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Remarks by President Barroso following the European Council

At the press conference following the European Council (23-24 October) and the Euro Summit, President Barroso held the following speech:

27/10/2014

President Barroso

Good afternoon ladies and gentleman,

This morning our discussion has been about getting the right balance in our approach on the economy so that we can stimulate growth and reduce unemployment.

We all know that the economic situation is not as positive as we would like. The legacy of the crisis continues to weigh on Europe's growth meaning that the recovery among the Member States is very uneven. Inflation is very low, and likely to stay low for some time. At the same time unemployment is very high as well, even if in some countries it has already showed signals of a downwards trend. And geo-political risks have not abated, unfortunately. In fact, they have increased close to our borders. And this also explains certainly a role in terms of investors' confidence.

Huge uncertainties therefore are a feature of the economic climate. Not only in the European Union, by the way. Also because of slower growth in the emerging economies, also because of uncertainties regarding the policy of other very important economies, we have a difficult situation that has to do with uncertainty.

So one of the points I've made to colleagues in the European Council is that the European Union response to the situation must contribute to reducing uncertainties, rather than to widening them.

By this I mean basically two things:

o We cannot, recurrently, question our economic and fiscal governance rules.

o Our policy response must be in line with the actions that have been commonly agreed upon: for example, we must implement the Country Specific Recommendations.

No one, I can tell you, is asking for the fiscal rules to be changed. And everyone accepts that full use be made of the flexibility that they provide, taken of course in consideration the specific situation we are leading from an economic point of view. The Commission is using this flexibility to the maximum. The best example is the granting of several extensions to the deadlines for the correction of excessive deficits, namely when the economic situation deteriorated more than expected. Another example is our proposal for an "investment clause" for the countries in the preventive arm of the Pact.

The reality is that our economies are very different – that is why the Commission has always advocated a policy mix, tailored to the specific needs of each Member State, a mix of three main elements:

o differentiated growth-friendly fiscal consolidation,

o ambitious structural reforms and

o targeted investment.

The caricature of the European Union only pushing for fiscal rigor is simply untrue. We have consistently called on those countries with fiscal space to use it to the maximum to improve demand. Once again, I had today the occasion to read the Country-specific recommendations for the countries that have a surplus, where we have asked them to do more to support aggregate demand. So our message is clear: each country has to do its own part. Those who have the fiscal space they should contribute to have aggregate demand, those who don't have fiscal space should not try to invent it. And all should pursue structural reforms, including those with a European dimension, like the completion of the internal market, be it on energy, on digital and other areas. So this was, I think, broadly accepted by all the colleagues in the European Council.

Probably the most urgent need right now is to step up the delivery of structural reforms. This was also the message of the President of the ECB in the Euro Area Summit. Improving the business environment; labour market reforms to address employment rigidities - these are still preconditions for private investment to pick up and be sustained. And not only on labour market reforms: reforms of public administration, reforms of the tax system, reforms of education. These structural are indeed very important if you want to have more investment and growth. This is why we have consistently placed such a strong emphasis on these issues in the European Semester and the Country Specific Recommendations in the new governance system we have now in the euro area and in the European Union. In fact, I want to repeat, it's not only about deficit, it's not only about fiscal consolidation. It has new elements like the macroeconomics imbalance procedure, which looks at the countries in a much more comprehensive way. I believe at the European level we have made concrete progress to boost the internal market in services and free up the economic potential of a digital single market. But I really believe – and I think that was consensual today in discussions – both in the European Council and in the Euro area Summit, much more has to be done.

That's why I'm particularly happy with the conclusions of the Euro area Summit. They're very concise but I just want to read the last one: "The Euro Summit invited the Commission, in close cooperation with the President of the Euro Summit, the President of the European Central Bank and the Eurogroup to prepare next steps for better economic governance in the euro area. So I think to some extent this is a signal of something that we have highlighted in the famous report of the Four Presidents, the report presented by President Van Rompuy in cooperation with the President of the Commission, the President of the Eurogroup and the President of the European Central Bank, and also in the Blueprint the Commission presented.

The need to go on in terms of the union – fiscal union, economic union and even steps towards a political union for the euro area -, I was happy to see this was also the proposal of the President of the ECB, the need for a shared sovereignty, at least for the countries of the euro area.

So my point is, that in spite all the difficulties – and we know that sometimes there are difficulties – we are moving. We are showing our resilience and, in fact, the new Commission, the new President of the European Council, the institutions, will keep this idea of reform, not only in the countries but also in the economic governance of the euro area and in the European Union.

Ladies and gentleman,

Like President Van Rompuy, this will be my last European Council. I have recently written a testimony, my first reflections on what has happened over the last ten years in the European Union. I'm not expecting it to be a best seller, so I'm pleased to say you can download it for free in all languages in all languages of the European Union. It's a testimony, an essay I've written, together with a selection of documents of the European Commission from these last ten years.

A lot has happen, and a lot we have been doing. When I look back, I would say that I have led the Commission during a remarkable and extremely challenging period of European integration and history. There have been great difficult moments and moments that I will keep with great pride: when I signed the Lisbon Treaty, after all the uncertainties regarding the constitutional nature of the Union; when new Member States acceded the European Union or the euro area - in 2004 we were 15, now we are 28 and almost doubled the membership, in spite of all the crises this shows the extraordinary resilience of the European Union, and we will be now 19 members in the euro area. Not only the prophecies that those who were predicting the implosion of the euro area did not confirm, on the contrary, we were able together with member states to show the resilience and the ambition of the European Union.

And I will also never forget that very special day when, together with Herman Van Rompuy we were giving the acceptance speech the Nobel Peace Prize, which was attributed to the European Union. It was such an emotional moment.

At this moment I would like to sincerely thank Herman for the close partnership that we have developed. As you know, many predicted that two Presidents of two European institutions in the same street would not be able to work together for the common good of Europe. I think we have shown that, working together on a daily basis and respecting our separate roles, we have made a good contribution for the European Union and this due to the intelligence and wisdom of President Van Rompuy and the quality of our cooperation. And I want to thank him very sincerely, not only for that but also for his role as President of the European Council. I believe, because he was the first President of the European Council, that is was extremely important to consolidate this new architecture that was created by the European Union.

And, as you know, I'm a strong believer in institutions. I think the power of one institution does not mean the reduction of power of others. On the contrary, the stronger our institutions at European level are, be it the European Council, the Commission, the European Parliament, the stronger the institutions the more able we are to face the common challenges we have to face.

Ladies and gentleman,

I have attended – I've counted them - 75 European Councils and informal or formal euro area summits in my capacity as President of the Commission since 2004. And many more as Prime Minister and as Foreign Minister, already in 1992. I could see the evolution and I have to tell you: I cannot share the pessimism of many in Europe today. I remember my first European Council, when we were 12 countries, when we were only part of Europe, when Europe didn't have this continental nature we have today. I've seen many difficult moments, also in the past.

But what I keep from all these years is in fact that the European Union, if there is political will, if there is wisdom, if there is a sense of compromise, is able to overcome the difficulties. And just this European Council was also a European Council to be kept in the history of the European Union because we were able to confirm the ambition of the European Union in terms of climate and energy: we have by far the most ambitious climate policy in the world and we are in a position to lead – together with others of course – the global negotiations for a climate pact next year in Paris. So once again we have shown that when there is spirit of compromise, we can succeed.

Finally, as I have said during a small ceremony that we have had today, responding to the very nice words of Chancellor Merkel as, now, the dean of the European Council: I want to express my sincere, best wishes for my successor, my good friend Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the Commission and also for my good friend Donald Tusk as the next President of the European Council. And I want also to thank you for your patience all over these years. Like President Van Rompuy, I will miss you; I am not sure you will miss me. Thank you.

Read the speech

Joint statement on the parliamentary elections in Ukraine

President Barroso and President Van Rompuy issued a statement, welcoming the holding of parliamentary elections in Ukraine on 26 October in the name of the EU.

27/10/2014

President Barroso and President Van Rompuy

"We take good note of the OSCE/ODIHR's preliminary assessment that they marked an important step in Ukraine's aspirations to consolidate democratic elections in line with its international commitments. This was a victory of the people of Ukraine and of democracy. The electoral mandate given by the Ukrainian people must now be implemented.

We look forward to the early formation of a new Government. On the basis of the outcome of the elections a broad national consensus should be sought in view of intensifying much needed political and economic reforms in Ukraine. A reinvigorated reform process, including the launching of a country-wide national dialogue, will be crucial in view of Ukraine's political association and economic integration with the EU and to consolidate Ukraine's unity and internal cohesion. We look forward to working closely together with the new Verkhovna Rada and the future new government to assist in these endeavours.

