President Barroso in Hong Kong: "the best is yet to come"
President José Manuel Barroso is today in Hong Kong for bilateral talks. "My visit to Hong Kong rounds off two very intensive weeks of engagement with Asia, which started in Brussels with a Summit with Korea,continuing with a visit to Mongolia and the two official Summits with Japan and China. This demonstrates how much Asia is now at the forefront of the European Union's priorities," the President said today.
This visit takes place during the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the EU Office in Hong Kong. In the afternoon, President Barroso met with hundreds of representatives of the business sector in a conference Organised by the European Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.
During his presentation President Barroso presented an overview of the EU's economic situation. He also highlighted the strategic importance of the EU-Hong Kong relations.
In particular, he touched on the banking union and the EU’s political, trade and economic engagement with Asia, including mainland China and Hong Kong as major growth areas vital for the sustained economic recovery of Europe.
"I think it is fair to say that Europe has a stake in Asia's prosperity as much as Asia has a stake in Europe's prosperity".
Furthermore, President Barroso explained that yesterday, at the week's EU-China Summit, negotiations for an investment agreement were launched.
"We want to get even more out of it. With European investments in China representing only 2% of our worldwide FDI, and Chinese FDI to the European Union standing only at 1% of total inflows, there is still huge potential in this area. As our bond with Hong Kong proves, investment is a natural counterpart of trade. "
"These negotiations will remove restrictions and progressively liberalise investment, leading towards reciprocity in access for European and Chinese investors to each other's markets," he explained.
"Economic and social development go hand in hand, this is what makes Hong Kong so special and so captivating (...) and one should never doubt Europe's determination to be part of the continuous success story that is Hong Kong ", President Barroso said at the end of this session.
Read president's full speech
President Barroso visits Macao
Tomorrow President Barroso visits Macao - a region with strong ties to Portugal - to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the EU-Macao Trade and Cooperation Agreement. The President will also sign a EU-Macao Air Services Agreement with the Special Administrative Region of China. During his visit, he will meet Chief Executive Chui and representatives of Macao, EU and Portuguese communities.
The President will reaffirm the importance of the EU-Macao political, economic and cultural relations, which have profound historical roots. He will also enquire about the region's political reform and pass the message the EU's economy is returning to growth.
The visit celebrates the 20th anniversary of the EU-Macao Trade and Cooperation Agreement, a deal initiated in the 90s by the President while Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal. With 23,6% of its global trade, the EU is Macao's most important commercial partner. Between 2010 and 2011 EU's exports to Macao grew 58%. The President will also take part in the inauguration of the Chamber of Commerce EU-Macao.
President Barroso will also sign a EU-Macao Air Services Agreement, which will strengthen the regional ties between the EU and South Asia.
Ahead of the visit, President Barroso said: "I am looking forward to visit Macao on the occasion of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the EU-Macao Trade and Cooperation Agreement. This agreement embodies our commitment to the political, economic and cultural relations with Macao. We value Macao's specificity and its central role as a bridge between Asia and Europe, between China and the rest of the world. I will also stress my personal engagement to increased exchanges with Macao in trade, education, research and culture."
Read press release: President Barroso's visit to Hong Kong and Macao
President Barroso visits Hong Kong
President Barroso is in Hong Kong today to mark the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the EU Office in Hong Kong and for several bilateral meetings. His first official visit to Hong Kong as President of the European Commission took place in 2005.
In the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the President will meet the Chief Executive Chun-Ying Leung, and the President of the Legislative Council, Jasper Tsang.
He will deliver a speech to the Hong Kong business community hosted by the European Chamber of Commerce and attend a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the EU Office's establishment.
Hong Kong is an international financial hub and one of the freest economies in the world. With close to 2,000 EU companies based in Hong Kong, the EU is the largest foreign business constituency in Hong Kong. Bilateral trade in goods reached €44.2 billion and grew by 5.9% in 2012.
"Hong Kong is a thriving and dynamic city and an important regional hub for trade and investment, thanks to its rule of law, freedom of information and expression as well as high transparency standards. The EU supports the "one country two systems" principle and in this context will remain a very close partner of Hong Kong. Our relations are strongly anchored in history but are continuously projected into the future", the President said ahead of this visit.
President Barroso visits China-EU School of Law (CESL) in Beijing
Today President Barroso visited the China-EU School of Law (CESL) in Beijing, a unique school he inaugurated in October 2008 together with Premier Li Keqiang.
CESL is the largest cooperation project between the Chinese government and the EU in the field of legal education, and it was founded with the participation of 16 universities. It is a unique project focused on China and EU legal education, research and training.
Being back five years later, President Barroso exchanged views with professor Huang Jin. Afterwards, he met a group of 40 students in a one hour Q&As session on EU-China cooperation and on the importance of the rule of law.
"People-to-people exchange is at the very heart of the EU-China cooperation. I truly appreciate your fresh dynamism and I wish you the best for your studies at this important school", the President said.
16th EU-China Summit
Today President Barroso meets Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang in Beijing for the 16th EU-China Summit. It will be the first Summit with the new Chinese leadership. Yesterday he also met President Xi Jinping.
The EU and China are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and the summit sets the basis and the strategic objectives for the next decade.
During the last ten years, the EU and China have succeeded in building a solid partnership for addressing common challenges. The EU-China trade relationship, which has always been the driving force behind the partnership, has grown tremendously, having quadrupled over this time. The EU has been China's number one trading partner for the past 9 years, while China is the EU's second. But our relationship has grown far beyond trade.
