Commission presents framework to safeguard rule of law in EU Member States
Today, the Commission adopted a new framework for addressing systemic threats to the rule of law in EU Member States. It also presented its vision for the future of the EU's justice and home affairs policies.
Following experiences over the past years, it became clear that the EU's toolbox to deal with such threats had to be further refined, notably by complementing the possibilities of political persuasion, infringement procedures and the so-called "nuclear option" of Article 7 of the Treaty of the European Union .
President Barroso has announced a Commission initiative in this sense in his 2012 and 2013 State of the Union addresses. The new framework presented today by the Commission establishes an early warning tool allowing the Commission to enter into a dialogue with the Member State concerned to prevent the escalation of systemic threats to the rule of law
The new framework is based on the current EU Treaties and defines a three-stage process to identify, assess and remedy a systemic threat to the rule of law. It will be applied in the same way in all Member States and will operate on the basis of the same benchmarks as to what is considered a systemic threat to the rule of law. The Commission, having the legal and the moral authority in these cases as stated by President Barroso, plays a central role in this new framework. It can draw on the expertise of other EU institutions and international organisations.
President Barroso said: "The rule of law is one of the founding pillars of the European Union. This is what our Union is built upon. The European Commission has a crucial role in upholding the rule of law as the Guardian of the Treaties. I have systematically pointed to the need for a better framework which allows the Commission to intervene early and transparently in cases of serious and systemic threats to the rule of law in a Member State. Today, the Commission is delivering on this commitment making sure that, in future, and based on our recent past experience, we can prevent and effectively resolve rule of law crises in our Member States."
On the same day, the Commission presented its vision for the future of justice and home affairs policies, which will feed into the EU's strategic discussions on these areas in the months ahead.
President Barroso said: "We have come a long way in the last 15 years. With the Lisbon Treaty, the justice and home affairs policies are now central policies of the European Union. The Commission has responded effectively and delivered answers to pressing common challenges. Today we are providing our vision on the future of these policies."
Ukraine: President Barroso announces unilateral trade measures
The European Commission today adopted a set of trade provisions to support Ukraine, representing an economic benefit to Ukraine of around 500 million euros per year.
The European Commission adopted the first of the measures foreseen in the EUR 11 billion package of support to Ukraine the European Commission presented last week and the EU Heads of State and Government welcomed at their extraordinary meeting on Thursday, 6 March.
President Barroso announced the measure by saying:
"We have agreed a set of unilateral trade provisions that will allow Ukraine to benefit substantially from the advantages offered in the Deep and Comprehensive free Trade Area , DCFTA, and this even before the signature of the Association Agreement with Ukraine. This will represent an economic benefit to Ukraine of around 500 million euros per year."
This first concrete and tangible measure must now be adopted through ordinary legislative procedure by the European Council and Parliament, to which President Barroso said: "I strongly hope that the full legislative process can be concluded in time before the last Plenary of the European Parliament, so that the measure can be in force before June this year."
"This will of course not be the only measure of support to Ukraine. The Commission continues to work as a matter of the highest priority on the implementation of the Macro Financial Assistance package 1 billion euros – also part of the support package I presented last week. We will make proposals next week, concretely. They are now being prepared, proposals regarding financial assistance. […]
Let me recall that, as a matter of priority, the European Union has decided to sign the political chapters of the Association Agreement with Ukraine before 25 May, so before the elections. This agreement will seal the political association between the EU and Ukraine before the upcoming elections."
President Barroso finished his statement by saying:
"So once again the European Union stands by Ukraine. We will continue to work very hard to support the democratic choices of the Ukrainian people and to help guarantee Europe’s peace and stability."
President Barroso speaks at Innovation Convention 2014
Today, President Barroso spoke at the opening ceremony of the Innovation Convention 2014 (10-11/03/14), calling the event a "perfect embodiment of innovation." He reminded the audience that "Europe […] remains the largest knowledge-production house in the world.”
Speaking in Brussels, President Barroso said:
“The European Union produces almost a third of the world’s total science and technology production and we count almost twice as many science and technology graduates as the United States. Very often, we are unaware of these figures because in statistics across the world, Europe does not appear as a single entry. But in spite of all the difficulties – and I know we have many -, we are the biggest power house in terms of innovation and science in the world."
An essential part of the Innovation Union flagship initiative, the Convention provides a platform for debate that makes it easier for great ideas to be turned into products and services and contributes to the building of a research and innovation eco-system in Europe.
On occasion of the opening ceremony, President Barroso said:
"Innovation plays a vital role in our recovery and long term vitality. Our economic and social recovery requires innovation and competitiveness to create jobs and growth. Evidence shows that countries which invest in research and innovation have been the best equipped to get out of the economic crisis.
And that is why research and innovation are at the very heart of our Europe2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. We have already taken significant steps in the right direction with our flagship initiative on the Innovation Union, as well as concrete targets, such as investment in R&D equivalent to 3% of GDP, reducing the number of early school leavers and increasing the number of citizens with tertiary education, so that we can match our skills with our future economic needs."