We reiterate the importance that the upcoming early local elections in Donbas later this year will be held under Ukrainian law and will serve the same goal of de-escalation and focusing on reforms through an inclusive dialogue between the Ukrainian Government and democratically elected representatives."

Read the statement

Following the first day of the European Council, 23-24 Oct

After the first day of the European Council (23-24 October 2014), President Barroso gave the following statement at the intermediary press conference.

24/10/2014

President Barroso

"Good evening,

I'm delighted that the European Commission's ambitious proposals for a cut of at least 40% in greenhouse gas emissions has been approved. When we tabled our strategy back in January, many said it was the wrong thing to do at the wrong moment.  Tonight we proved those doubters wrong. We have approval and we have an unanimous backing of the European Council of this very ambitious target.

This 2030 package is very good news for our fight against climate change. No player in the world is as ambitious as the European Union when it comes to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, the proof that it is ambitious is that we are now going from a goal of 20% cut by 2020 compared to 1990 to 40% by 2030, so, doubling the effort. So, this is indeed a very ambitious, but also achievable target.

It is also good for Europe's competitiveness because it keeps us on the path towards a low carbon economy and green growth, with the necessary financial support and solidarity. The economic case for fighting climate change is clear. Failing to act is far more costly in the long run.

This agreement is also vital for our energy security. By cutting our emissions, increasing renewables to at least 27% and saving energy, we reduce our dependency on imported fossil fuels from unstable or unreliable suppliers. That is also why we will speed up strategic energy infrastructure and interconnections, so that we can have a real internal energy market. I am also happy that the proposal made by the Commission on having a 15% increase by 2030 on interconnections was confirmed. These physical infrastructures are critically important for the real functioning of the internal market.

The agreement today keeps Europe firmly in the driving seat in the international climate talks ahead of the Paris Summit next year and the very close meeting in Lima. We have set the example and others should follow. Europe accounts for only 11% of global emissions, so we need all others to step up to the plate. I was representing the European Union in the summit on climate change organised by the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in September in New York at the time of the General Assembly and I can tell you how much this leadership from the European Union was awaited, namely by the Secretary-General himself and all those progressive forces that want to see a real global commitment to save our planet. So, this is going to set the standards very high and I hope it will drive others in the right direction, because we need, namely the big economies, also to join the European Union in these ambitious commitments.

Today's agreement builds on the 2020 package that was adopted in my first mandate and is now being fully implemented. And I mentioned that at that time there were many voices that were saying that it was impossible and that it was too much, that it was excessive. The reality is that the energy and climate package that we have adopted in the first mandate that was proposed in 2007 is now on track. We are going to attain I hope all the objectives. So, according to our estimates, we will deliver on the three targets that were presented. So I am happy with that and I'm extremely pleased that we have been able to show an even bigger level of ambition for 2030.

An integrated climate and energy policy has been a red or, even better, a green thread through my decade in office. So that is why I am also happy that we could conclude today and I want to praise also the leadership of the President of the European Council, because it was difficult to get everybody on board. We were able to get today what the President of the European Council said at the beginning of our meeting what could be the best gift we could receive.

So I think now the European Union may be happy that we have changed the nature of the debate and that we have changed the reality on the ground. This is of course now work to follow so that in Paris next year we can see a major breakthrough.

On Ebola, the sobering figures speak for themselves:  10, 000 people have been infected.  Half of them have died. The epidemic is far from being contained and we need to step up our action.

Speaking of the Commission’s part of the work, we have responded quickly. We mobilised immediately €180 million and activated our emergency response centre to coordinate the delivery of medical expertise and facilities. We facilitated a solution for the fast evacuation of severely sick humanitarian workers.

We had today a very good discussion and I hope that tomorrow we can announce concrete commitments and pledges from our Member States. As part of these ongoing efforts, the Commission has today announced €24.4 million of immediate support for research into protecting healthcare workers, treating patients and preventing further contagion, namely investing on research for a vaccine.    

This is a multi-faceted threat that requires a coordinated response. I am also pleased that the European Council has decided when discussing a coordinator to entrust this task to a Commissioner, a Member of the next Commission.

There were other important issues we discussed, but I think on climate the President of the European Council already presented very comprehensive conclusions and I will not elaborate further. Only to make a point that probably not everybody has noted. Today the dinner started with a beer. President Van Rompuy said it was the best beer in the world, so from Belgium, of course. And afterwards we had wine which was from Alentejo in Portugal. So, I think it was really a great combination. I am not saying that it was because of that that we reached so stimulating and inspiring conclusions."

Watch the video

Remarks by President Barroso at the Tripartite Social Summit

Today, President Barroso met with EU social partners, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and the Italian Council Presidency ahead of a summit of EU leaders in Brussels.

23/10/2014

President Barroso

Following the meeting the President said to the press:

On climate and energy package:

"I'm confident that the Heads of State and government will agree on the important target the Commission proposed for a 40% greenhouse gas reduction by 2030. For the reasons explained by President Van Rompuy – I will not repeat them – I think it is crucially important that today there is this kind of agreement. If we reach this agreement we will certainly be in a better position to lead the global discussions and to encourage others to follow the European Union's example."

On Ebola:

"I am happy to announce that we have decided to make it public today that additional funding of €24.4 million will be made available to speed up some of the most promising research to develop vaccines and treatments. We are in a race against time on Ebola and we must address both the emergency situation and at the same time have a sustained medium and long-term response. As you know, there are talks today at the World Health Organisation in Geneva and this is a way for the European Union to increase not only its commitment but try to bring others to a more decisive response."

On the economy:

"Targeted investment is the third pillar of the European economic recovery, alongside fiscal consolidation and structural reforms. It is true that because of the urgency of the financial and sovereign debt crisis, attention was more focused on fiscal consolidation. But I want to make it clear: our response and our proposal has always been an holistic response, a comprehensive response that includes structural reforms and investment."

"We've had to fight for more European investment at a time of crisis, when debts were rising and budgets were under market pressure. But I believe we've succeeded in doing the most with what we had and what was possible to get from the discussions with Member States."

"Europe has already been doing a lot of investment. And I think we can all agree that we can and should do more. I personally think the conditions are now better for it. That's why I very much welcome the proposals of my successor, my good friend Jean-Claude Juncker, and I hope that Member States will give those proposals serious attention to see what more we can do, together, to support investment in Europe, not only public but also private investment. And for private investment one of the key issues is, of course, the commitment to reforms."

"If we really want to boost growth and jobs, if we are serious about reaching our 2020 targets, Member States need to get serious about reform. Later today I will be addressing the European Council on this issue and this is what I will say: The efforts we have made over the last years are starting to pay off, but when it comes to reform, there are varying degrees of ambition in Europe."

"We are still concerned at the situation. Why? Because the recovery has been slower than expected and it is uneven. Above all, one of the concerns we have is unemployment. Unemployment is still too high and this is linked to fragile growth. To finally get past the crisis, we need to work on all fronts. Yes, we need investment, both public and private. But at the same time, we must preserve our hard-won market confidence by maintaining sound public finances and reforming our economies."

Read President Barroso's full statement

Read the results of the Tripartite Social Summit

Read the press release on Ebola

The EU at the G20 summit in Brisbane

In a joint letter to EU Heads of State and Government ahead of this week's European Council meeting, European Commission President Barroso and European Council President Van Rompuy inform about the key issues coming up for discussion at the G20 summit in Brisbane (Australia) on 15-16 November 2014:

21/10/2014

President Barroso and President Van Rompuy

The two Presidents qualify the Brisbane Summit as "the first G20 summit that focuses on the transition from fighting the global crisis to supporting the recovery".

In the light of persisting challenges they call on the G20 to "agree a consistent set of G20 growth strategies which help to put the G20 collectively on a higher growth trajectory". They announce that they will push for the adoption of a strong Brisbane Action Plan on Growth and Jobs and say that "G20 members should commit to fully implement the measures set out in their G20 growth strategies, and add new reforms where necessary. (…) We will also make sure that G20 members continue their efforts to improve their fiscal strategies, so as to support growth and jobs, while putting debt as a share of GDP on a sustainable path, as agreed in St. Petersburg. Going forward, the EU will support work by the G20 to strengthen the focus on budgetary composition as regards both expenditure and revenues to make budgets more growth-friendly." The letter explains the EU's contribution to the G20 Action Plan and underlines that fostering overall investment is a top priority for the EU.

On financial regulation the two Presidents underline that the EU has largely completed the implementation of the G20 commitments. However, they recall that the work on financial regulation is not yet finished: "All G20 members need to continue to implement the agreed reforms, enhance the oversight of shadow banking, finalise the derivatives reform and the work relating to systemic insurers. We also need to stay responsive to new challenges."