"Green Growth in a Safer World" is the overarching theme of the summit. Leaders are to agree on the importance of green growth as a way to find the right balance between low-carbon and sustainable development goals with other valued outcomes such as job creation, poverty reduction, economic growth and business opportunities.
Regarding the summit deliverables, the EU and China are looking at:
- agreeing on an EU-China 2020 Agenda, a common strategy of mid-to-long term cooperation both in terms of strategic vision and concrete engagements;
- launching the negotiations for an ambitious investment agreement, covering both investment protection and market access;
- launching an Innovation Cooperation Dialogue, which allows us to make substantial progress on shaping strategic joint initiatives in specific areas of common interest.
- signing a Joint Statement on Energy Security and the EU-China Road Map on Cooperation on Energy Security, a critical achievement towards EU-China cooperation on energy;
- facilitating exchanges, including of students and researchers;
- enhancing our good cooperation in the G20 and at other multilateral fora, namely regarding climate change and development aid.
Read the press release
Read the factsheet
President Barroso encourages closer cooperation with China on urbanisation
Today President Barroso and China's Prime Minister Li Keqiang closed the EU-China Urbanisation Forum in Beijing.
The President of the European Commission, Mr José Manuel Barroso, joined hundreds of local and regional leaders at the EU-China Urbanisation Forum. At the closing ceremony of the Forum, the President said
"I firmly believe that the deepening of the relation between China and the European Union around the issue of urbanisation is a qualitative step forward in our relationship".
In 2012, President Barroso and Premier Li Keqiang launched the EU-China Partnership on Urbanisation which offers a natural framework for concerted actions. Since 2010 more than 150 Chinese decision makers from all 31 provincial-level regions have been able to share experiences and to visit good practices in more than 45 regions of 15 EU member states.
Today, the President of the European Commission offered closer and pragmatic cooperation on urbanisation, innovation and sustainability:
"Urbanisation is an extremely complex issue, involving dozens of different players in myriads of alternative situations. (...)We can offer our experience and our co-operation in dealing with these challenges. We can also learn with the experience of China. This is what the Urbanisation partnership is all about, seeking the best solutions in a cooperative manner for a common challenge."
Mr. Barroso pointed out that the EU and China "need to share their best experience on how to make cities liveable, friendly, resource conscious, socially fair." "This is not only something to discuss and study; it is something to act upon ", he added.
21st EU-Japan Summit, Tokyo
Today President Barroso attends the 21st EU-Japan Summit. Japan will be represented by Prime Minister Shinzō Abe.
The EU and Japan are not only major economic powers (accounting together for over a third of global output), but also like-minded partners promoting the same values and seeking solutions to regional and global challenges. As two of the four largest world economies, the EU and Japan have an important stake in ensuring strong, sustainable and balanced growth in the world.
The summit comes at an important new stage in EU-Japan relations. Last April the negotiations for two landmark agreements for EU-Japan relations were launched: a Strategic Partnership Agreement and a Free Trade Agreement. These two agreements lay the basis for an intense cooperation for the decades to come.
The Strategic Partnership Agreement is aimed at developing dialogue and cooperation across a wide range of political and sectoral areas. The Free Trade Agreement will further unlock growth and employment opportunities and contribute to the EU and Japan's parallel process of structural reforms in the economy.
The summit reviews progress in the negotiations and injects additional momentum towards the rapid conclusion of these agreements that will lift the EU-Japan relationship onto a higher, more strategic level. It is also an opportunity to seek convergence of views and positions on key international and regional issues.
Themes include the world economy and trade, climate change, non-proliferation and developments in our respective neighbourhoods.
Finally, the summit gives political impetus to rapidly developing sectoral cooperation that will further nurture growth and employment in the EU and Japan. The EU and Japan will also strengthen our Research and Innovation Partnership, as well as moving towards dialogues on space and cyber security.
"The free trade agreement alone could boost the EU growth by nearly 1 % and create over 400,000 additional jobs, with comparable benefits for Japan. The strategic partnership agreement will enhance our political cooperation and stimulate further our developing sectoral cooperation, including on research and innovation, energy and people-to-people links," said President Barroso ahead of the summit.
Budget 2014 – 2020: President Barroso welcomes EP consent
Today the European Parliament gave its consent to the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014-2020, paving the way to the Council's final approval. President Barroso welcomed the vote saying that "this is a great day for Europe" and that "this deal will help every family across Europe. Europe is part of the solution."
In a video message President Barroso said: "This is a great day for Europe. The European Parliament has given its final blessing to the European budget from 2014 until 2020, thus bringing successfully an end to long negotiations. Now, the Council can seal the deal shortly. The European Union will invest almost 1 trillion euros in growth and jobs between 2014 and 2020. The EU's budget is modest in size compared to national wealth. But one single year's budget represents more money - in today's prices - than the whole Marshall plan in its time!
Our modern, future-oriented budget can make a real difference to people's lives. It will help to strengthen and sustain the recovery underway across the European Union. There is funding so we can build our way out of the crisis, financial support for those below the poverty line or looking for a job, investment opportunities for small companies, and assistance for local communities, farmers, researchers and students. This is a deal which helps every family across Europe. Europe is part of the solution."
Read the press release with the highlights
More on the figures per programme in current and 2011 prices
Taxation policy: President Barroso calls for "significant political effort"
If we want concrete results on taxation policy at the next European Council meeting, "a significant political effort will be needed from Finance Ministers", President Barroso writes in a letter to the European Council.
