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Maroš Šefčovič: Review of the Cyprus Presidency – closing statement

21.01.2013 Speech (in English) delivered by Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission, at the European Parliament Plenary debate in Brussels on 15 January 2013.

Madam President, I think we would all agree – as was very well testified to in this debate – that 2012 was one of the most difficult years in European Union history.

We can all remember how we started last year. This room was full of doom scenarios and very difficult predictions for the fate of the European Union. Despite the fact – as so well described by President Christofias – that sometimes it takes us too long to get decisions taken at a top political level to be implemented on the ground – the so-called implementation gap – I think the European Union, thanks to both presidencies of last year, achieved a lot.

This really helps us to focus this year on consolidation and on maintaining the sustainability of the decisions we took last year. I also think that it is very clear from this debate that our top priority must be a clear focus on growth and jobs. We need to work on keeping our public finances in order because this helps us to restore confidence, both in the European Union and in the EU decision-making process. This will bring us back investment and the increased competitiveness of our economy. I think that, in the last days of last year and the first days of this year, we have already seen positive signs in the different economic indexes, the situation on the financial markets and the lowering of spreads, but it is quite clear that we are not there yet. We cannot be complacent about the current situation and we still have to work very hard to make this achievement consolidated and solid.

Therefore, I strongly support all those who are calling for the completion of very important legislative work on the two-pack. We have to work hard to complete banking union, which would finally restore confidence in our financial industry. And we have to work very hard on the tax evasion package, because we are losing billions of euros in the European Union every year in this way.

Several of you referred to the troika and technocrats. Here again, I would just remind you that the decisions are very much framed by the discussions and the decisions of the Euro Group. On behalf of the Commission, I would like to assure you that the Commission always advocates and calls for a comprehensive approach. Yes, we need to have order in public finances, but we would never advocate austerity solutions alone. We are advocating important and necessary structural reforms and targeted, well‑oriented investment.

Unfortunately, here I have to say that sometimes there are differing positions or opinions among some of the Member States. This was clearly shown in several interventions this morning relating to the discussion on the multiannual financial framework. I have to say that, listening to the further calls for additional cuts, these would make the proposal on the MFF very difficult, because the overall cuts, including the cuts for administrations, which are very often advocated in such a proportion that it would make them unrealistic, would lead us in a direction where the savings made would be small, but the structural damage to long‑term goals and the overall project of the European Union would be very harmful and long-lasting. We have to resist those calls and work very hard for a meaningful compromise for the future of the European Union and of our economies and our citizens.

To conclude, I would like thank President Christofias and his EU team very much for the fair and open manner in which they conducted the EU presidency. A long list of achievements has already been mentioned. Some took us decades to complete, like the EU patent. Some are of a really groundbreaking nature, like the decision on the single supervisory mechanism. I do not think that those achievements would have been possible without a very professional team headed by Minister Mavroyiannis and Ambassador Korneliou, who did a great job, in Council, Coreper and his frequent contacts with the European Parliament. Therefore, I would like to thank Cyprus for a great job done. The Presidency deserves a lot of credit for all its achievements. Thank you very much for the excellent cooperation.

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