On taxation Presidents Barroso and Van Rompuy intend to support further global action to tackle cross-border tax avoidance and tax evasion. According to them "this is both about the legitimacy of the G20, and to continue to ensure that our governments are able to deliver much needed services and infrastructure during times of constrained public budgets."

The letter also reiterates that all EU Member States have fully ratified the 2010 IMF quota and governance reform and that the EU "will encourage IMF members which have not yet ratified the 2010 reforms to do so expeditiously, particularly the US." They will also "strongly support the commitment to maintain a strong and adequately resourced IMF." The EU also remains committed to continuing constructive discussions on the quota formula and the 15th Review of Quotas which should continue to be treated as an integrated package.

The two Presidents highlight that the good G20 work on development, anticorruption and energy matters needs to continue. "On development, we intend to push for the G20 to keep up its efforts to implement our food security commitments, work to reduce the cost of transferring remittances, strengthen infrastructure project preparation and ensure that developing countries reap the benefits from the G20 tax agenda."

On energy matters, the Presidents will support "a set of G20 principles for strengthening energy markets, and push for making further progress on incorporating energy efficiency actions into national growth strategies, improving the transparency of commodity markets and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies." In addition, the EU will argue for G20 Leaders "to give a strong impulse for a robust and dynamic climate agreement at COP21 in 2015 in Paris."

Background: The European Union is a full member of the G20 leaders' process and has co-initiated it in 2008. The EU is represented by the Presidents of the European Commission and the European Council.

Read the letter pdf - 2 MB [2 MB] English (en)

Press Release

Valedictory speech by President Barroso, Strasbourg

On Tuesday afternoon President Barroso gave a valedictory speech at the European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg, as his second term of office draws to a close.

21/10/2014

President Barroso

President Barroso set out the key role the European Commission has played during the 2004-2014 decade to keep Europe united and open and make it stronger.

President Barroso said: "When I leave this office, with all my colleagues at the Commission, I can tell you that we have not achieved everything we could, or everything we would have liked to have achieved, but I think we have worked with the right conscience, putting the global interest of the European Union above specific interests. And I believe that now there are conditions to continue to do work for a united, open and stronger Europe."

Read a transcript of the President's speech

Watch the video

10 years at the helm of the Commission: Some reflections

Today, President Barroso delivered the following speech at Chatham House in London:

20/10/2014

President Barroso

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

They say a week is a long time in politics.  Well I can tell you that this decade has certainly been a long time in European politics.  

In 2004, the year I started in this job, the world looked very different.  We'd just recovered from the dot-com boom, but smartphones were still science fiction.  The Iraq invasion had just finished, the question of post-Kyoto was only just coming onto the agenda. Diplomats were still reporting these developments back to our then 15 European Union capitals by telegram.   

A lot has changed since then, not least the successful expansion of the EU to 28 member countries. But there has been one constant: for the past ten years Robin and his colleagues here at Chatham House have kindly extended me a standing invitation to speak here. You have had the patience of angels – and I am delighted to finally be able to be with you today.

 

The past years have brought unprecedented economic shocks and seismic shifts in global geopolitics.  Europe has faced challenges no-one could have foreseen in 2004.

It has been my privilege to lead the European Commission, working so that the Union could weather the storm, and emerge more united, more open, and stronger.

Europe has shown great resilience. It has shown its capacity to reform.  

But there will be further challenges ahead. So today I would like to share with you three reflections on what we could learn from the last ten years, what that could mean for the future of our Union – and the part the UK could play in that.

 

My first observation is that unity is essential if we are to face the challenges of today.  

The crisis dispelled any illusions about how interdependent European economies are, particularly - but not only - for the countries which share the common currency.    

When the financial crisis turned into a sovereign crisis and then an economic crisis, the risk was that countries would pull back, and look to protect their own.  The risk of fragmentation and disunity was a real and present danger.  And that would have had a disastrous impact for all.

Had the European Commission not been so firm in upholding our common rules on state aids, we would have entered a costly subsidies race.  A bad way to spend tax-payers money, but also bad news if – like the UK – over half of your trade is with other Europeans, and access to a free market of over 500 million people is one of the big draws for your foreign inward investment.  

Had Greece left the euro, the economic and financial damage would have spilled over throughout the single market. Politically, the euro and the European Union would have been shaken to their very foundations.  

That is why I fought so hard for a united response: a balance of fiscal responsibility and deep structural reform in the countries concerned, and solidarity and a credible backstop from more prosperous countries.

GREXIT did not happen.  Countries like Ireland and Portugal have successfully exited their programmes and are on the path to sustainable growth.  And in January Lithuania will become the 19th country to adopt the euro.  

 

My second reflection is that if we stand together, openness to the world is a unique asset.

Because we resisted the pressure to think national at the height of the crisis, Europe was able to speak with authority globally.  

The G20 was a European initiative.  Through it we obtained a global commitment against protectionism, but also coordinated frameworks for sustainable growth and tough action on financial market irresponsibility and on tax evasion.  

And despite the adverse economic conditions, the Commission has promoted open markets and tapped into the growth potential of global trade. We have concluded deals to bring down trade barriers with South Korea and Singapore in Asia, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Central America and with West, East and South African regional groupings. We have just finalised a landmark agreement with Canada. We have also launched negotiations with major partners such as Japan and the United States. Together with the agreement we hope to reach with China on investment, these could add 2.2% to EU GDP.

This is not just about our economic wealth, but about our political relevance on the world stage.  If the EU engages as a whole, we can be a shaper in international fora such as the UN, the WTO, and the G7.  

Exporting our values: peace, security, fairness and the fight against poverty. Standing together to support the democratic right of the people of Ukraine to choose their own destiny. Leading the international debate on climate change.

 

My third point is that because Europe is much larger and because of the reforms we are making, Europe today is stronger than it was ten years ago.

In the last decade the European Union’s inherent power of attraction has brought in 13 new countries, almost doubling its membership, increasing its political influence and economic potential and guaranteeing that half a billion people can live in freedom.  

It is no secret that some believed that wider and deeper were not mutually compatible, and perhaps even shaped their policies accordingly.

But the consolidation of enlargement to the central and eastern European countries has been successful.  The Lisbon Treaty has given us a solid basis for our Union to work effectively with 28 Member States and to stay united in our diversity.  

We have laid the ground for more robust economies and better employment prospects for the future.  The Commission has used the tools we have to build consensus around three fundamentals.  

Serious structural reforms for jobs and growth that are – unlike the Lisbon Strategy - actually implemented by everyone, big Member States as well as small.

Targeted investment for growth in things like research and training for the jobs of the future, interconnection and energy capacity, by focusing the EU budget on investments that matter, and pressing those who have surpluses to encourage demand.

Dealing with the deficits, planning for macro-economic risk and promoting responsible spending, via the strong economic governance rules the European Commission proposed and is now enforcing.

In short, the same formula of consolidation, structural reform and sensible investment that has got the British economy back in shape these last years.

And we have overhauled financial services regulation and supervision.  When I proposed banking union with a single supervisor for euro area banks in an interview with the Financial Times in June 2012 it was met with scepticism and, in some quarters, outright opposition. But today it is a reality.

These reforms created the conditions without which it would have been much more difficult for the European Central Bank to reach its independent decision to be ready to use all means to uphold the euro.

The countries which share the euro will need to honour their commitments to structural reform and deepen their cooperation further in the coming years.  I believe this should be done through the existing Treaties and avoiding parallel institutions, because that is also the best guarantee of equal treatment for those who have not yet, or will not, join the single currency.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

The European Union has reformed fundamentally over the past ten years, and will need to continue on that path.  Making Europe stronger – institutionally, politically and economically – is a process of constant improvement.  

So where does the UK and its existentialist European debate fit into all of this?

In 2006 I gave the third annual lecture in memory of the observant and incisive journalist Hugo Young.  I took as my starting point what he called 'the hallucinations… that have driven the British debate for so long'.  I argued that if our proud nations are to maintain their place and prosperity in a new, complicated globalised world, Europe simply cannot be an add-on.  

I still believe that as passionately today.

Just as nearly 70 years ago peace could not be built by one country alone, today even the largest, proudest European nation cannot hope to shape globalisation – or even retain marginal relevance - by itself.  It is only together that we have the weight to influence the big picture.

Does that mean a relentless march to one single super-state as some would have us fear?  For me the answer is a resolute no. I may prefer a glass or two of good red wine than a pint of beer when I am out on the election trail. But I too come from a country with a long history, a trading nation, proud of its culture and tradition.  And it may be a revelation to some, but the vast majority of people living in Europe are also rather attached to their national identity – however they may choose to define it.  

