European Council: No military solution to Ukraine crisis, says President Barroso
President Barroso has insisted that that there can be no military solution to the crisis in Ukraine, and that time is quickly running out to reach a compromise.
"The contrast is too strong between the repeated commitments to political dialogue and the dramatic reality on the ground,” he told journalists after a summit of EU leaders in Brussels.
"There can be no military solution to this crisis. It's time for everyone to get down to the business of peace-making. It is not too late, but time is quickly running out.” he said.
The European Council meeting also heard from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who met with President Barroso separately ahead of the summit. President Barroso said leaders sent a clear message to President Poroshenko "that they stand behind the Ukrainian people and their right to decide their own future".
He explained that there was unity among EU leaders that if Russia continues to escalate the crisis, "it will come with a high cost".
The European Commission has been asked by the European Council to deliver further proposals for restrictive measures, and President Barroso assured EU leaders that the Commission would be “quick” to do so, as it had been before.
However, he insisted that sanctions or restrictive measures are not an end in themselves. "They are instruments to show to the Russian leadership that in the 21st century, the current behaviour is not acceptable, and that we urge them to come to reason, and to work constructively with the European Union and of course also with Ukraine,” he said. "Only with this path to peace can we credibly address the issues of concern.”
President Barroso also extended his congratulations to Donald Tusk and to Federica Mogherini on their appointments as future European Council President and High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy. "I know they are both deeply committed Europeans and I am sure that, together with Jean-Claude Juncker, they will make a great team and they will work actively on European priorities,” he said.
President Barroso also welcomed the fact that EU leaders will discuss employment, especially youth employment, at a conference in October in Italy, and assured his counterparts that the European Commission will ensure a smooth transition between this and the next Commission, presenting its orientations on economic matters this autumn. “Job creation, based on growth, is obviously at the centre of our priorities,” he said.
President Barroso has said it is not too late to find a political solution to the crisis in Ukraine and has called on all parties to avoid an escalation of the conflict.
Speaking following a meeting with President Poroshenko of Ukraine, President Barroso said that the situation was "serious" and "dramatic" and could reach a point of no return.
"We are in a very serious, I would say, dramatic situation. We may see a situation where we reach the point of no return. If the escalation of the conflict continues, this point of no return can come," he told journalists in Brussels on 30 August.
"I believe it's still not yet too late to find a political solution. I believe we should do everything we have in our capacity to avoid an escalation. That would certainly be detrimental to the interests, first of all, of Ukraine but certainly also of Russia and of Europe as a whole," he added.
President Barroso explained what he and the European Commission as a whole have been doing to help solve the conflict and find a political solution to the crisis. His meeting with President Poroshenko came the day after he had a "very long and frank" phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which he urged the Russian leader to "change course".
"No one's interest is served by new wars on our continent. No one's interest is served by confrontation. This is simply not the way that responsible, proud nations should behave in the 21st century," President Barroso said after the meeting, which came ahead of a summit of EU leaders in Brussels.
"Nobody is underestimating Russia’s concerns. We are ready to listen to Russia's concerns. But political differences need to be resolved through political means," he said.
Western Balkans: "Progress is tangible and real", says President Barroso
President Barroso attended on 28 August the Western Balkans summit in Berlin, preceded by a bilateral meeting with Chancellor Merkel. At a joint press conference with Chancellor Merkel and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, the President reiterated the EU's commitment to the European perspective of all Western Balkan countries and support for the accession process.
"Our common goal is clear: We want to see the Western Balkan countries to ultimately join the European Union. This is in our joint political, economic and geo-strategic interest", he said.
The President stressed also that "further accessions depend on our partners own speed of reforms. But they will happen over time. We don't want to leave any doubt about it."
Regional integration and cooperation are key to make accession faster and easier: "Politically they create stability, and practically they remove obstacles. They also improve the conditions for economic and social development by fostering a positive and predictable business environment. This is what matters to all citizens of the Western Balkans".