"As the last ECOFIN meeting showed, some of our proposals are already technically ready for adoption but do not have the necessary unanimous support from all Member States", European Commission President Barroso points out in his letter sent today to the President of the European Council, all EU Heads of State and Government and the President of the European Parliament. "If we are to be able to register concrete results in December, a significant political effort will be needed from Finance Ministers ahead of their next meeting", he urges.
90% of European citizens think effective action is needed to ensure that companies pay their fair share of taxes, recent Eurobarometer evidence shows. More fairness and more transparency in corporate taxation are precisely the key objectives of the Commission's tax proposals. Some of these proposals have been on the table since 2008 and are still awaiting adoption, President Barroso emphasizes. This is specifically the case for the Savings Tax Directive, which would close existing tax loopholes and, together with the proposal to expand the scope of the Administrative Cooperation Directive, would ensure that the EU has full automatic exchange of information from the start of 2015 for all forms of income. Other Commission proposals tackle money laundering and make beneficial ownership of companies more transparent. "The Commission will table the last of its proposals – a revision to the Parent-Subsidiary Directive to address double non-taxation of hybrid instruments – by the end of this month", the President writes.
"In May the European Council set out a clear determination to deliver a significant shift towards more fairness and more openness in corporate taxation. It is now time to get on and adopt the proposals that are on the table", President Barroso concludes.
President Barroso visits Mongolia for bilateral talks
President Barroso visited Mongolia to held bilateral talks with President Elbegdorj and Prime Minister Altankhuyag. He opened the EU Film Festival at Ulan Bator and gave a keynote speech at the National University of Mongolia, where he was awarded a Doctorate Honoris Causa.
Following the EU - Mongolia Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA) signed in April this year, the President of the European Commission visited Mongolia on 17th November. This was the first visit of an EU high representative to the country.
After the meeting the leaders said that 2013 has been an important year in the development of EU-Mongolia relations. During their talks, they discussed progress achieved so far in areas including trade, development cooperation, agriculture, research and innovation and political dialogue. They also exchanged views on regional and global issues, as well as new areas of cooperation.
In his speaking points to the press, President Barroso said: "the European Union wants to be your partner in this journey". He reiterated the EU's support to Mongolia's development through concrete ways to foster cooperation, for instance in the field of education, exchanges and also research and science. "We believe that the European Union has know-how that can be shared for the benefit also of Mongolia," said President Barroso.
During his visit to Mongolia President Barroso also opened the EU Film Festival stressing in his speech that "cinema speaks a universal language. It has meaning and relevance for all people, regardless of their national, cultural or social backgrounds. Films bring diversity to the fore, while also underscoring the values, the feelings and the longings that we all share as human beings. I hope that next year, when we celebrate the 25th anniversary of EU-Mongolian relations, a similar event can be organised in Brussels with Mongolian movies for a European public."
In the evening, President Barroso delivered a lecture at the National University of Mongolia on "EU-Mongolia: Third neighbour and first class partner", where he said "The values that you have adopted as yours: democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law are the values which also underpin the European Union, the values that make us close neighbours and privileged partners, despite the geographical distance. In this respect let me praise Mongolia's decision last year to abolish the death penalty as a symbolic step on the path which you have chosen to follow."
President Barroso pointed out that "the EU has ensured that Mongolia will benefit from the international strand of Erasmus+, our university student exchange programme. Since 2004 200 students and scholars have participated in the Erasmus programme. We want to have more Mongolian students, researchers, doctorates benefiting from our scholarships and coming to Europe."
Furthermore, he said, "scientific co-operation is another field where both sides would benefit from closer co-operation and, again, we have ensured that Mongolia can participate in our new Research programme called Horizon 2020".
"Just as democracy must be tended daily, just as our economies require daily work, so day by day we will build our neighbourly relations" concluded the President, who was later on awarded a Doctorate Honoris Causa.
President Barroso meets the Prime Ministers of Romania and Moldova
The meeting with Prime Ministers Victor Ponta of Romania and Lurie Leancă of the Republic of Moldova focused on the strategic issue of priority gas and electricity interconnection projects between the two countries.
The Commission is already providing both political and financial support, including €7 million towards the construction of the Iaşi-Ungheni gas interconnector pipeline, which is now underway.
"Energy security and diversity of energy supply is of the utmost importance, for our Union and our neighbours." President Barroso said. "We have identified two main projects in the short-term: Firstly, the gas projects which will enable gas deliveries from Romania all the way to Chisinau... Secondly, the back-to-back station on the Vulcanesti-Isaccea grid, which will allow Moldova to increase energy imports from Romania. Both projects can significantly increase the energy security of Moldova, by stabilising its energy supply and reducing the risk of increasing prices".
President Barroso praised Moldova and Romania's close cooperation on these issues and pledged the Commission's continued support in moving them forwards.
President Barroso urges EU to avoid reform fatigue as 2014 European Semester gets underway
The publication of the Annual Growth Survey 2014 signals the start of the fourth European Semester, the EU's policy coordination calendar. This Semester sees economic governance step up a gear with the presentation of a major package of budgetary surveillance announcements for the euro area, and for EU countries with excessive deficits.
Strengthened economic governance
"This year, budgetary coordination in the euro area has gone to a new level. This year, for the first time, Member States have sent us their draft budget plans before they are adopted," President Barroso said during a press conference after the launch of the Semester.
"This is not about the Commission trying to run national economies in place of governments," he added. "This is developing a European economic governance that respects fully the national level of governance. It is also about ensuring that what is good for individual member states is good for the European Union as a whole."