President Barroso also reminded the audience that "innovation applies to all areas of our society, from agriculture to energy and to the new digital age; from health and sport to the environment, transport, space; from a new mode of producing to a new mode of consuming; and it can be applied by us all in the private and public sector."
He welcomed that Europe is improving its innovation performance, and referred to the most recent statistics from Eurostat on the European Union's Member States innovation growth performance. President Barroso also informed the audience about the significant budget increase for research and innovation under Horizon2020, with 80 billion Euros, making it 30% bigger than its predecessor budget.
President Barroso finished his speech by announcing:
"I believe we need to identify the long-term science, technology and innovation breakthroughs that will provide opportunities for Europe to remain a global leader and at the same time shape our society towards the future. So I have asked the Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Anne Glover and the Science and Technology Advisory Council (STAC) to prepare a report on foresight for next summer. Based on that report, we are planning a high-level conference on "The future of Europe is science" to be jointly organised by the Commission and the upcoming Italian Presidency of the Council in the autumn. We planning to organise it in or around Ispra, where the Joint Research Centre has its main laboratories."
On the same occasion, President Barroso awarded Saskia Biskup (Germany, first prize), Laura van 't Veer (The Netherlands, second prize) and Ana Maiques (Spain, third prize) with the EU Prize for Women Innovators 2014. This prize honours women who combine science with business sense to set up innovative enterprises. The contest is open to female innovators who have benefited from EU research and innovation programmes.
President Barroso: European Commission 'on the side of Ireland'
President Barroso has said that the Commission will continue to support Ireland following its successful exit from the EU/IMF financial assistance programme.
"The European Commission has always been on the side of Ireland, one could even say one of your best friends. During the EU/IMF programme, I personally made the case to other European leaders for lower interest rates and longer maturities on Ireland's loans. And I have always said that the commitments Euro area Member States made in June 2012 should be fully respected, not just in terms of the letter of the agreement but also in terms of the spirit. This is a message I am happy to repeat here tonight. The European Commission will continue to stand by Ireland now that you have exited the programme."
In a speech following his conferral with an honorary doctorate in law from University College Cork on 5 March, President Barroso praised Ireland's recovery efforts and said that the country has become an example for others. "Today Ireland's experience and expertise can directly benefit other European countries who are still working through their programmes. They are interested in the way you helped bring about an effective turnaround," he said. "The OECD is increasingly citing best practice examples drawn from the Irish economy. Ireland has returned to "normal" in EU terms and I really expect it to engage and to use its influence in Europe to help us shape the right policies for the post-crisis era."
President Barroso also used the occasion to note how solidarity and a commitment to reform have helped Europe to emerge from the crisis stronger. "Europe chose the right path – responding to the crisis by stepping up the structural reforms needed to get on in today's modern, global, digital and competitive world," he said. "And then when you see what is happening in Ukraine at the moment, you realise the powerful attraction of the European model. While we are very self-critical – and we need to be – millions outside our borders want what we take for granted, in terms of standards of living, freedom of speech, freedom to protest, the rule of law, free and fair elections," he added.
He said that tackling unemployment was a "matter of urgency for the sake of our future" and concluded by calling on European citizens and politicians to share the responsibility for making the EU a success.
"Europe is not something that happens despite the wishes of European people. No. Europe has to be built in partnership, with and for the Member States and European citizens," he said. "So whatever you think about Europe, speak up! Don't stay indifferent or silent. You can make a difference in Europe and contribute to driving change and building a brighter future. So use your vote in the May European Elections. Decide that you will influence your own destiny and not leave it to others to decide for you. This is your opportunity to get the Europe you want and deserve – so don’t miss it!"
President Barroso at the extraordinary meeting of EU Heads of State and Government on Ukraine
At the EU Heads of State and Government meeting on Ukraine, President Barroso presented the €11 billion support package with a number of concrete economic and financial measures to assist Ukraine which was proposed by the European Commission yesterday.
Entering the meeting, President Barroso said that the European Commission stands by a united and inclusive Ukraine and supports Prime Minister Yatsenyuk and his government in coping with the immense challenges ahead.
Read the remarks by President Barroso at the press conference with President Van Rompuy following the extraordinary meeting.
The support package for Ukraine [682 KB]
Ukraine: European Commission identifies package of support
The European Commission agreed today a package of support identifying a number of concrete measures to assist Ukraine economically and financially. These measures should be seen as the Commission's contribution to a European and international effort to support Ukraine's economic and political reforms, and will be presented to the EU Heads of State and Government ahead of their extraordinary meeting on Thursday 5 March.
"The most immediate priority for the EU is to contribute to a peaceful solution to the current crisis, in full respect of international law", said President Barroso. "In parallel, the international community should mobilise to help Ukraine stabilise its economic and financial situation. The European Commission is proposing today a package designed to assist a committed, inclusive and reforms oriented Government in rebuilding a stable and prosperous future for Ukraine. What we propose could bring overall support of at least €11 billion over the next couple of years from the EU budget and EU-based international financial institutions."
The package of support to Ukraine sets out the main concrete measures that the Commission is proposing for the short and medium term to help stabilise the economic and financial situation in Ukraine, assist with the transition and encourage political and economic reform.