Heads of government and ministers from all Western Balkans countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia) were present at the summit. Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and France participated at leaders' and/or ministerial level.
President Barroso had a one-hour bilateral meeting with Chancellor Merkel and then participated in the leaders' segment of the summit. He notably introduced the discussion about regional cooperation and the EU dimension. A press conference took place at the Chancellery with Chancellor Merkel, President Barroso and the Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama who is the current Chair of the South East Europe Cooperation Process.
In the context of the summit, Commissioner Füle attended the meeting with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Vice President Oettinger a Western Balkans business meeting.
President Barroso in Vietnam
On 25 and 26 August, the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso paid an official visit to Vietnam. This was his second visit to the country.
The relationship between the EU and Vietnam have grown stronger and closer since President Barroso and Prime Minister Dung launched the negotiations for the EU–Vietnam Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) , during President Barroso’s first visit in 2007.
On 25 August, in Hanoi, President Barroso had a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Dung. Their last meeting was held in March, in The Hague, in the margins of the Nuclear Security Summit. They are expected to discuss the conclusion of the Free Trade Agreement negotiations, development cooperation and South China Sea/East Sea-related issues. The EU-ASEAN relations – in particular the ASEM Summit - will also be a key element of their discussions. These bilateral talks were followed by a joint press conference at 10:55 am Brussels time at which President Barroso said:
"Europe values its special partnership with Vietnam. Vietnam is not just an emerging economy and a promising market, it is also a close partner with strong historical bounds uniting us and a trusted supporter of EU presence in this part of the world."
"Today the EU is Vietnam's largest export market and second largest trade partner. Our trade relations come today to 27 billion euro (USD 36 billion) a year. And Europe's foreign direct investment in Vietnam amounted to € 656 million in 2013 (around USD 880 million).
But we can and must do more.
This is why in 2012 we have launched talks for a Free Trade Agreement. This will be the second pillar in which our Partnership will stand. This Free Trade Agreement will offer important new business opportunities and promote growth and employment in Vietnam and in Europe."
"The EU is today Vietnam's largest grant donor and I can confirm that we decided this month to significantly increase our assistance to Vietnam for the period 2014-2020 to 400 million euro."
The President also witnessed a joint signing ceremony of trade-related assistance grants. This is related to a EUR 2.3 million EU funding to six business associations and research institutes under the project "EU-MUTRAP", a successful example of trade-related assistance.
In the afternoon, President Barroso paid courtesy calls on the President Truong Tan Sang and the General-Secretary of the Communist Party Nguyen Phu Trong.
At 12.35 Brussels time, President Barroso was awarded an Honorary Doctorate at the National Economics University. In his acceptance speech, President Barroso said:
"I am grateful to receive this honorary doctorate not only from a leading university in Vietnam, but from one of the leading business schools in South East Asia;
Because, your university understands the importance of being forward thinking and outward looking, not least by working together with some of the best economic institutes in Europe, and taking advantage of the European Union's increased opportunities under our Erasmus + and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie programmes for students and researchers.
This is what international cooperation is all about."
On the 26 August, a wreath laying ceremony at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum closes the programme in Hanoi. Straight after President Barroso left for Ho Chi Minh City, the business heart of Vietnam. He met representatives of the EU business community. In the late afternoon he paid a short courtesy call on the Chair of Ho Chi Minh City's People's Committee Le Hoang Quan.
Phone call: President Barroso and President Poroshenko
President Barroso spoke with President Poroshenko on the phone yesterday and today to discuss the latest events in Ukraine.
President Barroso expressed his concern with the security situation and condemned the shelling of a convoy of internally displaced people.
The President of the European Commission urged an enquiry on this incident and recalled the need to protect civilian lives. He underlined the need to stop border hostilities and the flow of arms and personnel from Russia into Ukraine.
President Barroso also informed President Poroshenko that, following the invitation he received from both President Putin and President Poroshenko to attend the Customs Union - Ukraine Summit meeting in Minsk on 26th August, he has decided to ask High Representative/Vice-President Catherine Ashton, Vice-President Günther Oettinger responsible for energy and Commissioner for Trade Karel de Gucht, to represent the European Union at this event.