Focus on reform for growth and jobs
This year's Annual Growth Survey (AGS) shows that growth is returning, and emphasises the need to sustain and strengthen that recovery by pursuing reform efforts and avoiding reform fatigue.
The European Commission has kept the same five overarching priorities that were identified in the AGS 2013, but recommended a visible shift in emphasis to reflect the new challenges the EU will face during this recovery phase.
"We have come a long way since the start of the crisis and many of our citizens have had to make huge sacrifices to get us to this point," President Barroso said. "And thanks to the efforts they have made, we have now entered a recovery phase. We must ensure that our efforts translate into stronger growth that generates jobs. The best way – I would say the only way - to do that is to pursue our reform efforts, avoiding reform fatigue."
The Draft Joint Employment Report, which accompanies the AGS, shows that the unemployment situation, while stabilising, is still at unacceptably high levels. "We must not put into jeopardy what has been achieved so far," President Barroso said. "This will be the way to address in a sustainable manner the biggest problem we are still facing: unemployment, especially of the young."
Towards a balanced recovery
Alongside the Annual Growth Survey 2014, the Commission has published its Alert Mechanism Report, an early warning system for potential imbalances. This year's AMR recommends a review of economic policies in 16 countries, three of them, for the first time: Germany, Luxembourg and Croatia.
President Barroso pointed out during his press conference that these reviews do not necessarily mean that there is an imbalance, and that they should not be taken as a sign that the Commission is questioning competitiveness, particularly in Germany. "The real problem for Europe is not that Germany is very competitive - this is indeed a major asset for the economy of Europe as a whole. The problem is much more that others are still far away from that level of competitiveness," the President said.
Président Barroso participe à la 2ème Conférence européenne sur l'emploi des jeunes
Après une première rencontre à Berlin, en juillet, les chefs d'Etat et de gouvernement, les ministres du Travail, les hauts représentants des institutions de l'UE et les partenaires sociaux se sont réunis mardi à Paris pour discuter la mise en œuvre des mesures concrètes de la lutte contre le chômage des jeunes.
La Commission européenne a pris plusieurs initiatives pour compléter et soutenir les actions menées au plan national.
Le Président Barroso a appelé les Etats membres à plus de détermination pour tirer tout le potentiel des différents leviers permettant de lutter contre le chômage et notamment pour mettre en place les structures nécessaires pour faire de la Garantie Jeunesse une réalité dès que possible.
"Il n'y a pas de chose plus urgente aujourd'hui que de faire en sorte que l'on puisse offrir à notre jeunesse de réelles perspectives d'avenir", a dit le Président.
7th EU-Republic of Korea Summit
The 7th EU-Republic of Korea Summit took place in Brussels today. President José Manuel Barroso represented the EU together with the President of the European Council. South Korea was represented by President Park Geun-Hye.
Today's summit marked 50 years of diplomatic relations between the EU and the Republic of Korea. The leaders adopted a joint declaration highlighting past developments in EU- Republic of Korea relations and affirming their willingness to encourage its further development.
Korea was the first G20 country with which the EU concluded a Framework Agreement and a second generation free trade agreement.
"The Free Trade Agreement, now two years old, continues to be a driving force for our cooperation. The European Union is now the largest foreign investor in the Republic Of Korea. And our trade in goods with South Korea has significantly increased", President Barroso said today.
Over the last decade, EU28 exports to South Korea have more than doubled, from 17.7 billion euro in 2002 to a peak of 37.8 bn in 2012, according to Eurostat.
President Barroso highlighted the Republic of Korea's and the EU's common interest to step up cooperation in innovation, science and technology. "We share the same view that prosperity in the long term needs to come from new sources of growth", he said.
The European Commission and the government of the Republic of Korea today signed an agreement to enhance cooperation in higher education. President Barroso explained that "Universities and research institutions in the EU and the Republic of Korea will run more joint degrees and mobility programmes. These measures will further boost student exchanges and joint research over the coming years".
The summit also addressed new areas of cooperation. "Our agreement on global navigation satellite cooperation is nearly fully ratified, allowing this to come on stream shortly", said President Barroso. Cyberspace cooperation, "a crucial ingredient for the creative economy, for individuals and SMEs, to blossom and grow", was discussed as well.
The EU and Korea want to further develop their partnership beyond the bilateral context. Economic recovery, climate change, the new framework for sustainable development in a world post-2015, and regionally based security threats were also on the agenda. On this last issue, President Barroso said "we appreciate Korea's commitment to regional stability, through the East Asia initiative and Korea's 'trust politik' vis à vis its neighbours" and he gave "full support for a safe, secure and denuclearised Korean peninsula".
European Commission meets the Portuguese government
The College of Commissioners received today a delegation of the Portuguese government, led by Prime Minister Passos Coelho. Discussions focused on the Portuguese adjustment programme and the deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union. The EU's industrial policy and the competitiveness agenda, as well as the next EU budget, were also on the table.
President Barroso assured Prime Minister Passos Coelho of the European Commission's continuous support to Portugal during the crisis. He said that measures such as extension of deadlines, lower interest rates and a better use of structural funds, have already eased the impact of the country's adjustment programme.
The President also congratulated the Portuguese government on its efforts to complete the adjustment programme and to bring the country onto its right path. The reform programme is a necessary precondition for a sustainable return to the markets.
For the first time in two years, the Portuguese economy has grown, reaching +1,1% of growth in the second trimester of the 2013. In its autumn forecast the Commission confirmed that Portugal's GDP in 2013 has fallen less than expected. Portugal is also gaining market share in exports for the third consecutive year. "We can’t put at risk everything we have achieved", the President said.