I believe that our future is as an ever closer union of the peoples of Europe – acting as sovereign nations to freely pool their effort and power where that can deliver results that are in their own self-interest.  My experience is that those countries which use European leverage to project their interests globally matter more. Those who are reluctant are missing an opportunity to maximise their influence.

My vision of the Europe is as a union of citizens who share the same basic values of peace, freedom, democracy, and a just society.  

A union which is stronger because we cherish our diverse histories, cultures and traditions.

That is why I have never challenged the UK’s preferences on the euro – and indeed have personally ensured that every proposal we have made to reform financial services legislation has guaranteed the integrity of our internal market and fairness for everyone, whether in or out of the euro.

I have never argued you should join Schengen and open your borders, nor did I criticise your decision to exercise your opt-out rights under the Treaties. But I have worked to ensure that the UK can re-join the 35 police and criminal law measures identified by the government as key for bringing security to the British people. And that is even more important given the very real and direct threats our societies face today.

Our union is strong because it respects diversity; our Treaties guarantee that, for those who accept the fundamental rules of the club there is always a place, and there is always equality of treatment.

 

That is why I do not underestimate the very real concerns UK citizens are expressing about Europe.  These merit a substantive response.  

You don't like the idea of a huge EU budget.  I get that.  By the way, it's not – and with just 1% of Europe's GDP we will need to fully use the agreed flexibility if we are pay our bills to those we are committed to invest in. Like Cambridge University for example, which consistently tops the tables for winning EU research funding.  

But it's a shame that the political debate here focuses only on absolute figures, when quality of spending is so much more important. This Commission has reformed the budget to focus on providing funding in countries and regions for the things that really matter – investment in research, in young people, in a more connected Europe.

You don't want to be paying for armies of Eurocrats.  I get that. We are cutting one in twenty staff across all EU institutions and agencies. The reforms we have introduced will save €2.7 billion by 2020 and €1.5 billion per year in the long run.

Personally I support the government's aim to get more of Britain's best and brightest to work in our institutions. The number of British officials is less than half of what it should be and falling quickly. Constant criticism and a pending existentialist debate do not make us the most attractive employer for young British graduates.

You don't want Europe to meddle where it should not.  I get that.  Since 2004, the Commission has cut red tape worth €41 billion to European business.  We have not interfered with the height of hairdressers' heels, or the ergonomic design of office chairs.  

We have scrapped legislation on bendy cucumbers – although the supermarkets were the first to complain.  We have introduced evidence-based policy-making, consultation and impact assessment as the norm.  

There are wide-spread concerns in the UK and elsewhere about abuse of free movement rights. I get that.  Already in 2011, after constructive dialogue with the British Government, the Commission took forward changes to the way income support is dealt with under European social security rules.  This benefit is now only due to those who have already worked and paid into the UK system.  Since then we have undertaken concrete actions to support Member States as they apply the anti-abuse rules, for example on sham marriages.

I believe that any further changes to address some of the concerns raised should not put into question this basic right, which cannot be decoupled from other single market freedoms.  

The Commission has always been ready to engage constructively in this discussion.  But changes to these rules need all countries to agree.  

And it is an illusion to believe that space for dialogue can be created if the tone and substance of the arguments you put forward question the very principle at stake and offend fellow Member States.  It would be an historic mistake if on these issues Britain were to continue to alienate its natural allies in Central and Eastern Europe, when you were one of the strongest advocates for their accession.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

In the years to come the UK could be facing a choice – to stay or leave the European Union.  As I have just set out, there are clearly some issues which can – with the right spirit on both sides – be discussed and improved, without putting into question the fundamentals.

But what I do have difficulties with is the assumption – largely unchallenged by politicians here – that there is a permanent tension between the UK interest and the European interest.  My experience is to the contrary.  

When the UK engages, your voice carries weight, your arguments motivate and your pragmatism convinces.     

Let's take just a few current examples:

- firstly, energy and climate change, where successive British Governments have strongly supported our climate policy proposals. The current Government is fully behind the 40% emissions reduction target which I hope the European Council will agree this Friday;

- secondly, foreign fighters and radicalisation, where the action plan the UK brought to the last European Council meeting found strong endorsement;

- thirdly, Ukraine, where the UK has shown great solidarity and has been among the strongest supporters of a principled European response to Russia's actions.

Just three examples of where Britain is on the right side of the argument, backing the right solutions to the real problems.

But would the UK have been able to accept the costs of climate change mitigation without knowing that competitors would make the same commitment? Could the UK alone have imposed capital market sanctions on Russia without others making similar efforts in other sectors?  

In short, could the UK get by without a little help from your friends? My answer is probably not.  

It worries me that so few politicians on this side of the Channel are ready to tell the facts as they are.  To acknowledge that in today's world there are some things which we can only do effectively by acting together – as evidenced so well by the government's Balance of Competences review.

My experience is that you can never win a debate from the defensive.  We saw in Scotland that you actually need to go out and make the positive case. In the same way, if you support continued membership of the EU you need to say what Europe stands for and why it is in the British interest to be part of it.

In fact, even if I understand that emotionally the case for keeping the United Kingdom are different in nature, rationally many of the arguments used by the three main political parties in the Scottish debate are just as relevant for British membership of the EU.  

And you need to start making that positive case well in advance, because if people read only negative and often false portrayals in their newspapers from Monday to Saturday, you cannot expect them to nail the European flag on their front door on Sunday just because the political establishment tells them it is the right thing to do.  

 

And now I come back to Hugo Young and his hallucinations.  Because you should not be under any illusion that it is only about Britain.

Every one of our European countries has its own wish list - and its own red lines.  The way we make progress together – united, open and stronger – is through pooling our interests.  In this club, all members need to accommodate one another.

I created waves in February when asked about the possibility of regions leaving Member States, as I pointed out that negotiating an accession treaty is no easy feat.  

Negotiating any major constitutional change is difficult and very risky.  And the uncertainty it creates has a direct and immediate upstream impact on confidence, including the investment decisions of industry.

So it is legitimate that British business is expressing concern. Over three-quarters of CBI members want the UK to stay in, because they consider the single market is worth between 62 and 78 billion pounds to the economy. Five out of six City UK members say they do not want to see the UK leave, and the same is true for manufacturers.  The Government's own figures show that some 3 million UK jobs are linked in some way to the single market. And concern is also starting to be expressed by some of your closest international allies, including the US.

The big question that the UK needs to ask itself is this: are you sure you are better off outside than in? Only the British people can weigh up the pros and cons and decide that.  From our side, the door has always been, and will always stay open.

As I see it, British membership of the EU is a double win.  Being in the EU is good for the UK, and having you in the EU is good for a united, open and stronger Europe.  

But maybe it matters little what an outgoing President of the European Commission thinks: this case is one which needs to be made nationally.  It is now high time to get out there and dispel the illusions.  

After ten years in this job, I will of course be a very keen observer of how your debate evolves. In the past years the EU has shown its resilience and its capacity to find creative democratic solutions to the toughest challenges.  

By staying united and open, Europe faces the road ahead with a stronger stride.  It is for you to decide, but I hope the UK will continue to walk that same path with us.

Thank you.

President Barroso received Monnet Foundation's Gold Medal

On Friday 17th October, President Barroso was honored with the Gold Medal of the Jean Monnet Foundation for Europe.

17/10/2014

President Barroso

On the occasion, President Barroso delivered the following speech:

"José Maria Gil-Robles disait que ce n'est pas tous les jours que l'on peut accueillir au même moment et au même endroit les présidents en fonction des trois institutions politiques principales de l'Union européenne.

Je dirai pour ma part que ce n'est pas tous les jours que l'on peut avoir le privilège, au même moment et au même endroit, de ressentir trois grandes émotions à la fois.

Tout d'abord émotion d'avoir l'honneur de recevoir la Médaille d'Or d'une fondation créée par l'un des grands bâtisseurs de l'Union européenne, Jean Monnet, homme à l'intelligence vive, au parcours singulier et à la personnalité attachante. Homme pour lequel j'ai une admiration toute particulière et dont les Mémoires restent une source inépuisable de réflexion pour notre avenir.

Pendant mes deux mandats à la tête de la Commission Européenne, j'ai eu plusieurs occasions d'honorer le grand héritage de Jean Monnet. C'est pourquoi j'ai décidé d'attribuer son nom à la Salle du Collège, la salle la plus emblématique de notre Berlaymont.

Emotion aussi de partager cet honneur avec Herman Van Rompuy et Martin Schulz. Et je voudrais dire combien j'ai apprécié de travailler avec chacun d'eux dans une période très exigeante, peut-être même la plus exigeante depuis les débuts de l'intégration européenne. L'excellente coopération entre nos trois institutions a été un facteur clé pour aider l'Europe à surmonter des moments qui furent souvent dramatiques.

