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.
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.
Ahead of the European Council: Statement by President Barroso
One day ahead of the start of the European Council, which will take place in Brussels on 26. and 27. June, President Barroso made a declaration.
"The European Council will discuss the strategic priorities of the EU for the years to come. I strongly welcome this discussion as all three institutions – Member States, the European Council, the European Parliament and the Commission should have a common understanding of the priorities ahead – namely on the imperative of growth and jobs. I believe that the text that is currently being discussed goes in the right direction – it confirms the approach the Commission has taken in the last years. What we need is to keep that agenda, the agenda for growth and jobs, but with stronger implementation and stronger ownership at all levels of the European Union, from the European institutions to our countries."
President Barroso then mentioned the Association Agreements with Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, when he continued:
"The main issue I wish to mention today is a subject of huge strategic importance and something the Commission has worked on tirelessly in recent years. This Friday we will sign Association Agreements with Georgia and the Republic of Moldova and complete the signature process with Ukraine, each providing for a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area.
I do not hesitate to call these agreements historic. Historic for those countries, that's their historic objective, but also historic for Europe, what this can mean for the whole of Europe."
President Barroso stressed in this context:
"It is also important to recall once more that these Agreements are for something, not against anyone. We are not seeking an exclusive relationship with these three partners. We believe in open societies and open economies.
But at the agenda of the European Council will also have Russia's reaction to these events, in particular in Ukraine. A lot of effort in the last days and hours was put in supporting President Poroshenko's 15 point peace plan. I spoke with him again on the phone this Monday to praise and encourage his efforts and he conveyed to me a mixed picture of direct talks with Russia but at the same time continuing unrest in the East of Ukraine.
Yesterday President Putin announced he would ask the upper house of the Parliament to repeal a mandate for sending troops to Ukraine. We certainly welcome this step which we had been asking for a long time. In my phone call conversation with him on the 13th that was in fact one of the points we spoke about. But more concrete measures to de-escalate are needed. Failure to act will entail additional measures as the European Council has mentioned before.”
On a different note, President Barroso announced the successor of Vice-President Rehn, Jyrki Katainen and stated:
"I decided to attribute to Jyrki Katainen the responsibilities so far performed by Olli Rehn. On this occasion, I want also to pay my tribute and a very sincere word of thanks to Vice-President Rehn and all the Commissioners that will now leave the Commission because they will join the European Parliament. I want to thank them for their dedication for their competences and for the extraordinary way in which they have performed their duties as members of the Commission."
President Barroso attends Visegrád group summit in Budapest
President Barroso and Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn were in Hungary to attend the summit of the Prime ministers of the V4 countries: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.
At the meeting, President Barroso said:
"We believe that all countries of Europe, big or small, rich or less rich, central or periphery, old or new Member States, all have exactly the same dignity; the principle of equity should be a sacred one in Europe; and part of our commitment was to show to our new Member States that they were active, proud members of our Union."
"Collectively our societies and specially these new Member countries and our economies have made significant progress since accession.” – he said. “Taking a medium to long term perspective, I really believe that there are reasons to be optimistic, in Hungary, in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as well as across the whole of the European Union".
Referring to the current challenges, he stressed that now “we must ensure that the progress we are making is felt by citizens across Europe, in their pockets, in their daily life, so that there are better jobs, better working conditions, and better living standards. This is for me also the main message to take from the European elections, not to engage in fundamental debates about the institutions. What our citizens want is growth and jobs. And what they want is to see is concrete results. That's why I think we should collectively, at European level, the Governments but also European institutions, focus on that. This is the message we have been conveying, and I will be conveying once again to the European Council, later this week.”
The title of the meeting was “Visegrád Group: The Growth Engine of Europe”.
The Visegrád countries’ meeting aims at exchanging views on how best to use European Structural and Investment funds under 2014-2020 period.
The participants also discussed the current EU agenda ahead of the June European Council.
This session marked the conclusion of the Hungarian Presidency of the V4 group and the handover to Slovakia.
President Barroso also met bilaterally with Prime Minister Orbán.
