President Barroso visits Albania (30 June)
President Barroso's visit took place in the wake of the European Council which decided to grant Albania the status of a candidate country to the European Union.
In Tirana, President Barroso had bilateral meetings with the country's President Bujar Nishani, with Prime Minister Edi Rama, Parliament Speaker Meta and Democratic Party leader Basha.
Following the meeting with Prime Minister Rama, President Barroso said:
"The granting of candidate status, which the European Commission had recommended, and was now accepted unanimously by the European Union and confirmed in the last European Council at Heads of State and Government level, is a decision that is certainly a major success for Albania. But it is also good news for the entire region of South Eastern Europe. It shows that the enlargement process of the European Union is credible and dynamic; and also that the European Union sticks to its strategic commitments: We move ahead when our partner countries deliver."
He also delivered a speech at Albania's Parliament Plenary Session, where he said:
"From Tirana to Podgorica, from Sarajevo to Skopje, from Belgrade to Pristina, people see the European Union as a beacon of hope and better politics at home. We will not let them down in their aspirations. Their future, your future, lies in the European Union, and our commitment to this European perspective is unwavering. Pacta sunt servanda - that is key for our power of attraction, for Europe's magnetism, for our credibility."
He continued by saying:
"That said, enlargement is of course no self-fulfilling prophecy. It is not a one-way street. It requires political vision, courage and hard work. There are always issues and major challenges to be addressed. In other words, preparations for EU membership are certainly tough. But – and I can say that after leading the Commission for ten years: these efforts are also worth it.
They are tough because real and deep reforms are needed for joining the European Union. This is a question of credibility, and our stepwise conditionality is a guarantor of credibility. Let's not forget: It takes two to tango, and European citizens have to know that once you join the European Union this means that you are indeed fully ready to do so and take on all obligations of membership.
Meeting these challenges are a demanding task requiring determination, vision and responsibility. And as Members of Parliament you have a key role to play in this process."
Finally, President Barroso attended a lunch with Prime Minister Rama and Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Mr Ditmir Bushati, of Interior Mr Saimir Tahiri, of European Integration Ms Klajda Gjosha, of Innovation and Public Administration, Ms Milena Harito and Minister of State for Local Government Bledar Çuçi, who is also the National Anti-corruption Coordinator.
Finally, he visited the Serious Crime Court and which has recently been given competences over corruption offences by high level officials.
President Barroso visits Serbia (29 June)
President Barroso visited Serbia, where he met the country's Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučićand visited the areas which suffered under the worst floods in over a century this May.
This visit came exactly one year after the European Council in June 2013 decided to open accession negotiations, marking a symbolic new phase in EU-Serbia relations, and two months after a new government was formed following the early elections on 16 March.
President Barroso also met the Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić, members of the government as well as of the opposition and representatives of Civil Society during his day-long stay. After meeting President Nikolić, President Barroso said:
"I would like to reiterate my greatest sympathy for the victims of the floods and to present my condolences to the families and friends of the victim. During my visit to Obrenovac today, I have been impressed by the great courage and will of the Serbian people in the face of this tragedy. I visited a school that has more than 1500 students, pupils and the teachers and staff are now rebuilding the school. That is a great example. I am proud that 22 EU Member States and the European Commission were present alongside Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in this largest European civil protection intervention in Europe ever. It demonstrated in concrete terms the solidarity of the EU to Serbia and its citizens. Much work still lies ahead and I wish to stress that you can fully count on the support of the EU."
The visit of the flooded areas took place in the afternoon and was used for a briefing on recovery needs assessment. The EU and its Member States have provided a major part of the emergency response as demonstration of EU solidarity in action. In addition, the Commission is coordinating with France and Slovenia a Donors Conference for Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina on 16 July in Brussels.
Serbia as a Candidate Country is also eligible to the European Solidarity Fund for disaster relief.
European Council, 26 - 27 June
EU leaders met in Brussels, where they signed Association Agreements with Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine and designated Jean-Claude Juncker as next Commission President.
At the press conference following the meeting of the European Council, President Barroso said:
"Let me begin by expressing on my own behalf and on behalf of the European Commission my congratulations to Jean-Claude Juncker on his nomination by the European Council as President-designate. I have known Jean-Claude Juncker for more than 20 years. We have been working in very many capacities together and I really believe that he is committed European and a political leader with exceptional experience. Myself and the Commission will do everything possible in the coming months to assure a smooth transition between this Commission and the next one."
The President continued by saying that the European Council had "also given a clear direction for the policy agenda for the years ahead, so fulfilling the norm inscribed in the article 15 of the Treaty. I believe the strategic priorities adopted are the right ones. They are important because it is critically important that the three institutions, the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission have a common understanding of the challenges ahead. We have discussed particularly today what is related to growth and jobs. We believe that is the best way to respond to the concerns express by our citizens, to have concrete results for growth and for jobs. I'm therefore pleased that the European Council concluded successfully the so-called European semester. Our European economic governance, a partnership between European institutions and national governments that precisely are a new expression of joint commitment to adopt together the economic issues. The European Council has generally endorsed the country specific recommendations put forward by the European Commission. Now, full national ownership is essential if we want to be successful. I welcome the discussion and the confirmation of the commitment of all the leaders of the European Council to our fiscal rules, stability and growth pact. This is the cornerstone of economic governance in Europe. Those rules are precisely designed for boosting growth and jobs, both today and tomorrow, and where necessary they will have the flexibility to take into account the economic situation of the country concerned. "
On energy and climate issues:
"This morning we have also discussed energy security and the fight against climate change, having in mind that the critical decisions are going to take place at the European Council in October. One thing that is clear is that the recent events in Eastern Europe have shown yet again that we need to truly "Europeanize" energy policy, including notably its external dimension.
The Commission has tabled an European energy security strategy. I think we can say there is a broad agreement on it and now there will be the need to pursue some discussions with our Member States to have a formal agreement on energy security. I would say the energy union and also on our climate policy.
We confirmed our agreement to take a final decision on these matters in October, so that Europe can also keep the leadership in international climate talks."