Unemployment is still a major concern, the President noted. The President also mentioned modernisation of the Portuguese industry, specifically the creation of new companies, led by younger and more qualified entrepreneurs.
President Barroso believes that Portugal will come out of the crisis stronger. Growth, the President said, has to be grounded on structural reforms and less on external debt. He also emphasised the fact that Portugal needs to regain confidence, proving that the country is able to meet its obligations. For that purpose, a broad political and social consensus is essential.
Competitiveness reforms were also discussed. For the European Commission the financing of the economy is a priority, as access to credit remains too limited. The deepening of the EMU and measures to fight unemployment and create new jobs were also discussed.
The President announced that Portugal is set to benefit from 19.6 billion euros for investment in the frame of the EU budget for 2014-2020.
Meeting representatives from philosophical and non-confessional organisations
Today European Commission President Barroso hosts a 9th meeting with around twenty representatives from philosophical and non-confessional organisations in the Commission's headquarters in Brussels. This high-level meeting, taking place in the context of the European Year of Citizens 2013, was called under the motto 'Putting citizens at the heart of the European project in times of change'.
After the meeting, at 13:30, Commission President Barroso, European Council President Van Rompuy and Vice-President of the European Parliament Surján will hold a joint press conference which will be transmitted live on EbS.
For more information on the European Commission's dialogue with philosophical and non-confessional organisations and churches, religious communities, visit: http://ec.europa.eu/bepa/activities/outreach-team/dialogue/index_en.htm.
Information on the European Year of Citizens 2013 is available on the dedicated website.
President Barroso holds the "First Frankfurt speech on Europe"
On Tuesday, 5th November, President Barroso held the "First Frankfurt speech on Europe" in St. Paul's Church in Frankfurt. He stressed that the European Union is first and foremost a community of values.
President Barroso highlighted that the current financial and economic crisis is a political stress test for the European community and that its solution will depend primarily on the European leaders' political will.
Acknowledging Germany's efforts towards securing and maintaining solidarity in the EU, he also stressed that continued efforts for solidarity and responsibility are essential. "Germany, under the leadership of Chancellor Merkel, has shown its political will and this deserves its full recognition." President Barroso welcomed the commitment of Germany's main political forces: "My message to you is very simple: Keep it. Do not allow any doubts to emerge."
He furthermore encouraged the next German government to remain committed to the European project: "Germany will have to play an imminently crucial role in all this. Being the biggest economy in the Euro Area and the EU as a whole, Germany will have to assume the highest degree of leadership for this endeavour".
"Culture is the thread that links us together"
On Monday morning President Barroso participated at the opening of the 3rd edition of the European Culture Forum at the BOZAR Art in Brussels. In his keynote speech he said that "culture is the cement that binds Europe together. It is an essential part of the very foundations of our European project and must remain firmly entrenched in our ideals if we are to succeed in achieving a more united, stronger and open Europe."
President Barroso explained that the culture and creative industries account for up to 4.5% of the European GDP and for more than 8 million jobs, which have been resisting the financial crisis better than other sectors of our economies.
He added that the Commission has proposed a budget for the new Creative Europe programme of €1.8 billion. The agreed budget stands at 1.46 billion, which represents 9% increase of the current funding levels.
President Barroso's tribute to Tadeusz Mazowiecki, a great Pole and European
On Sunday 3 November President Barroso attended the state funeral of Tadeusz Mazowiecki, former prime minister of Poland. He joined the mourners in Warsaw to personally pay his tribute to Mr Mazowiecki and "to thank this great Pole and European for what he did to build a new, democratic Poland and for his contribution to a new and re-unified Europe".
The President recalled that Mr Mazowiecki was the first non-communist to head an Eastern Bloc nation since the late 1940s, "even before the fall of the Berlin wall, which became the world famous symbol of European unification and of the end of the Yalta order."
"Not many remember that on the day when the wall was falling in Berlin, the German chancellor Helmut Kohl was meeting in Warsaw with Tadeusz Mazowiecki", the President said.
He highlighted Mr Mazowiecki's role in the transition to democracy in Central and Eastern Europe:
"It is well known that Mazowiecki was one of the architects of the now famous "round table" talks. But he was more than that: he left his strong mark on the Polish model of transition from a communist authoritarian regime to a free, democratic state system with a market economy. It was a revolution. But Mazowiecki was not at all a revolutionary", he said.
"The model of transformation that he defended was based on mediation, negotiation, consensus and political long-sightedness. Today we can say that Mazowiecki was a typically centrist politician, which is a position in the political spectrum I understand very well. He chose a path of wisdom and moderation for Poland, which proved the most effective", President Barroso added.
"It is worth reminding people in Europe today that the Poland's peaceful transition to liberty, democracy and European values became a real textbook case for all of the emerging democracies in Eastern and Central Europe. Mazowiecki’s contribution to European democracy and to the unity of Europe is unforgettable", the President said.
He also mentioned Mr Mazowiecki's engagement both as an intellectual and a politician: "Mazowiecki knew how to combine in one person two approaches that are usually very difficult to reconcile: he was an intellectual and an active politician. Like Geremek, like Havel, he proved that it was possible to serve the common interest by marrying the intellectual pursuit of truth and justice with the determination and astuteness required for effective political action", President Barroso said.
"This is precisely what we need today in Europe: to have a long-term vision of European integration and to find a new narrative for this European project that has no equivalent anywhere in the world", the President said.