President Barroso supports Nestlé’s employment initiative in Lisbon
President Barroso was present as Nestlé Europe CEO Laurent Freixe signed up to the European Alliance for Apprenticeships.
Prime Minister of Portugal Pedro Passos Coelho and Deputy Prime Minister of Portugal Paulo Portas were also present at the event, where President Barroso welcomed Nestlé and its business partner's commitment to create 500 job opportunities and 8000 traineeships in Portugal.
Nestlé has also announced the creation of 20 million new jobs and traineeships in the European Union. "And it is precisely in this context that I really want to welcome this initiative. The fact that there is today not only a commitment at the highest level from political leaders, the European institutions together with our governments, but that many European companies, and also transnational companies, have shown their commitment to corporate social responsibility and they are indeed launching initiatives like this one", the President said.
The European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA), jointly coordinated by DG Education and Culture and DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, aims to bring together public authorities, businesses, social partners, vocational education and training providers, youth representatives, and other key actors in order to promote apprenticeship schemes and initiatives across Europe. There are three strands of action: reform of apprenticeship systems; promote the benefits of apprenticeships; and smart use of funding and resources.
Although managed by the European Commission, the success of the initiative lies with the commitment of its partners, notably through the network of ambassadors and pledges.
Nestlé is building on the success of its “Nestlé Needs YOUth” employment initiative - designed to help tackle youth unemployment in Europe - by creating a new scheme with its business partners called “Alliance for YOUth”. The “Alliance for YOUth” will help to mobilise companies who are determined to play a positive role in getting the young people of Europe into work.
President Barroso visits Denmark
During his visit to Denmark, President Barroso met Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt for a working lunch and opened Europe's largest science conference, the EuroScience Open Forum.
President Barroso and Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt exchanged views ahead of the European Council on 26-27 June, including on economic matters and the situation in Ukraine.
During a press doorstep following the meeting, both leaders confirmed a very large convergence of views.
President Barroso emphasised the improved economic situation in the European Union and praised Denmark's performance in terms of economic reforms and stabilising its public finances, which allowed it to exit the Excessive Deficit Procedure. He also praised Denmark and the Prime Minister's continued commitment to further reforms that are important for competitiveness and serve to make Europe fit for globalisation.
The President reiterated that the situation in Ukraine remains a source of great concern. He expressed his expectation that the cease-fire will be respected and that the logic of confrontation can be replaced by a logic of cooperation and dialogue.
When asked about the possible EU perspectives of the Prime Minister, President Barroso refrained from participating in any speculations. He praised her European commitment and reform orientation and expressed his personal view that Ms. Thorning-Schmidt has been and wants to remain a very good Prime Minister of Denmark.
In the afternoon, President Barroso participated in the Opening of Europe's leading science event, the EuroScience Open Forum, held this year in Copenhagen. With reference to the conference theme 'Building bridges', President Barroso in his speech showed his conviction that science is Europe's future and called for five "bridges" to be built:
He also highlighted the fact that the EU's new Research Programme Horizon 2020 benefits of a 30% increase between 2014-2020 despite budgetary constraints and called on media to communicate the benefits and progress made thanks to science, research and innovation. He also recognised that there are some legitimate concerns and called for a rational debate based on dialogue, transparency and engagement to tackle them.
President Barroso meets Baltic Prime Ministers in Tallinn
On Saturday 21 June, President Barroso participated in a meeting with the Prime Ministers of the three Baltic States, held in Estonia.
At the press point following their meeting, President Barroso said:
"We are meeting just one day after the adoption by the European Commission of the partnership agreements between the Commission and the governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The quick adoption of these agreements is the result of the excellent cooperation the European Commission has had with the three respective countries. It is a pleasure for me to thank once again the Prime ministers and to congratulate them for this achievement."
"The agreements open up for European structural and investment funding for the 2014-2020 period. The strategies now laid down by the three Baltic States are key for the optimal use of European Structural and Investment Funds for smart and sustainable growth. They link the new approach of the European cohesion policy and our Europe 2020 priorities. These European investments will help to boost growth and create lasting jobs through support to innovation, training and education as well as a low carbon, resource-efficient economy."
