive, stable and prosperous Ukraine can only be of benefit to all its neighbours and partners. The European Union remains committed to that goal. To Ukraine's unity and to European peace. "
Commission presents framework to safeguard rule of law in EU Member States
Today, the Commission adopted a new framework for addressing systemic threats to the rule of law in EU Member States. It also presented its vision for the future of the EU's justice and home affairs policies.
Following experiences over the past years, it became clear that the EU's toolbox to deal with such threats had to be further refined, notably by complementing the possibilities of political persuasion, infringement procedures and the so-called "nuclear option" of Article 7 of the Treaty of the European Union .
President Barroso has announced a Commission initiative in this sense in his 2012 and 2013 State of the Union addresses. The new framework presented today by the Commission establishes an early warning tool allowing the Commission to enter into a dialogue with the Member State concerned to prevent the escalation of systemic threats to the rule of law
The new framework is based on the current EU Treaties and defines a three-stage process to identify, assess and remedy a systemic threat to the rule of law. It will be applied in the same way in all Member States and will operate on the basis of the same benchmarks as to what is considered a systemic threat to the rule of law. The Commission, having the legal and the moral authority in these cases as stated by President Barroso, plays a central role in this new framework. It can draw on the expertise of other EU institutions and international organisations.
President Barroso said: "The rule of law is one of the founding pillars of the European Union. This is what our Union is built upon. The European Commission has a crucial role in upholding the rule of law as the Guardian of the Treaties. I have systematically pointed to the need for a better framework which allows the Commission to intervene early and transparently in cases of serious and systemic threats to the rule of law in a Member State. Today, the Commission is delivering on this commitment making sure that, in future, and based on our recent past experience, we can prevent and effectively resolve rule of law crises in our Member States."
On the same day, the Commission presented its vision for the future of justice and home affairs policies, which will feed into the EU's strategic discussions on these areas in the months ahead.
President Barroso said: "We have come a long way in the last 15 years. With the Lisbon Treaty, the justice and home affairs policies are now central policies of the European Union. The Commission has responded effectively and delivered answers to pressing common challenges. Today we are providing our vision on the future of these policies."
Ukraine: President Barroso announces unilateral trade measures
The European Commission today adopted a set of trade provisions to support Ukraine, representing an economic benefit to Ukraine of around 500 million euros per year.
The European Commission adopted the first of the measures foreseen in the EUR 11 billion package of support to Ukraine the European Commission presented last week and the EU Heads of State and Government welcomed at their extraordinary meeting on Thursday, 6 March.
President Barroso announced the measure by saying:
"We have agreed a set of unilateral trade provisions that will allow Ukraine to benefit substantially from the advantages offered in the Deep and Comprehensive free Trade Area , DCFTA, and this even before the signature of the Association Agreement with Ukraine. This will represent an economic benefit to Ukraine of around 500 million euros per year."
This first concrete and tangible measure must now be adopted through ordinary legislative procedure by the European Council and Parliament, to which President Barroso said: "I strongly hope that the full legislative process can be concluded in time before the last Plenary of the European Parliament, so that the measure can be in force before June this year."
"This will of course not be the only measure of support to Ukraine. The Commission continues to work as a matter of the highest priority on the implementation of the Macro Financial Assistance package 1 billion euros – also part of the support package I presented last week. We will make proposals next week, concretely. They are now being prepared, proposals regarding financial assistance. […]
Let me recall that, as a matter of priority, the European Union has decided to sign the political chapters of the Association Agreement with Ukraine before 25 May, so before the elections. This agreement will seal the political association between the EU and Ukraine before the upcoming elections."
President Barroso finished his statement by saying:
"So once again the European Union stands by Ukraine. We will continue to work very hard to support the democratic choices of the Ukrainian people and to help guarantee Europe’s peace and stability."
President Barroso speaks at Innovation Convention 2014
Today, President Barroso spoke at the opening ceremony of the Innovation Convention 2014 (10-11/03/14), calling the event a "perfect embodiment of innovation." He reminded the audience that "Europe […] remains the largest knowledge-production house in the world.”
Speaking in Brussels, President Barroso said:
“The European Union produces almost a third of the world’s total science and technology production and we count almost twice as many science and technology graduates as the United States. Very often, we are unaware of these figures because in statistics across the world, Europe does not appear as a single entry. But in spite of all the difficulties – and I know we have many -, we are the biggest power house in terms of innovation and science in the world."
An essential part of the Innovation Union flagship initiative, the Convention provides a platform for debate that makes it easier for great ideas to be turned into products and services and contributes to the building of a research and innovation eco-system in Europe.
On occasion of the opening ceremony, President Barroso said:
"Innovation plays a vital role in our recovery and long term vitality. Our economic and social recovery requires innovation and competitiveness to create jobs and growth. Evidence shows that countries which invest in research and innovation have been the best equipped to get out of the economic crisis.