This engagement constitutes both a response to help stabilise the country as well as to support the reform programme and further enhance ownership of the Ukrainian authorities. While some of these measures can be carried out quickly, others will require further planning and preparation. For many of them, the urgent and active support of the Council and European Parliament are necessary.
Underpinning this approach is the ambition to help Ukraine fulfil the aspirations which have been clearly demonstrated by citizens and civil society in recent weeks in the unprecedented events in Kiev and throughout the country.
Key elements of the package agreed today:
President Barroso attended interactive debate with citizens on their wishes for Europe's future
President Barroso took part in the interactive debate 'Your wish list for Europe', hosted by the European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, and featuring also European Parliament President Martin Schulz.
On 4 March, EU citizens were able to ask questions and outline expections on Europe's future: European Commission President Barroso and European Parliament President Martin Schulz both participated in an interactive debate with citizens, hosted by the European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly.
The debate, entitled 'Your wish list for Europe', was sparked by contributions from EU citizens who submitted their questions and comments to the participants using Twitter and the hashtag #EUwishlist. As many questions as possible were displayed for the speakers to answer.
Asked on the issue of transparency, President Barroso reminded the audience of two concrete Commission initiatives: the Transparency Registry set up by the Commission, and of the rights to access Commission documents. He said: "Contrary to popular belief, I must say the Commission is far ahead of most other, national institutions in this field. And I believe we have to play this leading role."
On smart regulation, he said: "I have said many times that the EU needs to be big on big things and smaller on smaller things." He told the audience of the 660 initiatives for simplification, the cut of administrative burden by 25% and the more than 5590 repealed legal acts under the programme for smart and better regulation since 2005. President Barroso said: "We no longer have the often ridiculed complex rules on fruit and vegetable standards."
President Barroso also answered two questions on legitimacy:
That democratic legitimacy that you are talking about, do you think that comes through the European Parliament or through the appointment of the President of the European Commission by the European Council?
Both. Because if we can call it democratic legitimacy when you have for instance an election of the American President, it is not a direct election of the American President. It can happen that a majority votes for a different President, as at least it happened once. Americans elect a college of electors and afterwards it is this college of electors that elects the President of the United States. I don't think anybody is going to say America is not a democracy.
[…] I insist, in Europe there is almost no direct election of any chief of executive, with the exception of the President of France. And that doesn't mean that France is more democratic than, let's say, Germany.
But when I asked if the democratic legitimacy comes from the European Council or the European Parliament and say both, in the national situations generally it's clearly the Parliament. Is it part of your wish list for Europe that that line of democracy legitimacy would be more clearly lodge in the European Parliament?
It's not just a wish list; it was I who proposed that. I was the first in a European institution to make a proposal to have as much as possible a direct election of the European Commission President through these elections. It was in my State of the Union speech in 2012, in the European Parliament. I said that I hoped that all political parties would present their candidates for election and that there will be an increase role of the EP to elect and support the new President of the Commission. It was my proposal. Last time my party was the only one to present one: I was a candidate to the elections presented by my party, and no other party presented a candidate. This time, because of some of us, like Martin Schulz, I took the initiative, as President of the Commission, of putting that idea forward. And last year the Commission presented a document saying exactly that against, I have to say, the position of many of our Member States. And this time this year, for this first time ever, with a new Treaty that gives more powers to the EP, we are going to have an election where all the most important parties have already presented or are in the process of presenting candidates to the European Parliamentary elections.
President Barroso on the situation in Ukraine
"We have already expressed our very serious concerns about the situation. The situation has not improved. We are, of course, working with all our Member States to have a common, a firm response to those developments. […]"
"Today, there will be a Foreign Affairs Council and, very soon, the Heads of States and Government of the European Union will also meet to have a common response. Many contacts have been taking place with the Ukrainian authorities and, also, with the Russian authorities, because we believe it is very important to show our commitment to the sovereignty of Ukraine.
At the same time we are now preparing a package of support to Ukraine. We are working with the IMF, and myself and the European Commission are preparing some options for supporting Ukraine. As we said, we keep our willingness to offer Ukraine the political association and economic integration through the association agreement, and also the free trade agreement. But there are some difficulties in that country to which we have to respond through emergency measures. So this is the point. To work in the economic field, as a matter of urgency, trying to articulate with our partners internationally to support that country but also politically to do everything that we can, to avoid the escalation, to avoid the lack of respect for the sovereignty of Ukraine. And I believe this is shared by all European countries, we will see this today when they meet at Foreign Affairs Ministerial level." (Soul for Europe conference, Berlin, 3/3/2014)
Statement by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton (01/03/2014)
President Barroso receives International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation Centennial Medal
Today, President Barroso was awarded the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation's "Centennial Medal" to thank him and the European Commission as a whole for continued efforts to fight anti-Semitism and to promote human rights.
This medal was created to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Swedish businessman and diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who during the Second World War saved the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews; the medal now honours eminent personalities for their commitment to the principles that have guided R. Wallenberg: the spirit of solidarity and civic courage.