On the issue of cutting red tape:
"The reality is that in some areas Europe needs to do more, but in others we have to recognise that it's probably better to do less. I've been saying it very clearly, Europe should be big on big things and small on small things. The Conclusions clearly recognise the progress achieved as detailed in the Commission's communication on REFIT, regulatory fitness and performance."
On external relations:
"[…] this Summit will rightly be remembered for the historic association agreements we have signed with Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine. I will not add to what myself and also President Van Rompuy have stated. Let me just add that I believe it was extremely important for President Poroshenko to come to the European Council. President Van Rompuy and myself have received him, and we had a very open conversation about the challenges, and I think it was good for all the European Union leaders to hear directly from him on how he sees developments in his country and region. There were also some decisions following that conversation that you will find in the conclusions." President Barroso in this context also highlighted and confirmed "that we are going to have on 8 July a High Level international meeting to coordinate the international assistance to Ukraine. This meeting will take place here in Brussels. And, of course, regarding the concrete aspect of implementation of the agreement signed with Ukraine, namely the DCFTA part, there will be a meeting between the Commissioner for Trade and the Ministerial representatives from Russia and Ukraine. We are planning it for 11 July."
The President finished his speech by "a very sincere word of thanks to my good friend Antonis Samaras and his team. The work done during the Greek Presidency is really impressive. It was more than normal, also because it was the end of the cycle of the institutions and the European Parliament, but it was really a demonstration of the great commitment of Greece for our common project. And the fact that at the same time there are so important challenges in Greece and that Samaras was able, not only to reinforce the stability of his country but also to make Europe move forward, together with the exceptional people that are working with him. I think it's something that we should remember as a very important contribution of the Hellenic Presidency to our common work and I want to thank you once again."
On 27 June, the Association Agreements with Georgia and with the Republic of Moldova have been signed and the signature process with Ukraine completed, each providing for a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. In his speech on the occasion of the signature of the agreements, President Barroso said:
"This is indeed a historic day: for the three countries themselves, for the European Union and for the whole of Europe. For our three partners, it is a recognition of the significant progress made over recent years and of their strong political determination to come closer to the European Union; their shared outlook on a prosperous economic model; and their desire to live by the European spirit and with European values.
For the European Union, it is a solemn commitment to support Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, each step of the way, along the road of transforming their countries into stable, prosperous democracies.
These Association Agreements are the logical and natural outcome of a path started more than 20 years ago when these countries became independent sovereign states.
These Agreements are also a landmark in our Eastern Partnership policy that set the objective of achieving political association and economic integration with our partners, who were willing and ready to do so."
President Barroso also clarified:
"These Agreements are positive agreements. They are meant to add more momentum to our partners' established international relations, not to compete with - or intrude in - our partners' relations with any neighbour. These Agreements are for something – they are not against anyone."
The European Council has also met with Ukrainian President Poroshenko and discussed the situation in Ukraine over lunch.
In the afternoon of 26 June, EU heads of states and government had attended a ceremony in the city of Ypres to mark the 100th anniversary of World War I. President Barroso and President Van Rompuy have laid a floral wreath and inaugurated the "Peace bench" at the Menin Gate. President Barroso participated in the dinner of Heads of State and Government at the City Hall.
Ahead of the European Council: Statement by President Barroso
One day ahead of the start of the European Council, which will take place in Brussels on 26. and 27. June, President Barroso made a declaration.
"The European Council will discuss the strategic priorities of the EU for the years to come. I strongly welcome this discussion as all three institutions – Member States, the European Council, the European Parliament and the Commission should have a common understanding of the priorities ahead – namely on the imperative of growth and jobs. I believe that the text that is currently being discussed goes in the right direction – it confirms the approach the Commission has taken in the last years. What we need is to keep that agenda, the agenda for growth and jobs, but with stronger implementation and stronger ownership at all levels of the European Union, from the European institutions to our countries."
President Barroso then mentioned the Association Agreements with Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, when he continued:
"The main issue I wish to mention today is a subject of huge strategic importance and something the Commission has worked on tirelessly in recent years. This Friday we will sign Association Agreements with Georgia and the Republic of Moldova and complete the signature process with Ukraine, each providing for a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area.
I do not hesitate to call these agreements historic. Historic for those countries, that's their historic objective, but also historic for Europe, what this can mean for the whole of Europe."
President Barroso stressed in this context:
"It is also important to recall once more that these Agreements are for something, not against anyone. We are not seeking an exclusive relationship with these three partners. We believe in open societies and open economies.
But at the agenda of the European Council will also have Russia's reaction to these events, in particular in Ukraine. A lot of effort in the last days and hours was put in supporting President Poroshenko's 15 point peace plan. I spoke with him again on the phone this Monday to praise and encourage his efforts and he conveyed to me a mixed picture of direct talks with Russia but at the same time continuing unrest in the East of Ukraine.
Yesterday President Putin announced he would ask the upper house of the Parliament to repeal a mandate for sending troops to Ukraine. We certainly welcome this step which we had been asking for a long time. In my phone call conversation with him on the 13th that was in fact one of the points we spoke about. But more concrete measures to de-escalate are needed. Failure to act will entail additional measures as the European Council has mentioned before.”
On a different note, President Barroso announced the successor of Vice-President Rehn, Jyrki Katainen and stated:
"I decided to attribute to Jyrki Katainen the responsibilities so far performed by Olli Rehn. On this occasion, I want also to pay my tribute and a very sincere word of thanks to Vice-President Rehn and all the Commissioners that will now leave the Commission because they will join the European Parliament. I want to thank them for their dedication for their competences and for the extraordinary way in which they have performed their duties as members of the Commission."
President Barroso attends Visegrád group summit in Budapest
President Barroso and Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn were in Hungary to attend the summit of the Prime ministers of the V4 countries: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.
At the meeting, President Barroso said:
"We believe that all countries of Europe, big or small, rich or less rich, central or periphery, old or new Member States, all have exactly the same dignity; the principle of equity should be a sacred one in Europe; and part of our commitment was to show to our new Member States that they were active, proud members of our Union."