And that is why research and innovation are at the very heart of our Europe2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. We have already taken significant steps in the right direction with our flagship initiative on the Innovation Union, as well as concrete targets, such as investment in R&D equivalent to 3% of GDP, reducing the number of early school leavers and increasing the number of citizens with tertiary education, so that we can match our skills with our future economic needs."
President Barroso also reminded the audience that "innovation applies to all areas of our society, from agriculture to energy and to the new digital age; from health and sport to the environment, transport, space; from a new mode of producing to a new mode of consuming; and it can be applied by us all in the private and public sector."
He welcomed that Europe is improving its innovation performance, and referred to the most recent statistics from Eurostat on the European Union's Member States innovation growth performance. President Barroso also informed the audience about the significant budget increase for research and innovation under Horizon2020, with 80 billion Euros, making it 30% bigger than its predecessor budget.
President Barroso finished his speech by announcing:
"I believe we need to identify the long-term science, technology and innovation breakthroughs that will provide opportunities for Europe to remain a global leader and at the same time shape our society towards the future. So I have asked the Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Anne Glover and the Science and Technology Advisory Council (STAC) to prepare a report on foresight for next summer. Based on that report, we are planning a high-level conference on "The future of Europe is science" to be jointly organised by the Commission and the upcoming Italian Presidency of the Council in the autumn. We planning to organise it in or around Ispra, where the Joint Research Centre has its main laboratories."
On the same occasion, President Barroso awarded Saskia Biskup (Germany, first prize), Laura van 't Veer (The Netherlands, second prize) and Ana Maiques (Spain, third prize) with the EU Prize for Women Innovators 2014. This prize honours women who combine science with business sense to set up innovative enterprises. The contest is open to female innovators who have benefited from EU research and innovation programmes.
President Barroso: European Commission 'on the side of Ireland'
President Barroso has said that the Commission will continue to support Ireland following its successful exit from the EU/IMF financial assistance programme.
"The European Commission has always been on the side of Ireland, one could even say one of your best friends. During the EU/IMF programme, I personally made the case to other European leaders for lower interest rates and longer maturities on Ireland's loans. And I have always said that the commitments Euro area Member States made in June 2012 should be fully respected, not just in terms of the letter of the agreement but also in terms of the spirit. This is a message I am happy to repeat here tonight. The European Commission will continue to stand by Ireland now that you have exited the programme."
In a speech following his conferral with an honorary doctorate in law from University College Cork on 5 March, President Barroso praised Ireland's recovery efforts and said that the country has become an example for others. "Today Ireland's experience and expertise can directly benefit other European countries who are still working through their programmes. They are interested in the way you helped bring about an effective turnaround," he said. "The OECD is increasingly citing best practice examples drawn from the Irish economy. Ireland has returned to "normal" in EU terms and I really expect it to engage and to use its influence in Europe to help us shape the right policies for the post-crisis era."
President Barroso also used the occasion to note how solidarity and a commitment to reform have helped Europe to emerge from the crisis stronger. "Europe chose the right path – responding to the crisis by stepping up the structural reforms needed to get on in today's modern, global, digital and competitive world," he said. "And then when you see what is happening in Ukraine at the moment, you realise the powerful attraction of the European model. While we are very self-critical – and we need to be – millions outside our borders want what we take for granted, in terms of standards of living, freedom of speech, freedom to protest, the rule of law, free and fair elections," he added.
He said that tackling unemployment was a "matter of urgency for the sake of our future" and concluded by calling on European citizens and politicians to share the responsibility for making the EU a success.
"Europe is not something that happens despite the wishes of European people. No. Europe has to be built in partnership, with and for the Member States and European citizens," he said. "So whatever you think about Europe, speak up! Don't stay indifferent or silent. You can make a difference in Europe and contribute to driving change and building a brighter future. So use your vote in the May European Elections. Decide that you will influence your own destiny and not leave it to others to decide for you. This is your opportunity to get the Europe you want and deserve – so don’t miss it!"
President Barroso at the extraordinary meeting of EU Heads of State and Government on Ukraine
At the EU Heads of State and Government meeting on Ukraine, President Barroso presented the €11 billion support package with a number of concrete economic and financial measures to assist Ukraine which was proposed by the European Commission yesterday.
Entering the meeting, President Barroso said that the European Commission stands by a united and inclusive Ukraine and supports Prime Minister Yatsenyuk and his government in coping with the immense challenges ahead.
Read the remarks by President Barroso at the press conference with President Van Rompuy following the extraordinary meeting.