Enfin émotion d'être ici en Suisse, pays auquel je suis très attaché. C'est un peu ma deuxième patrie, celle de l'approfondissement de ma formation intellectuelle européenne, celle où j'ai eu le bonheur de travailler avec l'une des grandes figures intellectuelles du 20ème siècle mais aussi l'une des grandes figures de la réflexion européenne, Denis de Rougemont.

Donc merci à tous du fond de cœur pour ce moment très particulier. Et je veux aussi saluer le travail remarquable de la Fondation Jean Monnet, entièrement dédiée à un projet qui, plus d'un demi-siècle après ses tout premiers pas, demeure le projet le plus visionnaire de l'histoire récente, une expérience absolument unique.

Lorsque j'étais à Oslo, le 10 décembre 2012, avec Herman Van Rompuy et Martin Schulz, pour la remise du prix Nobel de la Paix à l'Union européenne, j'ai tenu précisément à souligner en quoi le projet européen est unique.

Il est unique parce qu'il a pu concilier la légitimité d'États démocratiques à la légitimité d'institutions supranationales, dont la Commission européenne, qui protègent l'intérêt général européen et donnent corps à notre communauté de destin. Il est unique parce qu'il a su développer - aux côtés du Conseil européen - une démocratie transnationale sans pareille, avec le Parlement européen directement élu.

Et au cours de ces dernières années alors que j'ai eu l'honneur de présider la Commission européenne, j'ai pu directement apprécier le rôle tout à fait singulier de la Commission au sein de cette architecture européenne. La Commission a toujours eu, et continuera à avoir, un rôle indispensable permettant de prendre en compte et de concilier la diversité des situations entre nos pays.

C'est ainsi que, lorsque des opinions parfois très éloignées sur la sortie de crise se sont exprimées entre des pays aux performances et aux cultures économiques diverses; la Commission a toujours veillé à assurer une indispensable synthèse. Synthèse entre solidarité et responsabilité. Solidarité de ceux qui pouvaient garantir l'effort de stabilisation financière et responsabilité de ceux qui devaient rassurer les marchés sur leur capacité à contrôler le dérapage de leurs finances publiques et à mener d'indispensables réformes pour la croissance et la création des emplois.

C'est cette vision de l'Europe que nous avons défendu tout au long de ces années, une Europe unie et forte, une Europe de la solidarité collective et de la responsabilité individuelle, une Europe de la stabilité et de la croissance. Non pas une croissance factice, nourrie de dettes, mais une croissance durable reposant sur des finances publiques saines, et stimulées par des réformes structurelles et des investissements ciblés sur l'éducation, l'innovation, la recherche, et les infrastructures pan-européennes.

Chers amis,

Il est vrai comme l'a souligné Gil-Robles qu'il y a eu au cours de ces années des tentations intergouvernementales. Mais il est vrai aussi que le rôle de la Commission européenne a été renforcé. Parce que la Commission assume un rôle indispensable d'arbitre et de responsable pour la mise en œuvre des décisions.

L'exemple le plus flagrant en est sans aucun doute le Pacte budgétaire intergouvernemental. Tout au long des négociations de ce pacte, les pays se sont tournés vers la Commission, vers son expertise des politiques européennes et vers sa technique législative créative. Et, une fois le pacte adopté, c'est encore vers la Commission que les pays se sont tournés pour assurer une mise en œuvre rigoureuse des objectifs qu'ils s'y sont fixés.

Et le pouvoir d'initiative de la Commission a toujours été maintenu, même s'il nous a fallu surmonter de nombreuses réticences notamment sur l'union bancaire, devenue aujourd'hui une réalité.

La vérité est que dans leur réponse à la crise, les pays de l'Union européenne sont en effet allés vers plus d'intégration et non pas moins d'intégration, beaucoup plus d'intégration là où c'était nécessaire, c'est-à-dire une gouvernance économique et fiscale plus intégrée, spécialement dans la zone euro.

Ceci ne veut pas dire que l'Union européenne doit intervenir sur tout. Car, comme je l'ai déjà dit, en anglais d'ailleurs: the European Union needs to be big on big things and smaller on smaller things. Et comment ne pas rappeler alors que nous sommes en Suisse, exemple réussi de fédéralisme décentralisé, qu'Il existe un principe démocratique et fédéraliste essentiel qui s'appelle la subsidiarité, et auquel je suis très attaché.

Mais ceci veut dire que nous pouvons et devons aller plus loin dans l'intégration de la zone euro tout en préservant ce que nous avons réalisé tous ensemble, du marché unique aux quatre libertés. Nous devons donc permettre aux pays qui veulent avancer plus vite de ne pas être freinés par ceux qui ne le veulent pas ou ne le peuvent pas. Mais nous ne devons pas permettre une stratification interne, avec des pays de première ou de deuxième classe.

Chers amis,

Nous sommes tous ici des familiers de la méthode des petits pas de Jean Monnet. L'Union européenne a en effet toujours avancé pas à pas. Et ainsi que je l'ai dit dans ma conférence d'Humboldt, à laquelle Gil-Robles a eu la gentillesse de se référer, le mode d'évolution de l'Union européenne n'est pas celui de la révolution permanente mais celui de la réforme permanente.

Certaines avancées sont parfois plus grandes que d'autres. Et c'est ce que nous venons de réaliser, dans des conditions très difficiles, avec la plus profonde transformation institutionnelle depuis la création de l'euro. Nous avons ainsi montré notre capacité à dépasser les défis et à relancer l'Europe sur une base plus solide qu'auparavant. C'est dire la résilience de l'Union européenne. C'est dire sa force d'adaptation et d'innovation.

Et, même confrontée à ces graves défis internes, l'Union européenne est toujours restée une Union ouverte sur le monde tant dans sa politique de développement, que sa politique étrangère ou bien encore sa politique commerciale. Cela est essentiel, car l'un des éléments fondamentaux du projet européen c'est précisément son ouverture aux autres. Et c'est tout autant une question de valeur, qu'une question d'intelligence stratégique.

Aujourd'hui, la crise n'est pas encore derrière nous, la reprise est fragile, inégale, soumise aussi aux conséquences d'un environnement géopolitique instable. Mais en continuant à mettre l'accent sur les réformes entreprises – réformes de nos structures économiques, des politiques énergétiques et environnementales, réformes des marchés du travail et du marché intérieur – et en dynamisant les investissements, nous pourrons apporter aux citoyens européens les résultats concrets qu'ils attendent.

Et nous le savons bien, la légitimité vient des résultats. Les sondages nous le disent assez clairement : les citoyens européens dans leur grande majorité ne se détournent pas de l'Europe mais s'impatientent de résultats qui tardent à se manifester, notamment sur la question cruciale de l'emploi.

Je pense aussi qu'il faut retrouver la fierté d'être Européens, une fierté sans arrogance, mais une fierté légitime.

L'Union européenne n'a rien perdu de son pouvoir d'attractivité, il suffit de regarder à nos portes, à l'Est comme au Sud, pour s'en convaincre. Et nous pouvons nous laisser aller au pessimisme; mais le fait est que nos sociétés, avec tous leurs défauts, sont parmi les sociétés les plus décentes qui soient, soucieuses du respect de la dignité humaine, de l'égalité entre hommes et femmes, de la chance donnée à chacun de réaliser son potentiel, de la qualité de notre environnement et de la possibilité grâce à la science et à l'innovation d'améliorer le bien-être de tous.

Cela s'appelle une culture au sens large du terme; c'est-à-dire un modèle de société, une vision du monde Et nous pouvons être fiers de notre culture européenne, nous pouvons être fiers de ses grandes réalisations passées et aussi de ses grandes réalisations à venir. Car nous avons de nombreux atouts en main pour pouvoir faire encore ensemble de grandes choses, si nous en avons aussi la volonté commune.

Comme le disait Jean Monnet, il ne s'agit pas d'être optimiste mais déterminé. En effet ne nous y trompons pas, notre unité européenne ne peut pas être considérée comme acquise une fois pour toutes. Il appartient à chacun d'entre nous de sortir de notre zone de confort pour défendre ensemble nos valeurs et nos intérêts.

Je vous remercie de votre attention."

President Barroso participates in 10th Asia Europe Meeting Summit

President Barroso was in Milan to take part in a series of high level events – in particular in the 10th Asia Europe Meeting Summit (ASEM10).

15/10/2014

ASEM

In the afternoon of 15th October, President Barroso met with youth representatives in the 'Model ASEM', a simulation involving 120 students. Students handed over the declaration they agreed at the end of their simulation and also explained the outcome of their meeting. They passed on recommendations from the youth to the ASEM Leaders.