The President also brought up Mr Mazowiecki's work in the former Yugoslavia and his determination to defend European values:
"Mazowiecki was a great defender of the values that are so dear to Europe and a promoter of a certain idea of human solidarity and political responsibility. Not only in Poland, not only in the EU. For a lot of people in Europe his name remains linked to his mission as a high representative at the United Nations for the former Yugoslavia. After the Srebrenica massacre in 1995, he resigned from his mandate to protest against the passiveness of the international community when it came to the violation of human rights and humanitarian law", President Barroso said.
"For Mazowiecki, the promises made to people cannot be broken, values cannot be betrayed. Coming from Poland, he refused to accept the views of some that what was happening in former Yugoslavia, in Srebrenica, was a marginal, rather exotic political problem on a world scale", he added.
President Barroso said that, today, Slovenia and Croatia, two states of the former Yugoslavia are members of the European Union and that negotiations are ongoing with others. "I remember Mazowiecki saying that there is nothing real about ‘realpolitik’. I keep it also in mind when the decisions are taken about Syria, about Lampedusa", he said.
He recalled his last meeting with Mr Mazowiecki, at the citizens' dialogue in Warsaw, on 11 July 2013, when he received a message to take back to Brussels. "When I met Tadeusz Mazowiecki last time, he wished that Europeans took a greater sense of shared responsibility for Europe. He also asked me to take from Poland to Brussels the message of optimism", the President said. "He was very right: two essential things we need in Europe are a greater sense of shared responsibility and more confidence, more optimism for our common future, our European destiny."
President Barroso in Frankfurt on 5 November
President Barroso will travel to Frankfurt, Germany, on 5 November. In St. Paul's Church ("Paulskirche"), the seat of the first democratically elected parliament of Germany in 1848, President Barroso will deliver the first Frankfurt speech on Europe ("Erste Frankfurter Europarede").
This event is jointly organised by the government of the Land Hessen and the European Commission's regional Representation in Bonn in the context of the Hessian dialogue on Europe.
In the speech, President Barroso is expected to present his view about the state of European affairs and the political priorities of the European Union in the months to come.
After the German elections in September, the President is also expected to speak about the role of Germany in the European Union and express his expectations towards the new German government.
The speech will be transmitted live on EbS at around 18.45.
In the margin of the event, President Barroso will also meet with the minister-president of Hessen, Volker Bouffier, and the deputy minister-president, Jörg-Uwe Hahn, to exchange views on current European affairs.
President Barroso meets Georgian President Saakashvili
Today, President Barroso met President Saakashvili to take stock of the EU-Georgia relations and to discuss the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius.
President Barroso said that he hopes to initiate an Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area component, between the EU and Georgia at the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius.
“Let me say it clearly: the European Union intends to make the Vilnius Summit a success; a success that fully reflects Georgia’s efforts to associate with the European Union … This remarkable achievement will seal Georgia's political association and economic integration with the European Union”, President Barroso said.
Relations between the EU and Georgia started in 1992 just after Georgia regained its sovereignty in the wake of the break-up of the Soviet Union. Bilateral relations have further intensified since the 2003 "rose revolution" which brought to power a new Georgian administration committed to an ambitious programme of political and economic reforms.
“The European Union is determined to keep supporting Georgia in its strategic transformation and in moving forward with an agenda that embraces democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law. Reinforcing Georgia's democracy is of course a particular priority for us”, the President said to the press after the meeting.
President Barroso also congratulated the President-elect of Georgia Mr Guiorgui Margvelashvili, “wishing every success in fulfilling this solemn responsibility” and he thanked President Saakashvili’s “friendship to the European Union”.
President Barroso congratulates the International Committee of the Red Cross on its 150th anniversary
Today President Barroso visited the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva, Switzerland. He praised the humanitarian workers of the ICRC and highlighted the important cooperation between the European Commission and the ICRC.
During his meeting with the President of the ICRC, Peter Maurer, President Barroso congratulated the ICRC on its 150th anniversary and emphasised that the ICRC is an essential partner of the European Commission in the field of humanitarian aid.
"I want to reaffirm that the ICRC remains a true partner for the European Commission. We are proud in the European Union, Commission, with our Member States to be contributing to around 60% of the budget of the ICRC. It is a great demonstration of the project of peace that the European Union is."
President Barroso acknowledged the important work done by the humanitarian workers of the ICRC.
"I want at this moment to pay tribute to every single humanitarian worker wearing a Red Cross badge. I believe those workers that are all over the world are true heroes!"
The two presidents also discussed the deteriorating situations in Syria and in the Central African Republic. On Syria, President Barroso said:
"Our response, the European response, to the Syrian crisis is a comprehensive one. Of course, our focus is first and foremost humanitarian, but the Commission also makes use of its neighbourhood and stability instruments to cushion the political and economic consequences of the crisis on neighbouring countries."
European Council responds to Lampedusa tragedy
In his statement after the October European Council, President Barroso outlined discussions which had taken place on access to finance for SMEs, regulatory fitness, the trade agreement with Canada, the forthcoming Eastern Partnership Summit, and the issue of migration and refugees.
On Friday 25 October, the European Council continued its discussion on the economic situation, focussing on how to release the wider contribution of services to the economy in particular by increasing access to finance for SMEs. Leaders agreed to significantly increase the funding for SMEs through the structural and investment funds.