The support package for Ukraine [682 KB]
Ukraine: European Commission identifies package of support
The European Commission agreed today a package of support identifying a number of concrete measures to assist Ukraine economically and financially. These measures should be seen as the Commission's contribution to a European and international effort to support Ukraine's economic and political reforms, and will be presented to the EU Heads of State and Government ahead of their extraordinary meeting on Thursday 5 March.
"The most immediate priority for the EU is to contribute to a peaceful solution to the current crisis, in full respect of international law", said President Barroso. "In parallel, the international community should mobilise to help Ukraine stabilise its economic and financial situation. The European Commission is proposing today a package designed to assist a committed, inclusive and reforms oriented Government in rebuilding a stable and prosperous future for Ukraine. What we propose could bring overall support of at least €11 billion over the next couple of years from the EU budget and EU-based international financial institutions."
The package of support to Ukraine sets out the main concrete measures that the Commission is proposing for the short and medium term to help stabilise the economic and financial situation in Ukraine, assist with the transition and encourage political and economic reform.
This engagement constitutes both a response to help stabilise the country as well as to support the reform programme and further enhance ownership of the Ukrainian authorities. While some of these measures can be carried out quickly, others will require further planning and preparation. For many of them, the urgent and active support of the Council and European Parliament are necessary.
Underpinning this approach is the ambition to help Ukraine fulfil the aspirations which have been clearly demonstrated by citizens and civil society in recent weeks in the unprecedented events in Kiev and throughout the country.
Key elements of the package agreed today:
President Barroso attended interactive debate with citizens on their wishes for Europe's future
President Barroso took part in the interactive debate 'Your wish list for Europe', hosted by the European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, and featuring also European Parliament President Martin Schulz.
On 4 March, EU citizens were able to ask questions and outline expections on Europe's future: European Commission President Barroso and European Parliament President Martin Schulz both participated in an interactive debate with citizens, hosted by the European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly.
The debate, entitled 'Your wish list for Europe', was sparked by contributions from EU citizens who submitted their questions and comments to the participants using Twitter and the hashtag #EUwishlist. As many questions as possible were displayed for the speakers to answer.
Asked on the issue of transparency, President Barroso reminded the audience of two concrete Commission initiatives: the Transparency Registry set up by the Commission, and of the rights to access Commission documents. He said: "Contrary to popular belief, I must say the Commission is far ahead of most other, national institutions in this field. And I believe we have to play this leading role."
On smart regulation, he said: "I have said many times that the EU needs to be big on big things and smaller on smaller things." He told the audience of the 660 initiatives for simplification, the cut of administrative burden by 25% and the more than 5590 repealed legal acts under the programme for smart and better regulation since 2005. President Barroso said: "We no longer have the often ridiculed complex rules on fruit and vegetable standards."
President Barroso also answered two questions on legitimacy:
That democratic legitimacy that you are talking about, do you think that comes through the European Parliament or through the appointment of the President of the European Commission by the European Council?
Both. Because if we can call it democratic legitimacy when you have for instance an election of the American President, it is not a direct election of the American President. It can happen that a majority votes for a different President, as at least it happened once. Americans elect a college of electors and afterwards it is this college of electors that elects the President of the United States. I don't think anybody is going to say America is not a democracy.
[…] I insist, in Europe there is almost no direct election of any chief of executive, with the exception of the President of France. And that doesn't mean that France is more democratic than, let's say, Germany.
But when I asked if the democratic legitimacy comes from the European Council or the European Parliament and say both, in the national situations generally it's clearly the Parliament. Is it part of your wish list for Europe that that line of democracy legitimacy would be more clearly lodge in the European Parliament?
It's not just a wish list; it was I who proposed that. I was the first in a European institution to make a proposal to have as much as possible a direct election of the European Commission President through these elections. It was in my State of the Union speech in 2012, in the European Parliament. I said that I hoped that all political parties would present their candidates for election and that there will be an increase role of the EP to elect and support the new President of the Commission. It was my proposal. Last time my party was the only one to present one: I was a candidate to the elections presented by my party, and no other party presented a candidate. This time, because of some of us, like Martin Schulz, I took the initiative, as President of the Commission, of putting that idea forward. And last year the Commission presented a document saying exactly that against, I have to say, the position of many of our Member States. And this time this year, for this first time ever, with a new Treaty that gives more powers to the EP, we are going to have an election where all the most important parties have already presented or are in the process of presenting candidates to the European Parliamentary elections.
President Barroso on the situation in Ukraine
"We have already expressed our very serious concerns about the situation. The situation has not improved. We are, of course, working with all our Member States to have a common, a firm response to those developments. […]"
"Today, there will be a Foreign Affairs Council and, very soon, the Heads of States and Government of the European Union will also meet to have a common response. Many contacts have been taking place with the Ukrainian authorities and, also, with the Russian authorities, because we believe it is very important to show our commitment to the sovereignty of Ukraine.