In the evening of the same day, President Barroso had a working session with China’s Premier Li Keqiang. They discussed migration and mobility issues, the Urbanisation Partnership and the Paris Climate Change Conference. Ukraine was on their agenda as well.

On 16th October, at 10 am, President Barroso spoke at the closing ceremony of the in the Asia-Europe Business Forum (AEBF), together with President Van Rompuy and the Prime Ministers of Malaysia, Vietnam, Japan and Italy.

Also on 16th October, President Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, met with the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe, to discuss EU-Japan relations, as well as global and regional issues. Both sides underlined the importance of the EU-Japan strategic partnership and encouraged further progress in the twin negotiations on the Strategic Partnership and the Free Trade Agreement. Concluding ambitious and comprehensive agreements will allow the EU and Japan to work together more closely on matters of mutual interest and deliver tangible benefits for both sides. The discussion of international issues focused on their respective neighbourhoods, especially the situation in Ukraine and regional security in East Asia.

Following the summit, President Barroso said:

"The theme of this Summit - "Responsible Partnership for Growth and Security" – could not reflect better our common view.

We spoke about responsibility. Responsibility was again reaffirmed from both sides to jointly tackle today’s global challenges: from the fight against climate change to the eradication of poverty and the pursuit of sustainable development. These are all tests to our credibility as leaders. We need to show leadership and we need to deliver."

"ASEM is also about partnership, a partnership of equals, based on a solid set of values Energy, Environment, Science, Education, Digital: all have huge potential for further cooperation. We will pursue through connectivity - connectivity being in fact at the centre of discussion we just had.

I have also announced that the European Union has decided to increase its financial support to all these areas through concrete projects. We have decided this for the next financial period.

ASEM is also about sustainable growth in Europe and Asia. Economic cooperation is essential to this end. During these two days, we have the chance to discuss the prospects for supporting global growth. Europe needs to continue delivering on a comprehensive package which should put the recovery on a firmer basis, comprising a differentiated, growth-friendly fiscal policy, the strengthening of the financial sector, ambitious structural reforms to support growth and targeted investment. As you know, this is very much now in the agenda of the European Union.

Growth is our top priority. In addition to the measures we take internally to make Europe more competitive, we are also engaging externally with an active trade agenda. We remain at the forefront in the fight for open, free and fair trade.

In this sense, our relations with Asia are extremely important. The relationship in trade and investment has never been as strong as it is right now. We are the largest investor in Asia and Asian countries are also major investors in Europe."

ASEM website

More information

Making EU law lighter, simpler and less costly

At the conference "Smart Regulation in the EU – Building on a Strong Foundation" politicians and stakeholders and experts examined the achievements and challenges in the field of smart regulation.

14/10/2014

President Barroso

On this occasion, Dr Edmund Stoiber, the Chairman of the independent High Level Group on Administrative Burdens advising the Commission since 2007, handed over the group's final report to President José Manuel Barroso.

President Barroso said:

"I have made smart regulation a key priority of the Commission since the beginning of my first mandate. Focusing EU action on those issues that are best dealt with at European level, while making EU law lighter, simpler and less costly, is key for the European Union's credibility. Smart regulation is also essential to boost growth and jobs in Europe and we have spared no effort to make it happen during the last 10 years. I believe we can be proud of what we have achieved during this period which is nothing less than a true culture change in the Commission's way of working. Our success crucially depends on a similar level of ambition by the European Parliament and Member States. I would like to thank Edmund Stoiber and his high-level group for the very valuable contribution through numerous opinions, reports and recommendations. The next Commission can build on very solid ground in moving the smart regulation agenda forward."

On repatriation of powers

"There are some, in the political debate, that want to use this discussion about administrative burden reduction as a way of repatriation of competences. I don't think two are the same. We have Treaties and we should respect them. If not, we are not a union of law. So, if a country or a government wants to make a proposal for a repatriation of competences it has the right to do it, but it should propose a revision of the Treaties and then we can discuss it. But to make a revision of the Treaties by the administrative burden reduction agenda is not the right approach. By the way I think there should be no repatriation of powers. My position is this one. I think the overall balance is ok, and in fact for the euro area, this distinction is important, we need more powers at European level. If the countries want to keep a common currency, they have to accept more integration in the fiscal, economic and to some extent in the political field."

On the proposal of an external impact assessment body

"The (current) system works. We have carried out over 600 impact assessments since 2006, made the process more transparent and inclusive, and the European Court of Auditors has confirmed that our impact assessment framework matches the best practices to be found anywhere in the world.

There are some ideas of having an external body to control legislation effectiveness. I personally think that the Commission is a sufficiently independent institution and it is a strong institution. I think that if we create more and more institutions we are not going to add simplicity. There is a real risk that we add complexity to a system that is already too complicated. And, by the way, I think that if another institution is set up, there is a real temptation for that institution to be afterwards captured by different interests. The Commission with all its imperfections - and I am leaving the Presidency soon, so I am not a trade union for the Commission - with all its imperfections the Commission is a very strong institution and an independent one. So I would advise caution, that is all. It is not now for me to decide, it is for the new Commission, for the new Parliament, for the new Council. I would advise caution if it comes to the idea of creating new outside institutions to make the control of the others, because the European Commission is already a supranational institution that should have the credibility of the old system. Of course, the Commission is subject to the control of the European Parliament, which I am not sure a new institution could be. So my point is clear – caution if you want to create a new institution that controls the others. Once again, my advice is the following: do not create more bureaucracies to control the bureaucracies. If we now create parallel structures for everything I think we are only going to complicate a system that is already too complicated and difficult to read, so the principles of better regulation also apply to the very system of better regulation."

In the Q&A part of the conference, the President expressed himself against the repatriation of EU powers as agreed in the Treaties, arguing that the overall balance is right. He also cautioned against an external impact assessment body, which would over-complicate the system. He stressed that it is up to the European Parliament to control the European Commission.

A press point with President Barroso and Dr Edmund Stoiber took place at 12.45 CET and can be watched online via EBS, during which President Barroso said amongst others:

"EU rules are not wrong or burdensome by definition as some tend to believe. On the contrary: when some people think that ideas like "one in – one out" would be a great achievement, we often do "one in – 28 out". This is something we have to explain: very often, a single European regulation replaces 28 different regulations, namely in the single market. It's extremely important and it should be appreciated. This in itself, provided a new European regulation adds real value, can facilitate lives for citizens and business. And what is it that adds real value? Well, first and foremost those measures which are geared to create growth and jobs in Europe, through a functioning single market and through a competitive, sustainable and inclusive economy."

"As I said many times before: Not everything that is good has to be done at European level. There are issues that can dealt also at national and regional – or even local – level. This is the principle of subsidiarity. We only need European Union action on issues that can be better tackled together than at national, regional or local level. "Being big on big things, and being smaller on small things", as I said some time ago in the State of the Union address, has that has been now our motto."

"I believe we have focussed on the right priorities. We see a more integrated, a more open and stronger European Union than back in 2004 when I started off as Commission President."(…)

"When we proposed the better regulation agenda, it met very strong opposition in many quarters of Europe. Today, I can say, in the last European Parliament elections, with the exception of the extreme right and the extreme left parties, all the other political forces, from the central left to the central right, were very strongly in favour of better regulation."

In the Q&A part of the conference, the President expressed himself against the repatriation of EU powers as agreed in the Treaties, arguing that the overall balance is right. He also cautioned against an external impact assessment body, which would over-complicate the system. He stressed that it is up to the European Parliament to control the European Commission.

Read the full press statement and the speech at the conference

Read the press material for further information:
Making EU law lighter, simpler and less costly – taking stock of achievements

The High Level Group on Administrative Burdens – Questions and Answers

Watch the conference and the press point with Dr Stoiber on EbS

View the infographic jpeg - 413 KB [413 KB] on Smart Regulartion

President Barroso welcomes Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung

President Barroso welcomes the Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of Vietnam for a working lunch at the European Commission.

13/10/2014

President Barroso welcomes Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung

Leaders will discuss Vietnam's domestic situation including human rights, economic recovery in the EU, state of play of the FTA negotiations, PCA including ratification process. Regional issues, in particular the Asia-Europe Summit, ASEAN, South China Sea/East Sea, Ukraine and Middle East.

After the working lunch, President Barroso and the Prime Minister of Vietnam will together witness the signing of the cover letter of the EU-Vietnam Multiannual Indicative programme for 2014-2020 by Commissioner Piebalgs and the Vice-Minister for Planning and Investment, Mr Nguyen Chi Dung.

A press point will take place at 14:30 CET and will be live broadcast via EBS.

More information

Read the statement

Watch the video

Joint statement on the Nobel Peace Prize laureates

President Barroso and President Van Rompuy issued a statement today following the award of the Nobel Peace Prize today.