During a brief ceremony at 12:30 at the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels, Eduardo Eurnekian, president of the IRWF, first paid tribute to the Belgian citizens who reached out to Jewish families during the Holocaust. He then pointed out that the Centennial Medal was awarded to President Barroso to thank him and the European Commission as a whole for continued efforts to fight anti-Semitism, xenophobia and racism and promote human rights.
Upon receiving the medal, President Barroso declared: "As the President of the European Commission, I want to express you my cogent commitment to constantly and vigorously oppose the forces of Anti-Semitism and any other forces that are against minorities or that do no respect values of Human dignity. This I will never tolerate, and I intend to battle unremittingly against those who feel that the future of Europe should be a place of less hope, less tolerance and less freedom."
His speech recalled the lifes and acts of Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes and Raoul Wallenberg and the President finished by stating: "One of the main lessons of our recent history is indeed not to forget the courage and hope which is inspired by those people that have also commitment to Humanity and that in Europe we are also fighting for peace. It was one of the reasons why the European Union received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. If I may say so, personally it was one of the greatest moments of my life, when representing the European Union I had the honour to be in Oslo to receive for the European Union that Nobel Prize, precisely recognizing that Europe and the European Union are some of the greatest constructions to keep peace. That is one of the reasons why I can't be pessimistic about the future and I continue to believe deeply in Europe."
New Narrative for Europe: Artists, intellectuals and scientists stand up for Europe
On Saturday 1 March, in the presence of President Barroso and Chancellor Merkel, artists, scientists and intellectuals unveiled the final declaration on the "New Narrative for Europe". It mobilises the cultural world and citizens for Europe andl outlines why Europe matters and why we have to fight for Europe and against nationalism and populism.
The declaration with the title "The Mind and Body of Europe " contains the following main messages:
- "As artists, intellectuals and scientists, and first and foremost as citizens, it is our responsibility to join the debate on the future of Europe, especially now, when so much is at stake. Confidence in Europe needs to be regained. In light of the current global trends, the values of human dignity and democracy must be reaffirmed.
- Populist and nationalist narratives must not prevail.
- The "Mind and Body of Europe" is our response to the call of the European Parliament and of the President of the European Commission to draft a new narrative for Europe for all citizens. This document is not a point of arrival. Rather it is a catalyst that we hope will trigger more contributions to the debate."
Thanking those who have contributed to the New Narrative for Europe, President Barroso said: "Your declaration unveiled today is your act of faith in Europe. It does not say that our Europe is perfect. But it says that Europe is our future."
In his speech, President Barroso also reminded of the walls that have been torn down and the bridges built to forge a new type of Union: "Today the "raison d'être" of our Union is also the same that was there sixty years ago: peace, democracy, to be freed from fears, mistrust and divisions, to share security, stability and prosperity. But why do we speak about a new narrative? […] I believe that while keeping those values that were at the origin of the European integration immediately after the war, there is a new narrative: Europe is indispensable for us as countries and citizens to be able to defend our interests and promote our values in this globalising world. […] The important thing is how can we react to it and how can we try shape it with our values. This is what matters."
He also appealed to the audience, saying "that together we are stronger to embrace the challenges of an ever-changing world while holding back some demons. Populism, xenophobia, extreme nationalism, all these demons we have been fighting are now pushing back."
Background: The declaration "The Mind and Body of Europe" defines Europe as a state of mind, as a moral and political responsibility shared by citizens across the continent. This project is rooted in its shared values of peace, freedom, democracy and rule of law. The Declaration reminds that multitudes of people are attracted to Europe by its common values and principles; they are encouraged by Europe’s achievements and solidarity. The second section of the Declaration recalls the Europe’s evolving narrative in the last century, materialized in three historical moments: the end of the war; the fall of the Iron Curtain and the burst of the bubble. The final section appeals on a new renaissance which meets cosmopolitanism. The text reminds that Europe as political body need sciences and arts; needs also its cultural heritage to develop a new cosmopolitanism. To achieve this Europe, states the Declaration needs brave political leaders, a committed civil society and citizens raising their voices to take part in the European debate to share their stories and concerns.
President Barroso attended the "A Soul for Europe" conference 2014
On 3 March, the "A Soul for Europe" conference brought together the Presidents of the European Commission and European Parliament with representatives of European political parties to discuss Europe's future with artists and intellectuals.
The “A Soul for Europe” conference took place in Berlin on 3 March 2014 to mark the 100th anniversary of Europe's plunging into war and the challenges faced and progress made towards a new Europe of cooperation and unity in diversity. It was also the 10th anniversary of the “A Soul for Europe” initiative and, in this European electoral year, therefore the occasion to further the initiative's goal of a cultural Europe of citizens.
President Barroso framed the event by saying:
"2014, is a year to remember how far we have come since then; to ask ourselves: 10 years on, how has enlargement affected Europe, and how has European integration affected the change in culture? 10 years on, how has the European Union evolved? And in those 10 years, what has culture done for Europe, and what has Europe done for culture?"