The European Council gave a strong endorsement to the Commission's REFIT programme. President Barroso stressed the importance of common rules which underpin the single market, and made clear that the REFIT programme was about the quality of those rules, ensuring that they were fit for purpose and imposed the minimum possible burdens. Europe should act only where it can add real value, and should be big on the bigger things, small on the smaller things.
The European Council welcomed the political agreement on CETA, the trade agreement with Canada, and discussed in detail the forthcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. President Barroso commented that this had the potential to be a truly historic event as the common goal of political association and economic integration with the Eastern Partners was close to being achieved. The European Council discussed relations with Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, and it is clear that continuous engagement will remain crucial following the Vilnius summit.
Finally, perhaps the most substantive discussion of the summit was on Lampedusa and the issue of illegal migration and refugees in Europe. This is not a new problem and the EU has been working on these issues for many years, but there is a new sense of urgency in the light of the recent tragedies. The Commission will lead a Task Force on this issue, and will present a report to the European Council in December. President Barroso called for a stronger response from the European Union to reinforce search and rescue operations; to help the frontline Member States which are most exposed to the situation; to work with countries of origin and transit to manage migration flows; and to fight against organised crime and human trafficking.
President Barroso concluded that this was an important European Council with a vast agenda, and that real progress had been achieved across a whole range of areas.
Following the first day of the European Council, President Barroso called for urgent action and investment in the digital economy. On the economic situation, the President stated that Europe must stay the course on fiscal consolidation and structural reforms and address the issue of targeted investment.
President Barroso called on Member States for urgent action in the digital economy and investment in ICT, after the first day of the European Council.
"We all understand and agree on the urgency of action. Europe has been a global leader in this sector but it has lost ground to key competitors. We are simply not using the full opportunities offered by the digital economy", said the President.
"What we need, first and foremost, is investment in ICT. There is a clear link between the amount you invest in ICT and the competitiveness of our economies", he added.
On the fragmentation of the digital market, President Barroso believes the telecoms reform package tabled by the Commission in September will help Europe to address the gaps. "We agreed that our digital market in Europe is too fragmented. I hope tonight's discussions will create the momentum for swift progress."
The Commission is also pushing for the adoption of the legislation on data protection: "for the digital economy to thrive, citizens have to have trust in it. Obviously, the revelations over recent months and days have shaken trust in privacy and data security", the President said.
On the economic situation, President Barroso believes there are reasons to be "cautiously optimistic" but "the recovery is still fragile". He said: "We have seen a return to positive growth in the euro area in the second quarter of the year. And most recent indications we have from the third quarter, and also our extrapolations until the end of the year are also confirming this trend."
"We need to continue with determination what we have begun", said the President. "We must stay the course on fiscal consolidation and structural reforms. We also have to address the very important issue of targeted investment."
The President also called for the completion of the repair of the financial system and for efforts to reach an agreement on the Single Resolution Mechanism before the European elections in May. "Completing the Banking Union remains our top priority", he said.
Further steps on economic policy coordination, the financing of the real economy and youth unemployment were also discussed at the European Council meeting. "Overall, we have given the necessary push on issues that will further strengthen Europe's economy", concluded the President.
President Barroso set out the European Commission's key positions and objectives for the forthcoming European Council of 24-25 October 2013 at today's European Parliament plenary debate.
This week's European Council will discuss a range of very important topics: the digital economy, innovation, services, youth unemployment, financing of the economy, regulatory fitness, EMU and economic governance, EMU and the social dimension, the Banking Union, Eastern Partnership and migration.
"My main message to the European Council tomorrow is that over the next weeks and months, the European Union can, and must, achieve concrete results in all these areas," stressed European Commission President Barroso.
On digital agenda:
"We need a thriving digital sector to drive all other parts of our economy, and the internal market for telecoms has to be at the heart of this problem.
There is now a major reform package for the telecoms sector on the table. Let us all make maximum progress on this file by the end of this legislature.
We need to build this Digital Single Market in a manner that is consistent with our European values. That includes making sure that those who operate in the online world do not escape from fair taxation."
"Member States that have continued to invest in innovation have fared better in the current crisis than those that have not. We will need to increase our efforts – public and private - to keep up with international competition.
On regulatory fitness:
At the European Council tomorrow, I will be looking for a strong endorsement of the REFIT programme. But let me be clear. This is neither about calling into question established policy goals. Nor should it be a battle of competencies between Brussels and national capitals. This is about the right dose in using existing competencies in full respect of subsidiarity and proportionality. I also expect Member States to cut red tape at their level and avoid "gold plating" EU legislation by adding new national burdens to European rules."
On financing the economy:
We need to unblock the flow of credit and help businesses, especially SMEs. Frankly I am disappointed that the Member States are not more ambitious here. And I will tell this tomorrow to the European Council.
On Multi-annual Financial framework:
The preparations for the next MFF come a very long way but we are not yet there. We need a final push from all concerned in order to conclude. I can assure you that the Commission will continue to do its utmost to facilitate a fair and balanced outcome between the European Parliament and the Council. An outcome as close as possible to the Commission's level of ambition, something I know the Parliament shares.
On banking union:
Completing the Banking Union in particular is the one most significant and important advance we can make to end the unfair distortions of lending conditions in financial markets. So it must remain our absolute priority for the euro area.
On economic governance:
The implementation of the country-specific recommendations is not yet optimal, which is also due to insufficient ownership by each Member State of the recommendations which are addressed to them. The widening of these to the social and employment dimensions will surely contribute to enhance ownership.
On social dimensions of the EMU:
One of the core proposals is stronger surveillance of employment and social challenges and policy coordination. The role of the European Parliament is crucial in this regard.