"Collectively our societies and specially these new Member countries and our economies have made significant progress since accession.” – he said. “Taking a medium to long term perspective, I really believe that there are reasons to be optimistic, in Hungary, in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as well as across the whole of the European Union".
Referring to the current challenges, he stressed that now “we must ensure that the progress we are making is felt by citizens across Europe, in their pockets, in their daily life, so that there are better jobs, better working conditions, and better living standards. This is for me also the main message to take from the European elections, not to engage in fundamental debates about the institutions. What our citizens want is growth and jobs. And what they want is to see is concrete results. That's why I think we should collectively, at European level, the Governments but also European institutions, focus on that. This is the message we have been conveying, and I will be conveying once again to the European Council, later this week.”
The title of the meeting was “Visegrád Group: The Growth Engine of Europe”.
The Visegrád countries’ meeting aims at exchanging views on how best to use European Structural and Investment funds under 2014-2020 period.
The participants also discussed the current EU agenda ahead of the June European Council.
This session marked the conclusion of the Hungarian Presidency of the V4 group and the handover to Slovakia.
President Barroso also met bilaterally with Prime Minister Orbán.
President Barroso supports Nestlé’s employment initiative in Lisbon
President Barroso was present as Nestlé Europe CEO Laurent Freixe signed up to the European Alliance for Apprenticeships.
Prime Minister of Portugal Pedro Passos Coelho and Deputy Prime Minister of Portugal Paulo Portas were also present at the event, where President Barroso welcomed Nestlé and its business partner's commitment to create 500 job opportunities and 8000 traineeships in Portugal.
Nestlé has also announced the creation of 20 million new jobs and traineeships in the European Union. "And it is precisely in this context that I really want to welcome this initiative. The fact that there is today not only a commitment at the highest level from political leaders, the European institutions together with our governments, but that many European companies, and also transnational companies, have shown their commitment to corporate social responsibility and they are indeed launching initiatives like this one", the President said.
The European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA), jointly coordinated by DG Education and Culture and DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, aims to bring together public authorities, businesses, social partners, vocational education and training providers, youth representatives, and other key actors in order to promote apprenticeship schemes and initiatives across Europe. There are three strands of action: reform of apprenticeship systems; promote the benefits of apprenticeships; and smart use of funding and resources.
Although managed by the European Commission, the success of the initiative lies with the commitment of its partners, notably through the network of ambassadors and pledges.
Nestlé is building on the success of its “Nestlé Needs YOUth” employment initiative - designed to help tackle youth unemployment in Europe - by creating a new scheme with its business partners called “Alliance for YOUth”. The “Alliance for YOUth” will help to mobilise companies who are determined to play a positive role in getting the young people of Europe into work.
President Barroso visits Denmark
During his visit to Denmark, President Barroso met Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt for a working lunch and opened Europe's largest science conference, the EuroScience Open Forum.
President Barroso and Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt exchanged views ahead of the European Council on 26-27 June, including on economic matters and the situation in Ukraine.
During a press doorstep following the meeting, both leaders confirmed a very large convergence of views.
President Barroso emphasised the improved economic situation in the European Union and praised Denmark's performance in terms of economic reforms and stabilising its public finances, which allowed it to exit the Excessive Deficit Procedure. He also praised Denmark and the Prime Minister's continued commitment to further reforms that are important for competitiveness and serve to make Europe fit for globalisation.
The President reiterated that the situation in Ukraine remains a source of great concern. He expressed his expectation that the cease-fire will be respected and that the logic of confrontation can be replaced by a logic of cooperation and dialogue.
When asked about the possible EU perspectives of the Prime Minister, President Barroso refrained from participating in any speculations. He praised her European commitment and reform orientation and expressed his personal view that Ms. Thorning-Schmidt has been and wants to remain a very good Prime Minister of Denmark.
In the afternoon, President Barroso participated in the Opening of Europe's leading science event, the EuroScience Open Forum, held this year in Copenhagen. With reference to the conference theme 'Building bridges', President Barroso in his speech showed his conviction that science is Europe's future and called for five "bridges" to be built:
He also highlighted the fact that the EU's new Research Programme Horizon 2020 benefits of a 30% increase between 2014-2020 despite budgetary constraints and called on media to communicate the benefits and progress made thanks to science, research and innovation. He also recognised that there are some legitimate concerns and called for a rational debate based on dialogue, transparency and engagement to tackle them.
President Barroso meets Baltic Prime Ministers in Tallinn
On Saturday 21 June, President Barroso participated in a meeting with the Prime Ministers of the three Baltic States, held in Estonia.
At the press point following their meeting, President Barroso said:
"We are meeting just one day after the adoption by the European Commission of the partnership agreements between the Commission and the governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The quick adoption of these agreements is the result of the excellent cooperation the European Commission has had with the three respective countries. It is a pleasure for me to thank once again the Prime ministers and to congratulate them for this achievement."
"The agreements open up for European structural and investment funding for the 2014-2020 period. The strategies now laid down by the three Baltic States are key for the optimal use of European Structural and Investment Funds for smart and sustainable growth. They link the new approach of the European cohesion policy and our Europe 2020 priorities. These European investments will help to boost growth and create lasting jobs through support to innovation, training and education as well as a low carbon, resource-efficient economy."
President Barroso meets with Mr. Mehdi Jomaa, Prime Minister of Tunisia
The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, met with Mr. Mehdi Jomaa, Prime Minister of Tunisia, on 20 June 2014.
President Barroso welcomed the progress of the Tunisian transition and inclusive nature of the national dialogue which led to the adoption of the Constitution, and referred to the Privileged Partnership between Tunisia and the EU as - "an ambitious and comprehensive road map to support Tunisia in its democratic transition and economic and social development."
Important socio-economic and security challenges facing Tunisia were also addressed by President Barroso and Prime Minister Jomaa. The Tunisian government’s initiatives for investments and reforms and the essential role of civil society and social partners in the success of the transition were highlighted.