He continued by saying:
"Culture has a crucial role to play in hammering out [the] sense of common creation, Europe's idiosyncratic identity. It is an essential part of the foundations of the European project. It is an essential medium to shape our common future, to breathe life into political institutions, to give 'soul' to Europe."
President Barroso then recalled the Creative Europe programme, which is the new European funding programme (in force since 1 January 2014) for the cultural and creative sectors. This programme is designed to empower organisations and enterprises in the cultural, media and creative sector to look beyond borders, and to take a broader European and international perspective to increase access to the continent's rich cultural diversity.
On the same day, President Barroso conveyed his message of condolences on the death of French film director Alain Resnais ("Nuit et brouillard", "Hiroshima mon Amour", "L'Année dernière à Marienbad") which he called a very big loss for French and European culture.
President Barroso travels to Nigeria
On 26th and 27th of February 2014, President Barroso is travelling to Nigeria to attend the country's Centenary Celebrations in Abuja together with 30 world leaders.
President José Manuel Barroso is travelling to Nigeria where he will join some 30 world leaders at the country's Centenary Celebrations in Abuja. The event is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the unification of northern and southern Nigeria, creating Africa's most populous country and the seventh most populous country in the world.
President Barroso delivers a speech on "Human Security, Peace and Development – Agenda for 21st Century Africa" in a conference hosted by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, in which he told the audience:
“The European Union is Nigeria’s largest trading partner accounting for 35.4% of its exports, worth 82.4 billion euros and 30% of its imports, worth 43.4 billion euros. Nigeria is already the 4th supplier of oil to Europe and the 6th supplier of natural gas. Nigeria is also one of the most frequent destinations of European investment and businessmen in Africa. In addition we have a long and positive tradition of working with the government of Nigeria to increase economic growth and expand social equity. Over the past six years, European Development Funding came to nearly €700 million (or around 150 billion Naira) aimed in particular at helping to improve access to water and health services, supporting post-crisis reconciliation and security in the South and strengthened governance, making peace and security more sustainable.”
President Barroso and President Goodluck Jonathan also meet for bilateral talks: the EU and Nigeria cooperate closely to improve the socio-economic development of Nigeria. In 2009, this commitment was formalised in form of the “Nigeria EU Joint Way Forward ”, and discussions are ongoing between the European Union and the Government of Nigeria to finalise the priority sectors of cooperation for the 11th European development Fund.
President Barroso welcomes creation of new group to study EU's own resources
President Barroso has welcomed the creation of a new inter-institutional group that will look into new ways to finance the EU budget.
President Barroso has welcomed the creation of a new inter-institutional group that will look into new ways to finance the EU budget.
The High level Group on own resources was formally established in Strasbourg on 25 February by President Barroso, European Parliament President Martin Schulz and Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (representing the Council).
It will be chaired by former Italian Prime minister and EU Commissioner Mario Monti, with other members appointed by the three EU institutions.
"This is our joint aim with this group: to make revenue collection more simple, fairer, transparent and democratically accountable," President Barroso said.
"The Commission's proposals for the 2014-20 budget already included new and simpler ways of financing the EU's important work, including a financial transaction tax and a more modern VAT-based resource. We also suggested how to simplify the complicated rebate mechanisms for a number of Member States," he said. "I believe there is scope to further explore these ideas, and others, within the group's mandate."
The Group was set up on the back of an agreement last year between the institutions during the negotiations on the EU's multiannual financial framework (MFF 2014-20) and will issue a first assessment at the end of 2014. National parliaments will assess the outcome of the group's work in 2016, and the conclusions drawn from that assessment will determine whether the Commission will make a proposal to improve the own resources system.
EU-BRAZIL SUMMIT, 24 February 2014
On 24 February 2014, the 7th EU-Brazil Summit takes place in Brussels. The EU is represented by President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, as well as Vice-President of the European Commission Tajani. Brazil will be represented by President Dilma Rousseff, and she will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Figueiredo.
The relationship between the EU and Brazil has grown increasingly since the establishment of the Strategic Partnership in July 2007. Cooperation was intensified via high-level political exchanges on issues of common interest concerning economies, global challenges and foreign policy positions in the world.
President Barroso said: "Our strategic partnership with Brazil has come a long way since the 2007 Lisbon Summit. Since then we have been expanding our dialogue on political, economic and sectorial issues, such as education and research. Brazil is a like-minded partner with which we share many common interests. We want to build on these commonalities and cooperate more on how to handle climate change, define ways for sustainable development, respect human rights, and promote global trade and international security."
The 7th EU-Brazil Summit, held in Brussels on 24 February 2014, touches upon all topics relevant, including trade relations, the ongoing negotiations on the EU-Mercosur Association Agreement and co-operation on sectorial policies (amongst others competitiveness and investment, research, technology and innovation, transport and infrastructure). In this context President Barroso said: "The Summit is an important occasion to confirm our joint commitment to an ambitious and balanced EU-Mercosur agreement. Our bilateral economic relationship can be an important driver for growth and jobs on the two sides, and I look forward to confirm our agreement on the Action Plan on Competitiveness and Investment, whose idea I launched on the occasion of our previous Summit."