President Barroso, on his behalf and that of the President of the European Council, also invited President Poroshenko to visit Brussels in the near future.
Phone call on the situation in Ukraine
On Thursday, 14th of August, President Barroso and President Putin spoke on the phone.
As in the call on the day before with President Poroshenko and in the contacts earlier the same week with both the President of Russia and the President of Ukraine, the purpose was to discuss the situation in Ukraine and its overall context, including ways to de-escalate the current situation. It was agreed to hold consultations between the Presidents of Russia, Ukraine and the European Commission on the issues related with the implementation of the Association Agreement as well as on the supply of gas, in parallel with the efforts to stabilise the political and security situation. The concrete arrangements for these talks will be further discussed through the appropriate diplomatic channels.
Joint message of congratulations following the elections in Turkey
President Barroso and President Van Rompuy issued a statement today on the election of Recep Tayyip Erdogan as President of Turkey.
The statement reads:
"We congratulate you on your election as President of the Republic of Turkey. Turkey is a key partner for the European Union: a candidate country negotiating EU accession, a neighbour, an important trade partner and a foreign policy ally. We look forward to enhancing our cooperation in all these areas. As you rightly underlined yourself, we trust you will maintain the conciliatory role which your new position involves, and strive to encompass all communities, beliefs, sensitivities, opinions and lifestyles of the Turkish society. We also look forward to your continuing support to the current process aiming at a settlement of the Kurdish issue, in which you already invested valuable efforts and on your continuing support to reach a settlement in Cyprus."
Phone calls with President Poroshenko and President Putin
President Barroso made separate telephone calls today to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding the situation in Ukraine.
In both phone calls, President Barroso expressed the EU’s increasing concern regarding the humanitarian impact of the on-going conflict in eastern Ukraine, especially the civilian casualties. President Barroso called for the respect of international humanitarian law and for humanitarian organisations to be supported and facilitated in their present efforts to increase the assistance to all of the population in need.
Speaking with President Poroshenko, President Barroso emphasised the EU’s readiness to increase its support to the Ukrainian government-led humanitarian response efforts as well as to international humanitarian organisations. The President of the Commission welcomed President's Poroshenko willingness to seek international humanitarian assistance. In this vein President Barroso announced that the European Commission would take this week an emergency Decision on additional humanitarian support as a contribution to the UN-led international response plan.
President Barroso also stressed the importance of the on-going reform process in Ukraine in view of the expected provisional application of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.
Speaking with President Putin, President Barroso said that the EU would join in international efforts to assist people in need as a result of the conflict. President Barroso expressed concern at the gathering of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border, as well as the continuing flow of arms, equipment and militants from Russian territory, which run counter to efforts towards de-escalating the crisis. President Barroso warned against any unilateral military actions in Ukraine, under any pretext, including humanitarian. President Barroso also appealed on Russia to use its influence to ensure that civilian populations could safely and freely leave areas of conflict controlled by illegal armed groups.
In both phone conversations, President Barroso underlined the EU’s firm stance in upholding Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence and support for the implementation of the agreed peace plan.
Recalling that the EU’s restrictive measures against the Russian Federation were linked to the illegal annexation of Crimea and destabilisation of Ukraine, President Barroso underlined the EU’s regret at Russia’s announcement of measures targeting food and agricultural imports, for which there was no justification, reserving the EU’s right to take action as appropriate.
In this context the President of the Commission and the President of Russia agreed on the need to keep the channels of communication open on matters of relevance, namely on the economic and energy fields, as well as on the overall bilateral relations.
President Barroso offered once again to President Putin the possibility to work together in support of stabilising Ukraine, including through the national dialogue on constitutional reform and decentralisation.
President Barroso also addressed in both phone calls the active role of the Commission in helping Ukraine and the Russian Federation to identify solutions to questions raised in the on-going consultations on the impact of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, as well as regarding gas supply in forthcoming energy-related discussions.