In light of the recent democratic developments, financial cooperation with Tunisia should be higher than in the previous period. Thanks to its efforts to reform, Tunisia is the first recipient of the SPRING program (€155 million to €540 million for neighboring countries in the South). Tunisia will be the first recipient of the Umbrella program in 2014 (€50 million out of a total of € 100 million for neighboring countries in the South). For 2014, the Commission proposed a total allocation of € 200 million.
REFIT – Commission making EU law lighter, simpler and less costly
The Commission is stepping up the momentum of smart regulation by presenting the state of play and new initiatives under its Regulatory Fitness and Performance programme (REFIT).
President Barroso said:
"The Commission is extending its smart regulation agenda. REFIT is important for economic growth and jobs in Europe. We want to facilitate the lives of our citizens and businesses by focusing EU law on those issues that are best dealt with at European level, while making it lighter, simpler and less costly. We are making good progress. But results do not come over night. Success demands continued efforts, clear political priorities and ownership by all EU institutions and in particular the Member States. It is crucially important to continue this work in the next legislature."
The European Commission is stepping up the momentum of smart regulation by presenting a number of new initiatives for simplification, withdrawals of pending proposals and repeals of existing legislation (for details and examples please visit http://www.ec.europa.eu/refit).
REFIT is a rolling programme putting regulatory fitness in the spotlight. The new initiatives are set to become part of the continuous effort by the EU institutions, Member States and stakeholders to make EU legislation "fit for purpose".
Download the infographics [2 MB]
President Barroso awarded in Santander
President Barroso is today in Santander to deliver a key note speech at the opening seminar for the summer season of the International University Menendez Pelayo.
The speech on "Europe leaving the crisis behind” was followed by a ceremony where the President received an award of the International University Menéndez Pelayo.
The seminar was organised by the University and by the Associacion de Periodistas de Información Económica (APIE).
“Europe leaving the crisis behind” seminar aims at analising how the EU can rebuild its position in the global economy after more than five years of crisis.
President Barroso: Phone call with President Poroshenko
President Barroso made the following statement after a phone call with the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko:
“I called today President Poroshenko to discuss the situation in Ukraine, just before meeting the President. I welcomed his peace initiative and direct talks with Russia, the fact that now President Poroshenko and President Putin are speaking directly is a positive step forward. At the same time President Poroshenko conveyed to me his extreme concern with the ongoing armed unrest in Eastern Ukraine and also today the incident with Russian tanks that according to the Ukrainian authorities have crossed into Ukrainian territory.
The European Union has stated several times and I want to repeat it today that it is very important that Russia ceases any kind of military actions in this area.
We believe that illegal armed groups need to disarm and we call on Russia to withdraw the authorisation for use of force in Ukraine.
So once again, I make an appeal to Russia to engage constructively with Ukraine and to give concrete steps and clear evidence of de-escalating efforts.
And coming back to the agreements with Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia that we are going to sign in Brussels in June 27, I want to reiterate our willingness, as European Union, to pursue talks with Russia, to discuss the concrete implementation of these agreements, in case there are any concerns on the Russian side. Of course we have to respect the content of these agreements, what was already decided by the governments of these countries, but if there are some concerns, if there are technical issues that the Russian authorities want to clarify, we are ready for it.
So our message, as European Union, is a message of dialogue and cooperation, not a message of confrontation. At the same time we have to be firm in the respect of the sovereign right of any country to decide its own future.”
President Barroso to travel to Azerbaijan
President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso will pay a working visit to Azerbaijan from 13-15 June.
During the course of his visit he will have meetings with President Ilham Aliyev, other senior representatives of the Azerbaijani state, hold a lecture on "EU-Azerbaijan – new opportunities and challenges" at the ADA University - and pay a visit to the Sangachal oil and gas processing terminal.
The visit is seen by the EU as an opportunity to reinvigorate EU-Azerbaijan relations and inject new momentum into bilateral negotiations on a new contractual basis of the bilateral relationship. This will be the second visit of President Barroso to Azerbaijan and the fifth meeting of the Presidents during their tenure. The first visit of President Barroso to Baku took place in January 2011 when a Joint Declaration on the Establishment of the Southern Corridor was signed with President Ilham Aliyev.
Prior to visiting Azerbaijan, President Barroso visited Moldova and Georgia to underline EU support to close partners in the context of the Eastern Partnership, just two weeks ahead of the signature of the Association Agreements including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area Agreements with both countries, scheduled to take place on 27 June during the European Council meeting in Brussels.
President Barroso's phone call with President Putin
President Barroso spoke on the phone with President Putin to discuss the current political-security situation in Ukraine
President Barroso recalled the EU positions, namely the need for a de-escalation and the importance of a cease fire. He also urged the disarmament of separatist groups, a halt to the flow of arms and illegal fighters into Ukraine and the repeal of the law approved by the Duma's Federation Council.
President Barroso and President Putin also assessed the ongoing gas talks mediated by the European Commission. President Barroso expressed the hope that both sides can make additional efforts to reach a lasting agreement on the basis of the options established by the European Commission.
Finally they discussed the upcoming signature on 27 June of the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with Ukraine. As a way to dispel any concerns, President Barroso offered President Putin the possibility to pursue the ongoing bilateral talks with Russia at technical level as well as to hold political level consultations, associating Ukraine, as discussed yesterday with President Poroshenko, with the aim to discuss implementation aspects in light of the signature of the agreement, which was agreed by President Putin.
President Barroso on official visit to Georgia
Continuing their series of official visits, President Barroso and Commissioner Füle reached Georgia on 12 June, where they met the President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili.
At the press point following this meeting, President Barroso said: "We stand by you, we stand by a democratic, prosperous and united Georgia" and stressed the importance of continuing "the reforms and an approximation to the European Union, through our Association Agreement that we are ready to sign next 27 June, some days from now in Brussels."