The second part of the meeting will be dedicated to foreign and security policy as well as global challenges, such as international cyber policy and internet governance, climate change, energy policies and sustainable development, drug trafficking and related crime.
President Barroso meets French, German and EU business leaders to discuss competitiveness
President Barroso has said the keys to boosting competitiveness are EU policies on industry, energy, trade and employment, coupled with continued reforms at national level.
President Barroso has said the keys to boosting competitiveness are EU policies on industry, energy, trade and employment, coupled with continued reforms at national level.
He made the comments ahead of a joint meeting with French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the European Roundtable of Industrialists (ERT) in Paris on 19 February.
President Barroso said that although the economic situation had improved in the past year, there was still a lot to do to bring down high unemployment in Europe.
"We have to do more for growth and jobs," President Barroso said, describing four "levers" at EU level that can help European companies compete on the world stage: industrial policy, climate and energy policy, trade policy and employment policy.
He also welcomed the outcome of a Franco-German ministerial meeting earlier in the day, particularly on the issue of digital technologies.
"When it comes to industrial policy, the Commission has launched the idea of an industrial renaissance in Europe, with concrete targets, which is also linked to our digital agenda," President Barroso said. "There is more and more integration between our digital capacity - everything that has to do with new technology, information and communications technology - and our industrial capacity."
He thanked President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel for their support for the EU's new 2030 climate and energy targets, which he said would "reduce costs to competitiveness" for businesses. He also said the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the EU's support for Youth Guarantees were important to boost growth and jobs.
He finished by saying that it was crucial for investor and consumer confidence to continue the reform effort at national level.
"Today we see in the international press how countries like Ireland and Portugal are becoming the new stars of the reform effort. But it is not only for countries that were or still are under assistance programmes to make the effort, it's for the entire EU," he said, welcoming recent reforms to improve competitiveness in France and Germany.
"Confidence is an essential variable for growth," President Barroso concluded. "I believe that with the engagement of governments and businesses, Europe can hope for a more ambitious recovery than previously thought."
President Barroso receives Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka
During a meeting today, President Barroso and Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka discussed the new Czech government and its agenda of reinforcing relations with the European Union. They also touched upon the upcoming European Council in March as well as the situation in Ukraine.
Following a meeting today with Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said: "I believe Prime Minister Sobotka's taking up office marks a new start. He and his government are pushing the reset button on many fronts, and of course in relation to the European Union. The Czech Republic is taking back its role as an active and constructive member of our European family."
During the meeting, the upcoming European Council in March was being discussed which the President called "important step in co-ordinating our economic policies", as well as the situation in Ukraine.
President Barroso said: "As you know, the situation is very difficult and remains extremely volatile. The immediate and urgent priority is to avoid further bloodshed and save human lives. This is also the message I conveyed yesterday to President Yanukovych. The authorities have a special responsibility in ensuring it and demonstrators also need to keep the peaceful nature of the protests. An immediate end to the violence and a meaningful dialogue, responding to democratic aspirations of the people of Ukraine is the only way to solve the political and institutional crisis. As you know, the European Union has been offering its sincere assistance to facilitate dialogue and de-escalate the situation. We have also reiterated our offer of political association and economic integration. But what we have to do now, the most immediate thing is to put an end to violence, violence to stop as soon as possible. We cannot forget the images of the last days and the tragic deaths and injuries of so many people. This is why the Foreign Affairs Council will meet today to discuss the adoption of targeted measures against those responsible for violence and use of excessive force. We will continue engaged and committed to a political, democratic and peaceful solution of the situation in Ukraine together with our international partners.
And I am happy to see that there is now a broad consensus among our Member States in the way to deal with this issue. Just yesterday during a meeting with important delegation of business leaders, I spoke about these matters with President Hollande of France and Chancellor Merkel of Germany and, in fact, I have understood how deep is also their commitment to find a peaceful solution and today in the meeting with Prime Minister Sobotka, I have seen the same concerns and determination."
Statement by President Barroso on Ukraine
"It was with shock and utter dismay that we have been watching developments over the last 24 hours in Ukraine. There are no circumstances that can legitimise or justify such scenes. We extend our deepest condolences to the victims and their families." Read the full statement.
"It was with shock and utter dismay that we have been watching developments over the last 24 hours in Ukraine. There are no circumstances that can legitimise or justify such scenes. We extend our deepest condolences to the victims and their families. We condemn in the strongest terms the use of violence as a way to solve a political and institutional crisis. It is the political leadership of the country that has a responsibility to ensure the necessary protection of fundamental rights and freedoms. We call on all sides to immediately put an end to the violence and engage into a meaningful dialogue, responding to the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people.
The EU has been offering its sincere assistance to facilitate political dialogue between the sides and de-escalate the situation. We continue to believe that constitutional reform, formation of a new inclusive government and creating conditions for democratic elections constitute the only way-out of this deep and long-lasting political crisis. We have made it clear we stand ready to support Ukraine on this road of reforms, towards democracy, stability and prosperity. We have made it clear that our offer of political association and economic integration remains on the table, and does not constitute the final goal in our cooperation.