10/10/2014

President Barroso and President Van Rompuy

“We wholeheartedly congratulate Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi - the winners of this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Today's decision pays tribute to the undisputable right to education for all children, equal rights for women and the important campaign against their oppression.  

We are delighted for Malala, who so courageously stood up for her rights and paid a high price for something that many in our countries take for granted. But we cannot forget the millions of other children around the world who are denied their right to education. This is a victory for all of them. Young boys and girls who aspire to learning.

And we are delighted for Kailash Satyarthi, who staunchly has advocated children' rights across the globe. As the first donor of development aid worldwide, the EU and its member states have constantly worked to root out poverty, one of the prime causes of child labour.

The decision equally sends a strong message to those who try to impeach on the fundamental right to education, by violence, suppression and cowardly threats.

But Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi will not be threatened and neither will the European Union. We urge all leaders worldwide to redouble their efforts for the education of all children and to intensify the fight against poverty.

The European Union, when it received the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize with gratitude and humility, decided to use the award money precisely for this purpose by dedicating it to children in conflict zones under the EU's Children of Peace initiative.”

Background:

In 2012, the European Union received the Nobel Peace Prize for its contribution to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.

Committed to keep making the difference for children who need special care to overcome the consequences of conflict, the EU Children of Peace initiative will continue beyond its first year. In 2014, the European Union intends to increase its funding for education of children in conflict zones – a new symbol of the European Union's dedication promoting real, lasting peace where it is so badly needed.

Read more about the state of play of the EU's Children of Peace initiative: (IP/13/1115, MEMO/13/876)

President Barroso welcomes President Nazarbayev

Today, President Barroso welcomed President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, and they confirmed the conclusion of negotiations on the EU-Kazakhstan Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement .

09/10/2014

Kazakhstan flag

This is an important moment as the new Agreement will significantly deepen political and economic ties, for the benefit of the people of both Kazakhstan and Europe.

Leaders also discussed Kazakhstan’s political and economic reforms and the international efforts in overcoming the Ukrainian crisis. Regional security issues related to post-2014 Afghanistan, regional water management, and international energy governance were also on the agenda.

EU-Kazakhstan relations

President Barroso visits Naples (10/11 October)

During his visit to Naples on 10-11 October President Barroso underlined the importance of EU funding for investments in growth and jobs in Europe.

09/10/2014

President Barroso

During his visit to Naples on 10-11 October President Barroso underlined the importance of EU funding for investments in growth and jobs in Europe.

Italy alone receives almost 44 billion euros from the Structural and Investment Funds between 2014-2020. President Barroso expressed his hope that Italy will make best possible use of it to help its economic development, notably in the South, stressing that Italy so far has absorbed a relatively small share of EU funds from the period 2007-2013. He visited the EU-cofunded Pompeii project, which supports the Italian efforts to preserve this cultural jewel with 78 million euros from the EU budget. The President also delivered a major speech at the Università Suor Orsola Benincasa followed by a discussion with citizens. In this context he warned of seeing Europe as a foreign power and nationalising successes while attributing failure to the EU. He also talked about the need for Italy to pursue growth-friendly fiscal consolidation and implement structural reforms, praising the government of Prime Minister Renzi, which has started implementing important reforms such as the labour market reform ("Jobs Act"). While stressing the need for Germany to use its fiscal space to do more for growth and investments in line with the EU's Country-specific recommendations, he also made clear that Italy's economic problems and its competitiveness challenges should not be blamed on Berlin.  He finally explained the considerable political and financial support the EU is providing to Italy to cope with the migratory pressure in the Mediterranean.

Watch the speech and discussion at Università Suor Orsola Benincasa online

Read a summary of the interview with Il Mattino

Read the press statement in Pompeii in English and Italian

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The Future of Europe is Science

Today the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso is in Lisbon to attend the high level conference on "The Future of Europe is Science".

06/10/2014

President Barroso

The conference, which takes place at the Champalimaud Foundation, gathers some 400 actors from the world of science, industry and society, aiming at take stock of European achievements in science over the past 10 years. World-class scientists, industrialists and political figures will also debate the role science, technology and innovation can play in societal well-being and its potential to stimulate growth, jobs and business development opportunities for Europe.

President Barroso will deliver the opening speech of the conference, to be followed by an address by the President of the Republic, Aníbal Cavaco Silva. The conference will also feature the Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, and Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard. Professor Anne Glover, Chief Scientific Adviser to the President, will open the second day of the conference with Professor Victor De Lorenzo, Co-chair of the Science and Technology Advisory Council (STAC).

At this Conference, the European Commission will launch the report of the Science and Technology Advisory Council, the Council which advises the President on scientific matters. This report is entitled "The Future of Europe is Science". It outlines some key opportunities for Europe that could be provided by science and technology, looking ahead to the year 2030. It is structured around citizens' priorities, as identified by a new Eurobarometer survey which is also published today (Special Eurobarometer 419 on "Public perceptions of Science, Research and Innovation"). The survey found that health and medical care and job creation were seen by European citizens as the top priorities for science and technology innovation over the next 15 years.

This conference happens in the day when the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 2014 has been awarded with one half to John O´Keefe and the other half jointly to May‐Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser, for their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain. Both May‐Britt Moser and Edvard Moser are recipients of European Research Council (ERC) grants, and all three have participated in EU-funded research projects. They received their ERC Advanced Grants in 2010 and 2008 respectively. They have also coordinated and participated in collaborative projects funded by the European Union's Research Framework Programmes. John O'Keefe has also participated in research projects funded by the Framework Programmes.

Press Release

Speech

Barroso na Cimeira da Grande Coligação para o Emprego Digital

Barroso fala na Grande Coligação para Emprego Digital, em Portugal, que visa gerar sinergias e coordenar para revolucionar emprego e investimento no setor das TIC em Portugal.

03/10/2014

President Barroso

A Grande Coligação para criação de Emprego na Área Digital é uma iniciativa europeia lançada pela CE em 2013. A Comissário lidera uma parceria com vários intervenientes para lidar com a falta de qualificações e 900 mil vagas por preencher na área das TIC. A CE apoiou a iniciativa desde o início, dado o seu impacto na criação de emprego, em especial emprego jovem. Vários empresários em toda a Europa juntaram-se à Grande Coligação e defenderam a Declaração de Davos para a Grande Coligação para a criação de Emprego na Área Digital.

A Cimeira recomendará planos de ação para quatro áreas, considerando três principais linhas gerais: reter talento no setor tecnológico, requalificar e reciclar qualificações entre o talento português e atrair “criadores” de emprego digital para Portugal. No final, a CIONET, a maior comunidade europeia de executivos de TI, visa manter as instituições nacionais atualizadas sobre as necessidades das atividades digitais para o emprego, além de desenvolver e partilhar boas práticas na requalificação e retenção de talento, definindo objetivos de médio e curto-prazo para resultados concretos.

Discurso

Visit by President Hernández Alvarado of Honduras

President Barroso welcomed today the President Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado of Honduras. The leaders discussed Central American regional integration including cross-border projects, Honduran development plans, special zones for economic development and the UN post- 2015 agenda. The relations between the EU and Honduras have grown stronger with the entry into force of the trade part of the Association Agreement between the EU and Central America in 2013. Trade has increased and significant development cooperation will continue during the 2014-2020 cycle.

02/10/2014

President Barroso

The Multiannual Indicative Programme 2014-2020 was signed by Commissioner Piebalgs and the Minister Coordinator Hernández Alcerro. President Barroso and President Hernández also signed as witnesses. For these next seven years, the EU will increase the allocation for the country, for the areas of food security, employment and the rule of law.

President Barroso's statement after the meeting

Carta à Presidência do Conselho sobre dívidas a pagar pelo orçamento

Barroso escreveu à Presidência italiana do Conselho a apelar à responsabilidade dos países na resolução do défice de pagamentos no orçamento da UE.

02/10/2014

President Barroso and Matteo Renzi

No ano passado, não foram pagos 26 mil milhões de euros em faturas pelo orçamento da UE de 2013, alargadas para 2014, enfraquecendo ainda mais um orçamento já baixo.

Nesta carta, o Presidente Barroso apela ao Conselho que adote a proposta da Comissão para um orçamento sem cortes para 2015, bem como uma série de orçamentos retificativos ao de 2014. Diz José Manuel Barros: “Adotada a nossa proposta para 2015, além dos retificativos para 2014, conseguiremos estabilizar o montante anual de faturas não pagas, cuja maior parte provém dos Estados-Membros, consistindo de projetos escolhidos, geridos e concluídos pelos próprios Estados-Membros.