Gaza: joint statement by Presidents Barroso and Van Rompuy
President Barroso and President Van Rompuy issued a statement in the name of the European Union on Sunday, 3 August.
"Gaza has been suffering from intolerable violence for more than three weeks already. We deplore the terrible loss of lives, including innocent women and children. Many have been injured, property and livelihoods have been destroyed. This needs to stop immediately. We strongly condemn continued rocket fire over Israel. It constitutes an unacceptable threat to its citizens. Israel has the right to live in peace in its recognised borders. Legitimate defence needs to maintain proportionality. We have all seen these cycles in the past and we know that there are limits regarding what military operations can achieve.
Only a negotiated solution, based on two States, living side by side and respectful of each other, will bring lasting peace. The bloodshed needs to stop. Today we join our voice to those of the Secretary General of the United Nations and other international leaders that are calling on both sides to put an end to hostilities. We are ready to support actively negotiations, confidence building measures, reconstruction and reconciliation efforts.
No more lives should be wasted. Palestinian and Israeli leaders need to exercise courage by putting an end to this senseless violence. They also need to exercise courage and wisdom to move beyond these cycles of violence and advance towards arrangements that will ensure peaceful and dignified coexistence, based on mutual respect."
President Barroso launches Partnership Agreement in Portugal
President Barroso and Commissioner Hahn are in Lisbon today to mark the launch of the Partnership Agreement in a meeting with Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho and members of the government.
The "Partnership Agreement" was adopted by the European Commission on the 30th of July, and sets down the strategy for the optimal use of European Structural and Investment Funds throughout the country. It paves the way for investing €21.46 billion in total Cohesion Policy funding over 2014-2020 (current prices, including European Territorial Cooperation funding and the allocation for the Youth Employment Initiative). Portugal also receives €4.06 billion for rural development and €392 million for fisheries and the maritime sector.
Commenting on the adoption, President Barroso said:
”The adoption of the 'Partnership Agreement' is vital to continue the support to Portugal's recovery and development. It is very much geared towards improving competitiveness, creating jobs and promoting social inclusion. It is now paramount to use the nearly €26 billion in an efficient and productive manner, directly benefiting Portuguese people.”
The EU investments will help tackle unemployment and boost competitiveness and economic growth through support to innovation, training and education in Portugal's cities, towns and rural areas. They will also promote entrepreneurship, fight social exclusion and help to develop an environmentally friendly and a resource-efficient economy.
Portugal is the 10th EU Member State to have adopted a Partnership Agreement.
G-7 Leaders Statement on Ukraine
G-7 leaders joined yesterday in expressing their grave concern about Russia’s continued actions to undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.
"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, join in expressing our grave concern about Russia’s continued actions to undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. We once again condemn Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, and actions to de-stabilise eastern Ukraine. Those actions are unacceptable and violate international law.
We condemn the tragic downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and the deaths of 298 innocent civilians. We demand a prompt, full, unimpeded and transparent international investigation. We call upon all sides to establish, maintain and fully respect a cease-fire at and around the crash site, as demanded by UN Security Council resolution 2166, so that the investigators can take up their work and to recover the remains of all victims and their personal possessions.
This terrible event should have marked a watershed in this conflict, causing Russia to suspend its support for illegal armed groups in Ukraine, secure its border with Ukraine, and stop the increasing flow of weapons, equipment and militants across the border in order to achieve rapid and tangible results in de-escalation.
Regrettably however, Russia has not changed course. This week, we have all announced additional coordinated sanctions on Russia, including sanctions on specific companies operating in key sectors of the Russian economy. We believe it is essential to demonstrate to the Russian leadership that it must stop its support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine and tangibly participate in creating the necessary conditions for the political process.