Continuing to talk about the Association Agreement, President Barroso told the audience:
"Let me underline here that the goal of our partnership is to help you to deliver on your own ambitions. The European Union and the European Commission are imposing noting on Georgia. Georgia has made a choice, and we are here to support that choice. As I just said, and I've discussed it with the President, even if Georgia was not engaged in this Association Agreement with us, and in this process of becoming closer to the European Union, in this economic integration and political association with the European Union, even if this was not the case, we understand that these were the objectives of Georgia, for the good and wellbeing of the Georgia citizens: to have a modern country, the respect of rule of law, to have an independent judiciary, to fight against corruption. These are national objectives. And we can help on that. We can help the process that is owned by the Georgians themselves, because we can offer tools, expertise, experience. We are not exporting democracy – democracy is home grown - but we can offer some helping hand in this moment."
On 13 June, President Barroso and Commissioner Füle have met Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili, and they attended the Georgia Investment Conference together.
In the afternoon of 13 June, President Barroso and Commissioner Füle were scheduled to visit the National Museum in Tbilisi, and participate in the ceremony of distribution of medals at the EUMM mission in Mtskheta.
The last point on the agenda was a meeting with the United National Movement party's leadership in Tbilisi.
President Barroso on official visit to Moldova
President Barroso and Commissioner Füle arrived in Moldova yesterday evening and participated in an official dinner with Prime Minister Iurie Leancă and members of the Moldovan government.
Today, just after President’s Barroso meeting with PM Leanca, he signed four Financing Agreements, for a total amount of EUR 53 million of grant money. This assistance will be directed to support the visa liberalisation process and to support the economic development of rural areas. Two of the new financing agreements will support the diversification of energy supplies in the country with an extended use of biomass installations and with the construction of new gas interconnections with Romania. At the joint press point after this bilateral meeting, President Barroso said:
"There is no doubt that Moldova is a European country. And Moldova's efforts to implement the European values make it an important partner for the EU and an Eastern Partnership front-runner."
"The possibility for Moldovan citizens to travel now to the EU without having to request a visa is just one concrete example – but how important. This means that our people and our societies are now closer together. It means that our relationship with Moldova is not just political or diplomatic, not just for politicians or diplomats, but for the people. We want the Moldovan citizens to be closer to the European Union. I think this has a great, not only symbolic, but a great meaning for the concrete lives of the citizens of Moldova. This is what our Association Agreement is about. It's not the kind of normal diplomatic document; it's much more than that. It's about economic integration and political association, but the goal is to bring the people closer."
President Barroso also opened the Moldova-EU International Investors' Conference , where he said:
"In two years we have brought our relations into a new higher level. (…) We have done it in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect, cooperation because this is the way the European Union works with its neighbours and partners, and respect because you are a sovereign and independent nation."
"In a few weeks' time we will sign the long-awaited Association Agreement between Moldova and the European Union. This will be another milestone in our political relationship, while the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area included will add tremendously to the momentum in our economic partnership."
"Despite these obvious benefits, there is also controversy around the Association Agreement. Some of the arguments that are used by the detractors of the Agreement are often spurious, sometimes irrational, and unduly politicised, but we have to take them seriously and provide convincing arguments to counter them. (…) The European Union is not involved in Moldovan politics. We are interested in policy outcomes, which is a different thing; in seeing that our cooperation yields the positive outcomes that Moldovan citizens look for."
"The Association Agreement is a positive agreement meant to add more momentum to Moldova's established international relations, not to compete with or intrude on Moldova's relations with any of its other partners, in particular Russia. It is perfectly compatible, for instance, with Moldova's free trade agreement with the Commonwealth of Independent States. Indeed, a more stable, secure and prosperous Moldova would greatly benefit Russian producers and investors as well as European and Moldovan ones. So I call upon Russia to take advantage of the new opportunities and not to take punitive measures further to the upcoming signature and implementation of the Agreement with Moldova. There is no economic reason nor legal justification for such behaviour. We stand ready to continue our bilateral consultations with Russia in this regard."
"With the Association Agreement, Moldova will not relinquish an inch of its sovereignty. The Association Council that will be set up will be the simple successor to our existing Cooperation Council; it will not be able to make any decision without Moldova's agreement. Yet with it, Moldova will be stronger."
Read the remarks from the press point.
Read the full speech from the Moldova-EU International Investors' Conference.
Debating the EU’s future with religious leaders
For the tenth time, President Barroso invited senior dignitaries from Churches and religious communities to the Commission’s headquarters for a high-level dialogue with the European Institutions. Topic of this year’s dialogue was “The future of the European Union”.
In his remarks at the press conference following the morning session, President Barroso said:
"I am delighted to meet for the 10th time - together with European Council President Van Rompuy and Vice President Surján of the European Parliament - eminent religious leaders here at the Commission headquarters. We have with us distinguished dignitaries from the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Mormon churches and communities."
"This morning we observed a minute of silence paying tribute to the victims of the recent murderous attack in the Jewish museum here in Brussels."
"Today, all participants have agreed a joint statement on the case of Ms Meriam Yahya Ibrahim in Sudan, a Christian woman who has been sentenced to death on charges of apostasy and adultery. We call upon the responsible Sudanese authorities and appeal courts to revoke this inhumane verdict and release Ms Meriam with the utmost urgency. We welcome the fact that the Court of Appeal has meanwhile accepted the appeal and demand the government to repeal any legal provisions that penalize or discriminate against individuals for having or changing a religion or belief or for inducing others to change a religion or belief."
"Freedom of religion and belief is a universal human right that needs to be protected everywhere and for everyone. Freedom of religion includes the right to have a religion, to change it and not to adhere to any religion."
"Churches and religious communities have an important contribution to make to ensure that the dignity of the human being is respected and promoted. They can help to reach out to each-other, show solidarity and avoid that differences turn into hatred, murder and conflict. And they inspire political action that helps to improve the lives of our citizens. I am convinced: the active involvement of Churches and religious communities can contribute decisively to the ongoing reflections on the future of Europe."
"We have also seen (…) how important it is at the same time to fight extremism, be it religious intégrisme or fundamentalism but also racism. And we have highlighted the importance to be vigilant to all attempts to come to extremist positions against each other and namely against the values that are so important in the European Union. We took stock of the recent tendencies that we are seeing in some parts of our societies and that in fact are putting in question relations between people, where the other is perceived as the enemy, and precisely the need to combat with firmness all forms of discrimination against, for instance, the Jewish communities - the recent attacks here in Brussels demonstrate how serious the situation is - but also against all kinds of discrimination, and the link between political extremism and fanaticism - points made by you in this debate."