President Barroso meets with Mr. Mehdi Jomaa, Prime Minister of Tunisia
The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, met with Mr. Mehdi Jomaa, Prime Minister of Tunisia, on 20 June 2014.
President Barroso welcomed the progress of the Tunisian transition and inclusive nature of the national dialogue which led to the adoption of the Constitution, and referred to the Privileged Partnership between Tunisia and the EU as - "an ambitious and comprehensive road map to support Tunisia in its democratic transition and economic and social development."
Important socio-economic and security challenges facing Tunisia were also addressed by President Barroso and Prime Minister Jomaa. The Tunisian government’s initiatives for investments and reforms and the essential role of civil society and social partners in the success of the transition were highlighted.
In light of the recent democratic developments, financial cooperation with Tunisia should be higher than in the previous period. Thanks to its efforts to reform, Tunisia is the first recipient of the SPRING program (€155 million to €540 million for neighboring countries in the South). Tunisia will be the first recipient of the Umbrella program in 2014 (€50 million out of a total of € 100 million for neighboring countries in the South). For 2014, the Commission proposed a total allocation of € 200 million.
REFIT – Commission making EU law lighter, simpler and less costly
The Commission is stepping up the momentum of smart regulation by presenting the state of play and new initiatives under its Regulatory Fitness and Performance programme (REFIT).
President Barroso said:
"The Commission is extending its smart regulation agenda. REFIT is important for economic growth and jobs in Europe. We want to facilitate the lives of our citizens and businesses by focusing EU law on those issues that are best dealt with at European level, while making it lighter, simpler and less costly. We are making good progress. But results do not come over night. Success demands continued efforts, clear political priorities and ownership by all EU institutions and in particular the Member States. It is crucially important to continue this work in the next legislature."
The European Commission is stepping up the momentum of smart regulation by presenting a number of new initiatives for simplification, withdrawals of pending proposals and repeals of existing legislation (for details and examples please visit http://www.ec.europa.eu/refit).
REFIT is a rolling programme putting regulatory fitness in the spotlight. The new initiatives are set to become part of the continuous effort by the EU institutions, Member States and stakeholders to make EU legislation "fit for purpose".
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President Barroso awarded in Santander
President Barroso is today in Santander to deliver a key note speech at the opening seminar for the summer season of the International University Menendez Pelayo.
The speech on "Europe leaving the crisis behind” was followed by a ceremony where the President received an award of the International University Menéndez Pelayo.
The seminar was organised by the University and by the Associacion de Periodistas de Información Económica (APIE).
“Europe leaving the crisis behind” seminar aims at analising how the EU can rebuild its position in the global economy after more than five years of crisis.
President Barroso: Phone call with President Poroshenko
President Barroso made the following statement after a phone call with the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko:
“I called today President Poroshenko to discuss the situation in Ukraine, just before meeting the President. I welcomed his peace initiative and direct talks with Russia, the fact that now President Poroshenko and President Putin are speaking directly is a positive step forward. At the same time President Poroshenko conveyed to me his extreme concern with the ongoing armed unrest in Eastern Ukraine and also today the incident with Russian tanks that according to the Ukrainian authorities have crossed into Ukrainian territory.
The European Union has stated several times and I want to repeat it today that it is very important that Russia ceases any kind of military actions in this area.
We believe that illegal armed groups need to disarm and we call on Russia to withdraw the authorisation for use of force in Ukraine.
So once again, I make an appeal to Russia to engage constructively with Ukraine and to give concrete steps and clear evidence of de-escalating efforts.
And coming back to the agreements with Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia that we are going to sign in Brussels in June 27, I want to reiterate our willingness, as European Union, to pursue talks with Russia, to discuss the concrete implementation of these agreements, in case there are any concerns on the Russian side. Of course we have to respect the content of these agreements, what was already decided by the governments of these countries, but if there are some concerns, if there are technical issues that the Russian authorities want to clarify, we are ready for it.
So our message, as European Union, is a message of dialogue and cooperation, not a message of confrontation. At the same time we have to be firm in the respect of the sovereign right of any country to decide its own future.”