We remain convinced that there must be a political solution to the current conflict, which is causing rising numbers of civilian casualties. We call for a peaceful settlement of the crisis in Ukraine, and underline the need to implement President Poroshenko's peace plan without any further delay. To this end, we urge all parties to establish a swift, genuine and sustainable general cease-fire on the basis of the Berlin Declaration of 2 July with the aim of maintaining Ukraine's territorial integrity. We call upon Russia to use its influence with the separatist groups and ensure effective border control, including through OSCE observers. We support the OSCE and the Trilateral Contact Group as central players in creating the conditions for a ceasefire.
Russia still has the opportunity to choose the path of de-escalation, which would lead to the removal of these sanctions. If it does not do so, however, we remain ready to further intensify the costs of its adverse actions."
Statement on the agreed additional restrictive measures against Russia
President Barroso and President Van Rompuy issued a statement in the name of the European Union on Tuesday, 29 July.
"Today the European Union has agreed a package of significant additional restrictive measures targeting sectoral cooperation and exchanges with the Russian Federation. These decisions will limit access to EU capital markets for Russian State-owned financial institutions, impose an embargo on trade in arms, establish an export ban for dual use goods for military end users, and curtail Russian access to sensitive technologies particularly in the field of the oil sector.
This package reinforces the recently expanded listing of persons and entities undermining Ukrainian territorial integrity and sovereignty, including the so-called "cronies", the suspension of EIB and EBRD financing, the restriction of investment and trade with Crimea and Sevastopol and the reassessment of the Russia EU bilateral cooperation with a view to reducing the level of the cooperation.
The package responds to directions given by the European Council of 16 July. It is meant as a strong warning: illegal annexation of territory and deliberate destabilisation of a neighbouring sovereign country cannot be accepted in 21st century Europe. Furthermore, when the violence created spirals out of control and leads to the killing of almost 300 innocent civilians in their flight from the Netherlands to Malaysia, the situation requires urgent and determined response. The European Union will fulfil its obligations to protect and ensure the security of its citizens. And the European Union will stand by its neighbours and partners.
Since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, the European Union has been calling on the Russian leadership to work towards a peaceful resolution. We have done this collectively and bilaterally. We regret to say that despite some mixed messages coming from Moscow, and exchanges in the Normandy and other formats, there has been scarce delivery on commitments. Our call has been, in practice, left unheeded. Arms and fighters continue flowing into Ukraine from the Russian Federation. Strong Russian State sponsored nationalist propaganda continues supporting the illegal actions of armed separatists. We have witnessed with anger and frustration the delays in providing international access to the site of the air crash, the tampering with the remains of the plane, and the disrespectful handling of the deceased.
The Russian Federation and the European Union have important common interests. We will both benefit from open and frank dialogue, from increased cooperation and exchanges. But we cannot pursue this important positive agenda when Crimea is illegally annexed, when the Russian Federation supports armed revolt in Eastern Ukraine, when the violence unleashed kills innocent civilians.
The package of new restrictive measures agreed today by the European Union constitutes a powerful signal to the leaders of the Russian Federation: destabilising Ukraine, or any other Eastern European neighbouring State, will bring heavy costs to its economy. Russia will find itself increasingly isolated by its own actions. The European Union remains ready to reverse its decisions and reengage with Russia when it starts contributing actively and without ambiguities to finding a solution to the Ukrainian crisis."
Joint statement by President Barroso and President Van Rompuy on the crash of the airliner in Mali
"On behalf of the European Union, we wish to convey our deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the Air Algérie flight that crashed in Mali. We also wish to express our sympathy and solidarity to the governments of all affected nations, including to the French and Algerian Presidents."