The high-level meeting – the tenth of its kind – was hosted by José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, and co-chaired by Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, and László Surján, Vice-President of the European Parliament, representing EP President Martin Schulz.
The open, transparent and regular dialogue between the European Commission and churches, religious communities, as well as philosophical and non-confessional organisations, is enshrined into primary law by the Lisbon Treaty (Art 17 TFEU). Beyond regular seminars with the different interlocutors, there is one annual high-level meeting with religious leaders and one with philosophical and non-confessional representatives.
Debate on the Future of Europe: see webpage
President Barroso to visit Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan
The visits to Moldova and Georgia underline EU support ahead of the signature of the Association Agreements and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with both countries on 27 June. The President also travels to Azerbaijan for bilateral talks.
President Barroso will start this series of official visits in Moldova (11-12 June), where he will meet Prime Minister Iurie Leancă, the President of Moldova Nicolae Timofti and the Speaker of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova. Besides these bilateral meetings, President Barroso will participate in the Moldova-EU International Investors' Conference.
Continuing his trip on 12-13 June to Georgia, President Barroso will meet Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and President Giorgi Margvelashvili, and hold the opening speech at the Georgia Investment Conference. This is President Barroso's first official visit to Georgia.
On 14 June, President Barroso reaches Azerbaijan for the last leg of his travels, where he will meet the country’s President Ilham Aliyev and hold a speech at the ADA University (Diplomatic Academy) on "EU-Azerbaijan – new opportunities and challenges". This is an opportunity to reinvigorate EU-Azerbaijan relations and inject new momentum into bilateral negotiations for a Strategic Modernisation Partnership and an Association Agreement.
More information for both Investors’ Conferences is available online.
President Barroso meets Prime Minister of Israel Netanyahu
During his visit to Israel, President Barroso met Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
On the agenda of the bilateral meeting are – besides general and sectorial EU-Israel cooperation and Horizon 2020 – the peace process in Israel and the entire Middle East, MEEP and the intra-Palestinian reconciliation with the appointment of a Palestinian unity government for independent personalities.
President Barroso travelled to Israel on occasion of the signature of the agreement for Israel’s association with the next “Horizon 2020” programme, which he will attend jointly with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Israel is a strong partner of the European Union in research and innovation co-operation, and the EU is Israel's largest source of competitive public research funding.
President Barroso will be honoured by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he will deliver a speech.
In the evening, President Barroso takes part in the 14th Annual Herzliya Conference.
President Barroso's last visit to Israel dated from 2012.
President Barroso opens the Herzliya Conference
On Sunday 8 June, President Barroso is the keynote speaker the Herzliya Conference, Israel's most renowned annual global policy conference.
The conference, traditionally launched by the President of Israel and held under academic auspices in a non-partisan, informal atmosphere, is a central hub for Middle East risk assessment and policy analysis. Its agenda covers a broad span of issues, ranging from nuclear proliferation and the Middle East peace process to world finance and energy security.
The title of this year's conference is "Israel and the future of the Middle East".
The Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya is the convener of the Herzliya Conference.
President Barroso honoured by the Hebrew University
During his current official visit to Israel, President Barroso has been awarded with the Doctor Philosophiae Honoris Causa of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
President Barroso received the honours in recognition of his leadership and his vision for a prosperous, secure and sustainable Europe, and in tribute to his vehement condemnation of anti-Semitism, racism and faith-based discrimination, as well as in appreciation of his friendship for Israel and of his active advocacy of higher education, in particular the creation of academic chairs and student exchange programs.
President Barroso calls on world leaders to reverse education funding decline
President Barroso signed an 'Open letter' calling for a greater commitment to global financing for education, particularly for girls.
Here are some extracts of the letter:
"The right to education, particularly for girls, is still too often denied – sometimes violently as the recent abduction of more than 200 school girls in Nigeria shows. This is completely unacceptable and we condemn the terrorist actions of Boko Haram in the strongest possible terms. We call on the entire international community to stand together for the right of all children – girls and boys – to education.
Despite considerable progress, today an estimated 57 million children of primary school age are still not in school – more than half of them in fragile and conflict-affected states. Around 250 million children either don’t make it to grade 4 or fail to learn the basics of reading and writing by the time they reach grade 4.
Girls are disproportionately represented in these figures. They are more likely to face barriers such as violence and discrimination, leading them to drop out or never enroll in school at all. At the secondary level, gender disparity often increases, as girls are pressured to leave school to marry, have children or work at home.
The reasons to invest in education are clear: nations cannot thrive without educated workforces and informed, engaged citizens. Education combats inequality and leads to improved health outcomes. Countries with higher levels of education are less prone to conflict and instability, while gender parity in education is closely linked to higher economic growth."
The letter is also signed by European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs, as well as Prime Minister of Denmark Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg and Julia Gillard, Chair of the Global Partnership for Education and former Prime Minister of Australia, ahead of the Global Partnership for Education conference on June 26 in Brussels.
On this occasion, the GPE and the European Commission will bring together leaders in education, representatives of governments, international finance, philanthropy and civil society for its second Replenishment Conference, taking place in Brussels. Developing country partners are being asked to pledge to increase domestic financing for education towards 20 percent of their domestic budgets. Together with the pledges made at the event, a total of US$3.5 billion (€2.57bn) is expected to be raised during the 2015-2018 period.
President Barroso on the outcome of the G7 summit in Brussels, 4-5 June
The G7 summit, hosted by the European Union, has now come to an end.
At the closing press conference, President Barroso made the following remarks on the results of the G7 summit:
"Some time ago we were not expecting to be meeting here in Brussels for this G7, but it was well worth it. It was a very successful summit with very good conversations and with a very remarkable level of convergence. On a range of geo-strategic issues we have a unity and common determination to lead the global response."