On youth employment:
In June the Commission proposed the frontloading of the social funds so that the initial 6 billion euro is invested in the first two years. Adopting the necessary regulations is a matter of urgency and of concern. We are approaching the programming period. Member States with the support of the Commission are in the process of finalising the design of the Youth Guarantee Implementation plans and Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) programmes.
On the Eastern Partnership:
The European Commission launched this initiative back in 2009. Four years later we are now in a position to deliver on our common objective of political association and economic integration with our Eastern partners. Our common goal is to conclude Association Agreements, including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas. The free will of these countries must be respected by everyone.
We must all do more to prevent tragedies like this. I hope the European Council will pave the way for a new chapter in the common management, common responsibility and cooperative management at European Union level of migration policies.
There are no magic or immediate solutions, and we need to be realistic. But the character and the scale of the problem calls for stronger measures to organise search and rescue operations to save lives in danger, to better protect our borders and effectively tackle the criminal networks behind the migration flows and to protect those in need. In this sense, and knowing well that most responsibilities and competences lie at national level, more has to be done in terms of cooperation with countries of origin and transit and of Member States' efforts on resettlement.
These elements form part of the solution, but first and foremost we need the political will. The Commission is doing its part, and, for example, was now requested by governments to lead a Task Force with Member States and EU Agencies such as Frontex, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and EUROPOL. We must not allow the momentum on such vital issues to be fuelled by tragedies alone."
EU leaders will meet in Brussels for the European Council on 24-25 October 2013. Discussion will focus on the digital economy, economic and social policy including youth unemployment and economic and monetary union, the Eastern Partnership Summit, and the recent Lampedusa tragedy.
On Thursday 24 October, the opening working session will concentrate on the digital economy. President Barroso will deliver a presentation, after which leaders will discuss and agree Council Conclusions on investing in the digital economy, promoting a consumer-friendly Digital Single Market, and improving skills, innovation and services. A key element of the debate will be the importance of agreeing the "Connected Continent" telecoms package, which is an important step in the completion of the Digital Single Market and will benefit European consumers as well as cross-sector industry.
Over dinner, discussion will focus on economic and social policy and economic and monetary union. EU leaders will discuss youth unemployment, and the Commission will stress the need for Member States to ensure that the Youth Employment Initiative is fully operational by January 2014. Leaders will also discuss financing the economy, and in particular ensuring better access to finance for SMEs, and will also touch on the Commission's REFIT exercise to reduce regulatory red tape. On economic and monetary union, banking union continues to be the Commission's top priority, and there will be discussion of asset quality review, balance sheet assessments and stress tests.
On Friday 25 October EU leaders will meet to discuss the Eastern Partnership Summit, which will take place in Vilnius on 28-29 November 2013, and the recent Lampedusa tragedy.
The President will make a presentation on the European Council to the European Parliament on Wednesday 23 October.
Presentation of European Commission President Barroso to the European Council of 24-25 October 2013: Innovating in the digital era: putting Europe back on track [3 MB] (for other languages please visit this article)
President Barroso's letter to Members of the European Council – dated 27.9.2013
Europe's Digital Challenge: Commission contribution to the European Council of 24-25 October 2013 [2 MB] (for other languages please visit this article)
Tripartite Social Summit: President Barroso favours stronger jobs and social focus in EU economic governance
President Barroso told EU leaders, trade unions and employers' organisations today that he was in favour of taking jobs and social developments better into account in the EU's new economic surveillance system.
He also favours a stronger role for the EU-level and national trade unions and employers' organisations (the social partners) under the new system, known as the European Semester.
The meeting took place ahead of the European Council, where all 28 EU leaders were due to discuss the Commission's recent Communication on strengthening the social dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union, which sets out how the Commission intends to bring employment and social issues into sharper focus. "Our message is clear: social and employment considerations must feature more prominently in current European Union economic governance structures, and social partners at EU and national levels must become more involved in this process," President Barroso said.
He also highlighted the importance of the digital economy and innovation as a way to boost growth and jobs, and said that he would be asking EU leaders to approve a raft of important legislation that, taken together, could add 4% to the EU's collective GDP by 2020. He also said he would be pressing EU leaders to move swiftly to combat youth employment, stimulate bank financing for small businesses and adopt an ambitious EU budget to spur investment in Europe.
"While there are good signs in the economy, the reality is that the recovery is still very fragile, and we are still faced with unacceptably high levels of youth unemployment, which is why, at the European Council today, I will press EU heads of state and government to maintain the momentum to tackle this problem," President Barroso said.
"As the Commission has been saying, at least since 2010, our policy should not be about fiscal consolidation alone, or structural reforms alone. This is important and indispensable, but we need also investment. And since most of our Member States simply do not have the fiscal space for investment, we need to help them through the MFF. Our workers they need the MFF to be approved. That is why I'm asking the Council and Parliament to come as soon as possible to an agreement on the MFF."
The Commission work programme 2014
The Commission adopted its 2014 work programme today. The Work Programme focuses on the delivery and implementation of the priority growth enhancing proposals that are currently on the table, such as the single resolution Mechanism, the digital agenda and free movement of workers to name but a few.
The Commission also identifies a number of new initiatives and looks ahead at the future of key sectors like energy and climate change. In addition, the work programme further reviews the existing stock of legislation to ensure it is fit for purpose (REFIT) and identifies pending proposals that should be withdrawn or simplified.
With the adoption of the Work Programme 2014 European Commission underlines that a great deal of work is on the table and needs to be delivered in the coming year.