Ukraine: European Commission adopted legislative proposals on restrictive measures
In its conclusions on Ukraine of 22 July, the Foreign Affairs Council requested "the Commission and the EEAS to finalise their preparatory work on possible targeted measures and to present proposals for taking action, including on access to capital markets, defence, dual use goods, and sensitive technologies, including in the energy sector." In line with this request, on 24 July the Commission presented to the Council a document outlining a number of measures that could be taken in the areas set out by the Council conclusions and the procedure that should be followed to adopt the relevant legal instrument, and the Council's Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) exchanged view on the basis of this preparatory work last Thursday and Friday. Given the broad agreement on the Commission's approach, the European Commission tabled the necessary legislative proposals in all areas identified by the Council on Friday, 25 July, and President Barroso issued the following statement:
"Having been mandated to prepare a package of restrictive measures in the light of Russia's role in destabilising and escalating the situation in Ukraine, the European Commission tabled today a legislative proposal building on the package of targeted measures presented to Member States by the Commission and the EEAS earlier this week.
The final decision now lies with the EU's Member States, but I believe that this is an effective, well-targeted and balanced package providing the flexibility to adjust our reaction to changes on the ground. I hope that Member States will agree on this package of restrictive measures next week.
I recall that these measures are not an end in themselves, but a means to achieve a negotiated and political solution to the crisis - which remains the EU's firm priority. I call on Russia to take decisive steps to stop the violence and genuinely engage in peace plan discussions."
It is now for Member States to agree on the Commission's proposals. The Council's Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) is due to go through the legislative proposals on Tuesday, 29 July.
Joint Statement on the crash of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17
The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, and the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, made a statement on Thursday's airliner crash in Ukraine.
"We are shocked by the crash of the Malaysian airliner in Ukraine and the tragic loss of so many lives. Citizens from many nationalities including from the European Union have been killed.
On behalf of the European Union, we wish to convey our deepest condolences to the Prime Ministers of the Netherlands, Malaysia, to the governments of all other affected nations, and to the families of the victims.
We call for an immediate and thorough investigation into the causes of the crash. The facts and responsibilities need to be established as quickly as possible. The European Union will continue to follow this issue very closely."
President Barroso on official visit in Brasil
President Barroso travels to Brazil from 17-21 July, where he will meet President Dilma Rousseff in Brasília to discuss EU-Brazil relations.
Afterwards, he will travel to Rio de Janeiro to meet Governor Luiz Fernando de Souza and Mayor Eduardo Paes.
President Barroso and President Rousseff will discuss the relations between the EU and Brazil, as well as the negotiations of the EU-Mercosur's Association Agreement. In February this year, at the 7th EU-Brazil Summit , the two Presidents committed to the reinforcement of the economic and commercial ties between the EU and Brazil. In Brasília, President Barroso will also be awarded the title of Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Brasília.
President Barroso will travel afterwards to Rio de Janeiro, where he will be received by Mayor Eduardo Paes and will meet Governor Luiz Fernando de Souza. He will also deliver the opening remarks in a seminar on the EU's and Brazil's role in the current international scene, organised by the Getúlio Vargas Foundation, and will participate in a lunch meeting with the business community.
President Barroso participates in the special meeting of the European Council
The European Council convened for a special meeting in the evening of Wednesday 16th July in Brussels.
The meeting started with an exchange of views with European Parliament President Schulz, followed by a working session on the situation in Ukraine and the Middle East.
President Barroso briefed the European Council on the matters the European Commission is following directly, namely the implementation of the Association Agreement with Ukraine – including the DCFTA – and also the energy trilateral talks and the energy situation, especially regarding the impact of the crisis between Russia and Ukraine on Europe.
On the last point, President Barroso said the following at the press conference following the European Council special meeting:
"Energy supply to Ukraine is a further area of concern. At this stage, Ukraine is meeting its current gas needs from domestic sources and alternative suppliers, and the Commission is also enabling gas reverse flows from EU Member States. We have made some proposals and now they are working.
We are also working with the parties, namely Ukraine and Russia, trying to bring them to the negotiating table to secure a deal on gas supplies. Vice-President of the Commission and Commissioner for Energy Mr Oettinger has held talks with the Russian Minister and is working to restart the negotiations as soon as possible.
The Commission has also launched a stress test exercise to check the resilience of our energy systems to different scenarios of partial or total disruption of gas supply to and via Ukraine. We will be ready to report on the findings of the exercise before the October European Council.