Mais informações

Letter from President Barroso to President Putin

Today, President Barroso sent the following letter to the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin:

01/10/2014

President Barroso

"Mr. President,

Following your letter of 17 September, I would like to welcome the constructive engagement from all sides in the trilateral ministerial meeting on the implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area on 12 September.

The conclusions reached at that meeting were endorsed by all participants and set out in a joint ministerial statement.

On the EU side, we have informed our Member States of the outcome of the trilateral process, and we have now obtained their approval for the necessary legislative steps.

I should emphasize that the proposal to delay the provisional application of the DCFTA is linked to continuation of the CIS-FTA preferential regime, as agreed in the joint ministerial statement. In this context, we have strong concerns about the recent adoption of a decree by the Russian government proposing new trade barriers between Russia and Ukraine. We consider that the application of this decree would contravene the agreed joint conclusions and the decision to delay the provisional application of the trade related part of the Association Agreement.

The joint ministerial statement also foresees further consultations on how to address concerns raised by Russia. We are ready to continue engaging on how to tackle the perceived negative impacts to the Russian economy resulting from the implementation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area.

I take however this opportunity to underline that the Association Agreement remains a bilateral agreement and that, in line with international law, any adaptations to it can only be made at the request of one of the parties and with the agreement of the other, according to the mechanisms foreseen in the text and the respective internal procedures of the parties.

I wish to recall that the joint conclusions reached at the Ministerial meeting state clearly that all these steps are part and parcel of a comprehensive peace process in Ukraine, respecting the territorial integrity of Ukraine as well as its right to decide on its destiny.

Consequently, while all parties should implement the conclusions as laid down in the joint ministerial statement in good faith, the statement does not and cannot limit in any way the sovereign prerogatives of Ukraine.

The European Commission remains fully committed to contribute to a peaceful solution. In this respect we hope that the recent positive steps embodied in the Minsk Protocol of 5 September and the ensuing memorandum from 19 September will be fully implemented, including the monitoring of the Ukrainian-Russian state border and its verification by the OSCE, and the withdrawal of all foreign armed formations and military equipment from the Ukrainian territory.

We also expect that rapid and decisive progress can be achieved in the trilateral gas talks towards a mutually acceptable interim solution for the upcoming winter period, on the basis of the compromise elements set out by the European Commission. It is key that the resumption of energy deliveries to the citizens of Ukraine is ensured and that the fulfilment of all contractual obligations with customers in the EU is secured.

Yours faithfully,

José Manuel BARROSO"

President Barroso receives Prime Minister of Nepal Koirala

On 30 September, President Barroso receives Nepal's Prime Minister Sushil Koirala.

30/09/2014

President Barroso

President Barroso is expected to confirm the EU's commitment to support Nepal's political transition and economic development.

The leaders will EU-Nepal relations, Nepal's democratisation process and the drafting of the new Constitution.

They will also touch upon regional integration in South Asia, as well as recent EU developments and the situation in Ukraine.

More information

Message from President Barroso and President Van Rompuy to Dr Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Dr Abdullah Abdullah

Message from President Barroso and President Van Rompuy to Dr Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and to Dr Abdullah Abdullah, Chief Executive Officer of the new Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

29/09/2014

Afghanistan flag

"On behalf of the European Union, we would like to extend to you our congratulations following the elections of 14 June 2014.

We trust that all Afghans will unite in addressing the important economic and security challenges. The European Union will continue its long-term engagement to assist the people of Afghanistan on the path towards peace and prosperity.

We are committed to working closely with you and the new Afghan government to implement urgently needed political and economic reforms, strengthen the rule of law and foster full respect for human rights, in particular the rights of women and girls.

The European Union looks forward to further consolidating cooperation, partnership and friendship with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan."

Barroso fala no Fórum Económico Mundial

O Presidente Barroso estará hoje em Istambul para a reunião especial do Fórum Económico Mundial sobre o Libertar de Recursos para o Desenvolvimento Regional.

29/09/2014

President Barroso

O FEM é uma instituição internacional dedicada à melhoria do estado do mundo através da cooperação público-privada. Esta reunião especial do Fórum Económico Mundial é uma oportunidade para os principais atores globais e regionais compreenderem, adaptarem-se e moldarem estas transformações nacionais e regionais envolvendo decisores económicos e outros líderes das empresas, do governo e da sociedade civil. Na reunião em Istambul, os participantes terão oportunidade de construir iniciativas e alianças nacionais e transregionais, desbloqueando assim recursos económicos subaproveitados para benefício de todos.

O Presidente Barroso reunirá com o Primeiro-Ministro Davutoglu e também com membros da sociedade civil em representação de círculos de reflexão, do meio académico e de ONG a trabalhar em vários setores. O debate abrangerá direitos fundamentais, as relações generalizadas entre UE e Turquia e o papel da sociedade civil no país. À noite, o Presidente Barroso falará à comunidade empresarial.

Para mais informações:

Programa da Reunião Especial

Panorama da Reunião Especial

Ler o discurso do Presidente

EU-Canada summit

President Barroso is traveling to Ottawa to represent the EU at the EU-Canada summit, hosted by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

25/09/2014

President Barroso

European Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht also participates.

The summit is an opportunity to celebrate the successful end of negotiations on two EU-Canada treaties: the EU-Canada Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The leaders also discuss global issues including Ukraine, Syria and Iraq.

Ahead of the Summit, President Barroso said: "Canada is one of the European Union's oldest and closest partners. And now that our negotiating teams have completed their work on both the CETA and the SPA we can really talk about a comprehensive strategic partnership. CETA is a new generation agreement that will create more opportunities for our businesses, who will receive the same treatment on both sides of the Atlantic, and generate more job opportunities. This is no small achievement between two G7 members, but it is also a logical step between like-minded partners, which share the same world view of democracy, open economies and open societies."

After the Summit, President Barroso is traveling to Toronto together with Prime Minister Harper for a business event to be attended by some 700 business leaders from European companies based in Canada and from Canadian companies. Representatives from local politics and academia will also attend.

Press Release

More Information

Barroso em Nova Iorque, sobre pobreza energética global

À margem da Cimeira do Clima da ONU, Barroso disse: “Nos próximos 7 anos, a UE contribuirá com mais de 3 mil milhões de euros, no total, para o combate à pobreza energética global.”

24/09/2014

President Barroso

À margem da Cimeira do Clima da ONU, ontem, o Presidente Barroso e os líderes de Cabo Verde, da Costa do Marfim, da Libéria, do Ruanda e do Togo uniram-se na liderança do combate à pobreza energética e no fornecimento de combustível para o crescimento. UE, África e líderes europeus fizeram declarações conjuntas sobre a cooperação reforçada em matéria de energias sustentáveis.

Estas declarações ressalvam a importância da energia sustentável para o desenvolvimento social e económico. O espírito é de parceria e a UE está pronta a apoiar estes parceiros no imediato, com mais de 400 milhões de euros em ações relacionadas com energia e com mais de 3 mil milhões nos próximos 7 anos.

Há 2 anos, a Secretaria-Geral da ONU formulou a ambição de fornecer acesso a energia sustentável a todos os cidadãos do planeta até 2030. A UE apoiou sempre fortemente esta iniciativa e, no lançamento europeu da Iniciativa Energia Sustentável para Todos (SE4All), em Bruxelas, em 2012, o Presidente Barroso afirmou que a UE ajudaria os países em vias de desenvolvimento a fornecer acesso a serviços de energia sustentável a 500 milhões de pessoas até 2030, o que deverá alavancar entre 15 e 30 mil milhões de euros em futuros empréstimos e investimentos em participações, para colmatar falhas em empresas e infraestruturas energéticas e alimentar escolas, lares e hospitais.

A UE concentrar-se-á agora em três desafios cruciais: na falta de capacidade interna, na dificuldade de acesso a financiamento e na necessidade de construir alianças para o sucesso.

Barroso reúne com o Presidente Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz

Barroso reuniu hoje com o Presidente Abdel Aziz, da Mauritânia, à margem da Cimeira do Clima.

23/09/2014

President Barroso

Os dois Presidentes debateram questões bilaterais, nomeadamente a continuada cooperação entre a UE e a Mauritânia em várias áreas. Abordaram também a segurança regional e a situação em Sahel. O Presidente Barroso encorajou também o papel ativo da União Africana no combate ao ébola. A reação alargada da UE ao ébola inclui um pacote de auxílio de 140 milhões de euros para os países mais afetados: a Guiné, a Serra Leoa, a Libéria e a Nigéria.

A Mauritânia é um parceiro diplomático privilegiado da UE e tem um papel especial e importante no Sahel, este ano na presidência da União Africana, copreside ao fórum 5+5 e também à presidência rotativa da Liga Árabe.

Mais informações