Yet, we have also made it clear that the EU will respond to any deterioration on the ground. We therefore expect that targeted measures against those responsible for violence and use of excessive force can be agreed by our Member States as a matter of urgency, as proposed by the High Representative / Vice President."
President Barroso meets with leaders of the American Jewish Committee (AJC)
Today President Barroso meets with the leaders of the American Jewish Committee (ACJ) to discuss EU-Israel bilateral relations.
Established in 1906, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) is one of the oldest Jewish advocacy organizations in the United States, and established an office in Brussels in 2004.
This meeting takes place just before the 10th anniversary of this "Transatlantic Institute" in Brussels, which aims "to strengthen the transatlantic bond and foster dialogue between the US and the EU on issues of mutual concern in the fields of global security, Middle East peace, and human rights."
During this courtesy visit, President Barroso and his visitors are discussing EU-Israel bilateral relations in general, as well as the mutual commitment to fighting anti-Semitism in all its forms.
President Barroso at the ESPAS Conference: On analysing global trends and their implications for the European Union
Today, President Barroso participated in an 'In Conversation' session at the European Strategy and Policy Analysis System conference (ESPAS).
Under the title "Global Trends 2030: Key Challenges Ahead for the European Union", the European Strategy and Policy Analysis System (ESPAS) has organised a two-day conference on 17 and 18 February 2014 in Brussels devoted to some of the key questions Europe could address in the coming years. The conference focuses on the future of the European economy, on Europe's response to resource scarcity and Europe's role in an increasingly polycentric world.
President Barroso participated this morning in one-hour 'In Conversation' session of the conference, moderated by John Peet, the Europe Editor of the Economist. He congratulated the organisers and said "I particularly appreciate the intensive co-operation that has developed among the participating organisations in the ESPAS project. Sharing insights and diagnosing challenges across the institutions is something the Union needs to do more of in the years to come. This will contribute to shaping a common strategic basis across the European Union institutions as a catalyst for a more effective policy making process."
Conference Programme available online.
President Barroso participates in The Andrew Marr Show
On 16th February 2014, President Barroso participated in the BBC's The Andrew Marr Show.
On 16th February 2014, President Barroso participated in the BBC's The Andrew Marr Show, to answer a series of questions which have been dominating the British public sphere.
In answer to a question on the possibility of renegotiating the free movement of people, President Barroso answered: "We have to make a clear distinction. One thing is freedom of movement - I don't think it is possible to renegotiate. It's a fundamental principle of the internal market. We have an internal market based on freedom of movement, goods, services, capital and people. The British people, the British companies, have unrestricted access to the internal market. So I don't think it's possible. But to fight against abuse of the freedom of movement, this is certainly possible. In fact we have already now reinforced the rules, so we are tough against abuse, the so called social tourism. That is a legitimate concern that we can address, but without putting in question – and there we have to be very firm – the extremely important principle as freedom of movement, that, by the way, is as important for Britain as the internal market is."
On an eventual British referendum pushing for a change of the EU treaties: "The reforms of the treaties are extremely difficult in the EU, because they require unanimity. So any point that Britain wants to make for a reform of the treaty requires the other 27 countries – they are sovereign countries as well – to accept. And by the same way, any reforms the others want to make require also Britain to accept. I think if there is goodwill, if there is intelligence on all sides, it is possible, provided there is not an attempt to put in question the basic principles of our union and the integrity of our union. Because the challenge is precisely that one: we need to have a deepening of the internal market – and from that point of view I have to say that the British government and Prime Minister Cameron himself they have been very supportive, because they understand perfectly well that is also in the interest of Britain, and indeed in the interest of the world to have financial stability. But at the same time, to deepen the euro area, we should keep the integrity of the single market so that British citizens and companies continue to have access to the internal market, which represents, according to the estimates of the British government, 90 billion pounds per year for the British economy. So it's extremely important not to put that at risk."
President Barroso discusses Moldova with President Băsescu of Romania
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso met today with the Romanian President Traian Băsescu. The main topic of their meeting was Moldova, in particular the EU's commitment to sign the Association Agreement with Moldova.
"Last November, at the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit, the commitment was made to sign the Association Agreement with Moldova as soon as possible (…). This is a very important signal we are sending. The Agreement will be a real breakthrough in terms of Moldova's European path. Together with European reforms, it will strengthen the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova", President Barroso said at the press point with President Băsescu.
The two Presidents also talked about Romania's economic situation. "I made clear to President Băsescu that the Commission remains strongly committed to supporting the necessary reforms in Romania through – amongst others – the new Balance of Payments programme and the Country-specific recommendations", the President stressed.
The progress still to be made by Romania regarding the independence of the judiciary and the implementation of anti-corruption measures, as highlighted in the Commission's latest Cooperation and verification mechanism report, were also discussed.
President Barroso also commented on the free movement of citizens: "You cannot have a single market without freedom of movement", he added. "Of course, we will work hard with Member States to tackle abuse, but – and I say this very clearly – the core principle of free movement of citizens must not be called into question".