I have also repeated my message to all the Heads of State and Government of the European Union on the importance that the EU maintains its unity of approach. Our policy of strengthening Europe's energy security and reducing external dependency requires transparency and respect for our internal market rules."
The next special meeting of the European Council has been scheduled for 30th August.
Full speech RAPID
Video of President Barroso's intervention EBS
President Barroso meets the new Prime Minister of Guinea Bissau, Mr Simões Pereira
President Barroso received today the Prime Minister from Guinea Bissau, Domingos Simões Pereira. This visit was particularly important as it marks the return to normality of the relations between the EU and Guinea Bissau.
President Barroso and Prime Minister Simões Pereira discussed development and assistance support, the need for a Security Sector Reform and Fisheries. President Barroso said that the European Commission will support Guinea with an assistance package of 60 million euros.
During a press point with Prime Minister Simões, President Barroso highlighted the symbolism of the visit, stating it represents a turnaround for Guinea Bissau and a return to democratic and constitutional normality.
Prime Minister Simões Pereira took office on 4th July following the legislative and presidential elections of April/May 2014. These elections were a major step to the restoration of constitutional order in the country and towards political stability. At this respect, note that the Council suspended the measures limiting EU cooperation with Guinea-Bissau, following the holding of free and credible elections.
President Barroso meets the Secretary General of the Ibero-American General Secretariat, Ms Rebeca Grynspan
President Barroso met today the new Secretary General of the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB), Ms Rebeca Grynspan. They discussed a closer cooperation between the EU and the SEGIB and their converging priorities, based on the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2006.
During the meeting President Barroso talked about the EU's support to regional integration projects in Latin America. The President also recalled the EU's engagement with the region, the recent agreements with Colombia and Peru and the ones being negotiated with Mercosur.
The EU's development assistance will continue to support regional integration and economic and social development.
President Barroso and Ms Grynspan also discussed the reform process of the system of Ibero-American summits and its future objectives and challenges. The next EU-CELAC summit is scheduled to take place in Brussels on 10-11 June 2015.
Ms Grynspan was appointed in February this year and is the organisation's second Secretary-General after Mr Enrique Iglesias, who held the post for almost ten years.
President Barroso receives the Legion of Honour
The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, today received the insignia of Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor at the Elysée from the President of the French Republic, François Hollande.
The Order of the Legion of Honor is the highest French decoration and after more than two centuries after its creation by Napoleon Bonaparte, continues to be synonymous with a reward for talent, courage and dedication shown by the recipients of the Legion of Honor.
France thanks José Manuel Barroso for his work as head of the Presidency of the European Commission over the last 10 years and in particular its role in the management of recent crises in Europe and its work supporting European unity. During the ceremony, José Manuel Barroso said he was honored and "delighted" before adding that by this France reaffirmed "its deep commitment to the pursuit of European integration."
The President of the European Commission is on an official visit to France. Bilateral meetings scheduled with President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls, will focus in particular on the European Summit of 16 July.
Statement by President Barroso as a witness in the case brought to the General Court by Mr John Dalli
The President of the European Commission made a statement as a witness yesterday in the case brought to the General Court by Mr John Dalli.
Italian Presidency of the Council – visit of the College to Rome
On 3-4 July, the College of Commissioners is travelling to Rome for its traditional visit to the incoming Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
The priorities of the Italian Presidency and their implementation were discussed during working sessions of Commissioners and Italian ministers and a reception with the Italian President, Giorgio Napolitano, took place.
"We fully support the Italian Presidency, which has established a clear set of goals, that we very much welcome, namely the need for reform, both at home and in the European Union. And we need this new enthusiasm.
An enthusiasm that, for example, yesterday, in the Quirinale, I saw from President Napolitano. (…) And Italy, as a founding member, has this kind of passion for Europe. I saw it in the Prime Minister Renzi's speech some days ago in Strasbourg in the European Parliament and there was the same enthusiasm, the same passion.