At the same time we are now preparing a package of support to Ukraine. We are working with the IMF, and myself and the European Commission are preparing some options for supporting Ukraine. As we said, we keep our willingness to offer Ukraine the political association and economic integration through the association agreement, and also the free trade agreement. But there are some difficulties in that country to which we have to respond through emergency measures. So this is the point. To work in the economic field, as a matter of urgency, trying to articulate with our partners internationally to support that country but also politically to do everything that we can, to avoid the escalation, to avoid the lack of respect for the sovereignty of Ukraine. And I believe this is shared by all European countries, we will see this today when they meet at Foreign Affairs Ministerial level." (Soul for Europe conference, Berlin, 3/3/2014)
Statement by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton (01/03/2014)
President Barroso receives International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation Centennial Medal
Today, President Barroso was awarded the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation's "Centennial Medal" to thank him and the European Commission as a whole for continued efforts to fight anti-Semitism and to promote human rights.
This medal was created to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Swedish businessman and diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who during the Second World War saved the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews; the medal now honours eminent personalities for their commitment to the principles that have guided R. Wallenberg: the spirit of solidarity and civic courage.
During a brief ceremony at 12:30 at the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels, Eduardo Eurnekian, president of the IRWF, first paid tribute to the Belgian citizens who reached out to Jewish families during the Holocaust. He then pointed out that the Centennial Medal was awarded to President Barroso to thank him and the European Commission as a whole for continued efforts to fight anti-Semitism, xenophobia and racism and promote human rights.
Upon receiving the medal, President Barroso declared: "As the President of the European Commission, I want to express you my cogent commitment to constantly and vigorously oppose the forces of Anti-Semitism and any other forces that are against minorities or that do no respect values of Human dignity. This I will never tolerate, and I intend to battle unremittingly against those who feel that the future of Europe should be a place of less hope, less tolerance and less freedom."
His speech recalled the lifes and acts of Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes and Raoul Wallenberg and the President finished by stating: "One of the main lessons of our recent history is indeed not to forget the courage and hope which is inspired by those people that have also commitment to Humanity and that in Europe we are also fighting for peace. It was one of the reasons why the European Union received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. If I may say so, personally it was one of the greatest moments of my life, when representing the European Union I had the honour to be in Oslo to receive for the European Union that Nobel Prize, precisely recognizing that Europe and the European Union are some of the greatest constructions to keep peace. That is one of the reasons why I can't be pessimistic about the future and I continue to believe deeply in Europe."
President Barroso attended the "A Soul for Europe" conference 2014
On 3 March, the "A Soul for Europe" conference brought together the Presidents of the European Commission and European Parliament with representatives of European political parties to discuss Europe's future with artists and intellectuals.
The “A Soul for Europe” conference took place in Berlin on 3 March 2014 to mark the 100th anniversary of Europe's plunging into war and the challenges faced and progress made towards a new Europe of cooperation and unity in diversity. It was also the 10th anniversary of the “A Soul for Europe” initiative and, in this European electoral year, therefore the occasion to further the initiative's goal of a cultural Europe of citizens.
President Barroso framed the event by saying:
"2014, is a year to remember how far we have come since then; to ask ourselves: 10 years on, how has enlargement affected Europe, and how has European integration affected the change in culture? 10 years on, how has the European Union evolved? And in those 10 years, what has culture done for Europe, and what has Europe done for culture?"
He continued by saying:
"Culture has a crucial role to play in hammering out [the] sense of common creation, Europe's idiosyncratic identity. It is an essential part of the foundations of the European project. It is an essential medium to shape our common future, to breathe life into political institutions, to give 'soul' to Europe."
President Barroso then recalled the Creative Europe programme, which is the new European funding programme (in force since 1 January 2014) for the cultural and creative sectors. This programme is designed to empower organisations and enterprises in the cultural, media and creative sector to look beyond borders, and to take a broader European and international perspective to increase access to the continent's rich cultural diversity.
On the same day, President Barroso conveyed his message of condolences on the death of French film director Alain Resnais ("Nuit et brouillard", "Hiroshima mon Amour", "L'Année dernière à Marienbad") which he called a very big loss for French and European culture.
Joint statement on Crimea by President Van Rompuy and President Barroso
President Barroso and President Van Rompuy issued a statement today on Crimea.
The statement reads as follows:
The sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine must be respected. The European Union does neither recognise the illegal and illegitimate referendum in Crimea nor its outcome. The European Union does not and will not recognise the annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol to the Russian Federation.
In line with the declaration of the Heads of State and Government of the EU of 6 March and our statement on Crimea of 16 March, the European Council will discuss the situation in Ukraine at its meeting this week and agree on a united European response.