President Barroso speaks at the London School of Economics
On the 14th of February 2014, President Barroso held a speech at the London School of Economics about "Reforming Europe in a changing world".
During a speech held on the 14th of February 2014 at the London School of Economics, President Barroso touched upon European integration, better regulation, and issues like trade and the free movement of people. He reminded the audience that "European integration has been and remains one of our best tools to manage and benefit from globalisation". The speech, entitled "Reforming Europe in a changing world", stressed the importance of debate as the President explained that "Flexibility is necessary. That does not mean we should move to a Europe à la carte, nor would it be right to put into question our shared values and principles". President Barroso also addressed the so-called "British question" and said: "The European Union would not have become what it is today if it weren't for British politicians and entrepreneurs, British thinkers and British ideas. Without the UK, Europe would be less reform-driven, less open, and less international. Less effective as a tool for managing and benefitting from globalisation. For a country so open to the world, it's a paradox that the UK remains so torn on Europe". He continued by saying that "The European Union is not some diktat forced upon Member States. It is created by Member States to work with and for them and promote our shared European interest at home and in dealing with the rest of the world. The UK, which is very good at selling its views and promoting its interests in the European Union, is a lot stronger as a result of it", and finished by stating: "When it comes to the British question […] the British people can decide for themselves. My very personal, very strong conviction is that the EU is better off with the UK, and the UK is better off in the European Union".
President Barroso and Prime Minister Rutte discuss EU priorities
President Barroso has congratulated Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his government for helping to steer the Netherlands and Europe through the crisis, with both agreeing that EU member states should keep up the reform momentum.
President Barroso has congratulated Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his government for helping to steer the Netherlands and Europe through the crisis, with both agreeing that EU member states should keep up the reform momentum.
During a meeting at the European Commission in Brussels on 13 February, the two leaders also discussed the division of competences between the EU and its member states, and how EU leaders should engage with citizens ahead of the upcoming European Parliament elections.
"I commended Prime Minister Rutte and his coalition for the central part they played in steering the Dutch economy through the worst of this crisis" President Barroso told the gathered press on 13 February, following his meeting with Prime Minister Rutte. "A very open and dynamic economy at the heart of the EU and its internal market such as the Netherlands is in a good position to benefit from the pick-up that is now underway," he added.
The two leaders agreed that the best way to strengthen the recovery is to keep up the reform momentum. "To boost growth and bring down high unemployment, Mark Rutte and I agreed that we must keep doing everything we can to maintain sound public finances and make our economies fitter – that is, reforms for increased competitiveness," President Barroso said, congratulating Mr Rutte for the important reforms already agreed in The Netherlands.
President Barroso said that the priority at EU level was to agree on a Single Resolution Mechanism for banks before the European Parliament elections in May. "The Netherlands has consistently supported deeper integration in the euro area, and the Banking Union in particular, for which I am very grateful," he said.
With the upcoming elections in mind, President Barroso urged national politicians to "leave their comfort zones" and be honest with citizens about the benefits of the EU. "I think we must explain to citizens why Member States have entrusted Europe with certain tasks and competences, and how we are working together to make the European Union more efficient – which is, of course, in all of our interests," President Barroso said. "We have to be honest, we cannot now undo the European project," he added. "What we have to do is to review the legislation in a way that makes it lighter, cheaper and, of course, more business- and citizen-friendly," he said, adding that this would be a "joint effort" between the EU and member states. "Making our Union better is not something that only happens in Brussels."
President Barroso said that there was "a lot still to achieve" before the elections, and thanked Prime Minister Rutte for his "excellent cooperation and his commitment to ensuring the Netherlands continues to play its rightful role at the heart of Europe".
President Barroso hails the success of the Tunisian constitutional project
Today, President Barroso received the President of the National Assembly of Tunisia, Mr. Ben Jaafar. They discussed the democratic transition in Tunisia and relations between the EU and Tunisia.
The visit of President Jaafar to Brussels followed the adoption of a new Tunisian Constitution and appointment of a new government.
President Barroso took this opportunity to hail the success of the constitutional project, and in particular its inclusive nature. He also encouraged the continuing efforts towards democratic transition as well as the progress made on the macro-economic, social and security strategies.
The EU supports Tunisia through macro-financial assistance and proposals for deepening relations between the EU and the country. In terms of trade, the establishment of a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with Tunisia remains the main objective of the EU.
Meeting with WTO Director-General Azevêdo
European Commission President Barroso met WTO Director-General Azevêdo to discuss trade matters.
After the meeting, President Barroso emphasized the EU's strong commitment to the multilateral trading system. "The European Commission made a very important contribution to the successful WTO ministerial in Bali and I congratulated Ambassador Azevêdo on the decisive role he played in brokering that agreement.", said President Barroso. "The expansion of trade opportunities remains one of the main sources of global growth. That is why trade is an integral part of the EU's agenda for bolstering economic growth and creating jobs."
President Barroso and Ambassador Azevêdo also exchanged views on trade issues in the context of the G20, and on the Free Trade Agreements the EU is currently negotiating.