What I mean by this is that this is not just a political declaration. It's a way of working. We need, at European level, to work together, the European institutions and the European governments. It's a complete mistake to think, as sometimes happens, that we can succeed with national politicians putting the blame in Brussels when things don't go right in their countries. It's a mistake. At the same time, it's also a mistake in Brussels or Strasbourg to think we can take decisions without taking into consideration the real constraints of political decision in our countries, how difficult it is today to respond to the challenges we have in Europe in terms of unemployment, the social urgency we have in so many of our countries.
I really welcome this commitment of the Prime Minister Matteo Renzi for these reforms. During our talks he told me about his plans he has for Italy, that are very much in line with the country-specific recommendations of the European Commission. But I want to highlight this: even if there was no European Commission, even if there was no European Union, I am sure Italy would have to make this kind of reforms. So it is not because the European Union is imposing some kind of things. That is a mistake. It is because we need, our countries need to become more competitive. In the 21st century globalisation, with the challenge of globalisation our countries need to become more competitive and for that they need to keep fiscal rigor. They need to promote this kind of reform that Prime Minister Renzi so courageously initiated. But also we need to make investments. Investment is really important for Europe. Without investment there will be of course no growth and without growth we'll have no jobs. So this is the response the European Commission is advocating.
We need a strong Italy at the centre of a strong European Union."
Already on 2 July, following a speech by Prime Minister Renzi in the European Parliament, President Barroso had said:
"In this Presidency – the 12th Presidency of Italy in the Union – and in this very important transition moment, it was very fitting that today you didn't speak so much about economy, knowing well how important we believe this is for your country and for Europe, but that you have put rightly the accent on values, reminding all of us that Europe is a community of values, and that we should, not to be arrogant about this, not to be arrogant about European civilisation, but be proud about what Europe has given to the world and about what Europe can still give to the world.
And this Presidency comes at a moment when a new Parliamentary term starts; a term that will be of critical importance to the future of the European Union; a term that will see the European Union move into its next phase of recovery; a transition moment that certainly builds on the progress we made – and we have made progress -, from stronger economic governance in the European Union and the Banking Union towards concrete growth, investment and social justice, as agreed last week by all the members of the European Council with the strategic priorities for the next five years.
The challenge is great, but the reforms which Italy is committed to at home and the reforms that Italy tries to bring now to the European Union show that the ambition is there for building a better Union."
Italy is holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU from 1 July to 31 December 2014.
Strasbourg: President Barroso presents his views on the June European Council, the outgoing Greek Presidency and on the incoming Italian Presidency
Speaking at the plenary session in Strasbourg, President Barroso debriefed the European Parliament on last week's European Council.
The President started by congratulating the new European Parliament, including Martin Schulz on his re-election as President, before speaking about the nomination process of the next European Commission and highlighting the European credentials and experience of Jean-Claude Juncker. The President underlined the importance of discussing and setting a strategic agenda for the EU in the years ahead, including on energy and climate.
On Ukraine, the President supported President Poroschenko's determination and commitment to de-escalate the crisis with his 15-point peace plan, but stressed that the ambition needed to be "shared by all sides" and that it needed backing up with action. Whilst understanding the decision by President Poroshenko to terminate the unilateral ceasefire, he called for a permanent halt of violence on all sides and for Russia to exercise fully its influence on the separatists to lay down their weapons. The President referred to the high level meeting to coordinate international assistance to Ukraine next week in Brussels. The Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova reflected Europe's support for its Eastern Partners. The President also thanked Prime Minister Samaras for the successful conclusion of the Hellenic Presidency.
President Barroso also delivered a speech on the incoming Italian Presidency of the Council, in the presence of Italian Prime Minister Renzi.
The President expressed his appreciation for the Prime Minister's clear commitment to take forward further reforms in Italy as well as in the EU. He also underlined the fundamental role of Italy in shaping the Union from the very beginning and underlined the need to work together, between Commission, Council, Parliament and the Member States, to ensure that the Union delivers what is required for our European citizens: jobs and growth.
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.