I am particularly pleased that the G7 has formally endorsed many of the key initiatives that the European Union has tabled: from our intention to organise a donors' conference, to our approach on energy security. We will keep driving policies and progress in all these areas. The G7 also confirmed the intention to reach an ambitious and binding climate agreement by 2015 as we have repeatedly called for, and on development, the G7 takes action in areas in which we have led by example, such as food security, health and vaccination."
"The most important message clearly is: the G7 stands united behind Ukraine. We have made clear that we stand behind its new leadership, politically and economically. We have made clear that we stand by the citizens of Ukraine who want to live in a sovereign, free, democratic and hopefully prosperous country.
As this is our immediate neighbourhood the European Union has a special responsibility. That's why we have mobilised fast and are deploying financial and technical assistance already to Ukraine.
And that's why we aim to sign the remaining parts of the association agreement as quickly as possible. Both sides are committed to this.
As a next concrete step, the G7 has agreed that the European Commission will host a high-level donor coordination meeting next month, here in Brussels.
Our group of like-minded members of the international community is also united in sending a resolute message to Russia that it should recognize and fully engage with the Ukrainian authorities, namely with the recently newly elected President of Ukraine, Mr Poroshenko. And that Russia should also take concrete and credible measures to de-escalate the situation in the Eastern part of Ukraine.
We stand ready to take further action if that's necessary."
"We have re-committed to exploit to the full the enormous growth and jobs potential of keeping markets open and liberalising global trade. That's why we will aim for a rapid conclusion of ongoing trade negotiations, implement our multilateral commitments stemming from Bali, and fully support the efforts in the WTO for completing the Doha Round.
We have also agreed that as G7 leaders we have to come out stronger in public on explaining the advantages of trade opening in terms of concrete consequences on growth and jobs, addressing especially the concerns of those most vulnerable and those who feel sometimes alienated from the advantages of trade liberalisation."
"I am very glad to see that this summit endorsed the principles and actions of the Rome G7 Energy Initiative. This will ensure that our citizens and businesses benefit from energy that is cleaner, safer and more secure than in the past. We have agreed that in fact energy security is a geopolitical issue of the highest importance.
The Commission has just presented a proposal for the European Union for an Energy Security Strategy that we will discuss on the 27th of this month at the European Council. I hope that it will be agreed. I think that if it is not now, when can you really agree on that very important piece of work? And I also believe that this issue is also related to climate change. Because the less dependant we are on fossil fuels, that sometimes are in problematic areas of the world, and the more we rely on renewables and on indigenous resources, the better our security of supply will be."
"Both for the sake of environmental protection and also energy security, it is very important that we step up our efforts to fight climate change. 2015 will be a crucial year and I am confident that the world can count on our ambitious contributions in the run-up to the UN climate conference in Paris. We have all agreed at the G7 table that this is the key date. We are hoping to have a multilateral agreement and this besides the national commitments that are already being put in place. On that point, I have specifically welcomed and congratulated President Obama on the recent measures he announced domestically."
"This G7 has shown again that fairness and solidarity towards the world's poorest is one of our most important concerns. We have agreed that all of us work for an ambitious outcome of the discussions on a universal post-2015 development agenda. And we had the time to discuss some concrete initiatives that are important not least from a health point of view."
"We have agreed a strong and clear stance on Ukraine and we have also given further proof of our commitment and action on trade, energy, climate change and development. But this meeting was much more than agreeing a piece of paper, a communiqué. Because the multitude of serious challenges we are all facing has once again demonstrated the importance of close cooperation between like-minded partners that share the values of freedom and democracy.
Here in Brussels, at this very important G7 Summit, we have reaffirmed with force and conviction our commitment to these values and to an international order based on the rule of law."
President Barroso ahead of the G7 Summit in Brussels
European Commission President Barroso expressed his expectations for the G7 Summit in Brussels at a joint press conference with European Council President Van Rompuy.
At the beginning he also conveyed a message of congratulations to the Polish people on the 25th anniversary of the first multi-party elections in Poland.
On democratic transitions:
"The Polish elections 25 years ago accelerated the democratic transitions in all Central and Eastern European countries and paved the way for the integration of those countries in our European project.
However some recent and really dramatic events have shown that this transition is not yet completed and that many on our Eastern borders still struggle to be able to take free choices as sovereign countries. And they also show that the European project and the ideas that underpin it remain more valid than ever."
On the Summit:
"This summit in Brussels will be, indeed, a special summit, firstly because it will take place in a G7 format, secondly because we will in particular address the situation in Ukraine, and finally because the summit will for the first time take place in Brussels.
The situation in Ukraine has once again demonstrated the importance of close cooperation between like-minded partners that share the values of freedom and democracy.
That's why we expect this summit to contribute decisively to promote these values and to reinforce a rules-based international order."
"(…) We need to coordinate the international support to Ukraine. In response to a growing need for international coordination, an EU led "international donor coordination platform" is being set up. If the Ukrainian government sets up a reform coordination mechanism soon, we stand ready to organise in Brussels a high level international donors coordination meeting in early July, and an international donors' conference before the end of the year.
I expect this summit to show unity so as to maximise the impact of our action. I am proud of the contribution our European Union has made so far, responding united and with determination and speed to the crisis in Ukraine. We are showing that the European Union can be a strong force for democracy, freedom, prosperity and the rule of law. This is what we are and the values we stand for. And this is why we are willing to work with our G7 partners for these goals to the benefit of all."
"This G7 summit should leave no doubt that international trade is one of the pillars of our growth strategy. We remain committed to keeping markets open and further liberalising global trade. This is clearly shown by our full engagement on the post-Bali programme and the negotiations on comprehensive Free Trade Agreements currently ongoing in particular with our non-European G7 partners. This summit should put its political clout behind a rapid conclusion of ongoing trade negotiations."
On the European economy:
"We are now meeting in a much better situation than last time we met in this kind of summit. Let's not forget that some time ago people around the world, many analysts were speaking about Greek exit or even implosion of Euro. Just today, the European Commission gave an opinion in favour of Lithuania joining the Euro area. So, not only is the euro area not disintegrating but we hope to have the 19th member of the Euro area on the 1st of January 2015."
On energy security:
"The Ukrainian crisis once again confirmed that it is in the interest of all G7 members to advance on the path towards a low carbon, competitive and energy secure future. We call on this G7 Summit to endorse the principles and immediate actions proposed by the G7 Energy ministers in Rome a month ago."
On South Stream:
"The Commission will also ensure that all energy infrastructure and projects in the European Union such as South Stream comply 100% with European rules on energy competition public procurements and so on. We have just launched an infringement procedure against Bulgaria which shows that we mean business. Other infringements procedures related to other countries will follow if some of the obstacles to the respect of our internal market are not removed meanwhile. The European Union needs to speak and act as one in context with its suppliers. Letting ourselves be divided is against the self interest of our countries and is also detrimental for the European internal market."
On the climate change:
"The fight against climate change goes hand in hand with energy security. 2015 will be a crucial year! And all G7 Leaders will have to show leadership and responsibility as we need global action now. This Summit is an opportunity to build momentum in the run-up to the UN Climate Conference in Paris in December next year. Key for our credibility is that all of us communicate by the first quarter of 2015 the national commitments that we intend to inscribe in the new climate agreement. This is what all major economies should do. Here in Brussels and beyond, the G7 should leave no doubts that we want a robust, durable, comprehensive, and binding agreement at UN conference in Paris in December 2015."
"Addressing global poverty and sustainable development has been and must remain a core concern of this summit. This is a matter of global solidarity and fairness. This G7 should confirm the development commitments. I expect the G7 notably to provide concrete support to resource-rich countries to build capacities in negotiating and enforcing contracts with extractive industries. Furthermore, the G7 should advocate an ambitious outcome of the discussions on a universal post-2015 agenda."
"Let me end on a more personal note: this will be my 10th meeting of this kind in my capacity as President of the European Commission. Looking back to the period between Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2005 and now, I am convinced that these meetings between like-minded partners, because of their informality, because of the more intimate nature of the talks, are indeed a very good way of deepening our common understanding of the global issues and have been, and I hope they will remain now the G7 format, a very important contribution to global fairness and freedom."
President Barroso met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe
Today, just ahead of the G7 summit in Brussels, President Barroso met with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzō Abe.
In follow-up to the EU-Japan Summit on 7th May, leaders discussed the ongoing negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the fifth round of Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) negotiations which has been scheduled for 23-25 June, and finally the enhanced cooperation on Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).
G7 summit, 4/5 June
On 4-5 June, a G7 summit will take place in Brussels, hosted by the European Union, represented by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy.
President Barroso said:
"This will be a special summit, firstly because it will take place in a G7 format, secondly because we will in particular address the situation in Ukraine and finally because the summit will for the first time take place in Brussels. Recent events have once again demonstrated the importance of close cooperation between like-minded partners that share the values of freedom and democracy. We expect this summit to contribute decisively to promote these values and to reinforce a rules-based international community."
On the agenda are the situation in Ukraine and the relations with Russia as well as other foreign policy topics, the global economy, trade, energy security, climate change and development.
The two-day meeting will begin at 8 p.m. on Wednesday 4 June and end on Thursday 5 June around 3 p.m.
During the morning of Wednesday 4 June, both Presidents have a joint meeting with the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzō Abe. A pre-summit press conference by President Barroso and President Van Rompuy is scheduled for 3 p.m. in the European Council and will be broadcast live by EBS. At 6:45 p.m. today, President Barroso meets the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Originally a G8 summit was scheduled to take place in Sochi (Russia) in early June under Russian presidency. At their meeting 24 March in The Hague, the G7 leaders (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission) decided to meet in Brussels on 4-5 June 2014 in the G7 format instead.
Message by President Barroso to the Polish people
During the press conference ahead of the G7 summit in Brussels, and on occasion of the 25th anniversary of the first multiparty elections in Poland, President Barroso congratulated the Polish people.
President Barroso said:
"Let me start my statement in this press conference by sending from Brussels my warm congratulations to the Polish people for the 25th anniversary of the first multiparty elections. Because of the G7 meeting I could not respond positively to the kind invitation of President Komorowski to attend these celebrations but I would like to associate myself and the European Commission with these very important celebrations. We see that when people are given a free choice they always prefer the side of democracy, freedom and rule of law. The Polish elections 25 years ago accelerated the democratic transitions in all Central and Eastern European countries and paved the way for the integration of those countries in our European project."
Results of the meeting between European Commission President Barroso and Prime Minister Harper of Canada in the margins of the G7 summit
In the evening of 4th June, just ahead of the start of the G7 summit in Brussels, President Barroso met Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Regarding the Canada-Europe Free Trade agreement, the leaders were pleased that the process to finalise the text, further to the Agreement in Principle announced last October, remains on track. The leaders noted the positive momentum of ongoing technical work on the final text of the agreement and agreed to stay regularly in touch as this phase of work concludes.
Looking ahead, the leaders affirmed their commitment to concluding their respective ratification and implementation processes as soon as possible to generate the benefits of increased trade, jobs, and economic growth.
Leaders also discussed the global economy, global peace and security issues, in particular the situation in Ukraine. Both Leaders re-iterated support for the democratically elected government of Ukraine, as well as Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
President Barroso presents Country-Specific Recommendations 2014
Today, the European Commission adopted economic policy recommendations to individual Member States, based on detailed analyses of each country's situation and providing guidance on how to boost growth, increase competitiveness and create jobs in 2014-2015.
At the press conference, presenting the country-specific recommendations 2014, President Barroso said:
"This is about helping Member States firmly out of the crisis and back to growth, with the country-specific recommendations acting as a compass showing the direction. The efforts and sacrifices made across Europe have started to pay off. Growth is picking up and - while still too modest - we will see a rise in employment from this year onwards. The fundamental challenge for the EU now is political: How do we keep up support for reform as the pressure of the crisis recedes? If politicians show leadership and summon the political will to see reform through – even if it is unpopular - we can deliver a stronger recovery and a better standard of living for everyone."