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Bruxelles, 19 mars 2012

Key messages of President Barroso during his visit to Milan (Italy), 17 March 2012

On the comprehensive crisis response

"We have made good progress. The Europe 2020 strategy builds on the, sometimes painful, lessons we have learnt from previous efforts to improve Europe's growth and competitiveness. It can provide the foundations on which to build policies for a return to growth. The so-called six-pack, six legislative proposals put forward by the European Commission and now adopted by the European Parliament and the Council. Also the Fiscal Compact, that was just signed by 25 out of 27 Member States have strengthened our economic governance. The second programme for Greece has been decided; several Member States, most notably Italy, are implementing courageous decisions with regard to the restructuring of their economies. The European Central Bank is playing an important role through its lending operations are providing crucial help to the banks, inject the liquidity into economy. We have put in place the defences, so-called firewalls to support and protect Member States as they undertake structural change. We are currently discussing whether they these should be reinforced. You know that the Commission position is that they should indeed be reinforced."

On the consolidation and reform efforts undertaken by Italy

"Our overarching priority is to create the conditions for investment and concrete actions at EU and national level to boost growth and support job creation. But obviously we cannot have lasting growth without a sound macroeconomic environment and financial stability. And this is a position that the European Commission has been defending and working on from the very beginning of the crisis.

And while we are turning the page on years of financial and fiscal irresponsibility, we are also modernizing our social market economic model to adapt it to the new realities and challenges of a fast-changing geo-economic global environment.

I would like to pay tribute to the boldness and the courage of Mario Monti's government and to the spirit of compromise and consensus that has been demonstrated by the main political forces and social partners. I also salute the wisdom of the Italian people for supporting the reform actions of the government and the parliament.

Italy has embarked on a remarkable reform programme to reduce the public debt and address the structural problems that weigh on the Italian economy's growth potential. And this very ambitious strategy has clearly helped to restore market confidence.

We believe, that it is important to have consensus, as strong as possible, for this kind of reforms. Consensus and social dialogue are critical for investors' confidence.

I really want to convey to the Italian citizens our confidence that with the right policies Italy will not only overcome difficulties but give a major contribution to our common European project."

On the Italian labour market reform

"Reforming the labour market is another key building block in Italy's reform agenda in order to create better prospects for jobs and growth in Italy. Bold and comprehensive action is required to tackle both low participation rates and labour market dualism, with the youth in particular often in precarious employment.

Labour force participation and employment rates in Italy are well below relevant European averages, particularly among women and young workers. Many workers, a lot of them young, are in a precarious employment status.

A careful design of this reform package is key in ensuring its success. In particular, to improve the adjustment capacity of the economy and thus foster job creation, a better balance between flexibility of entry and exit from employment should be found.

Any reform must be consistent with the flexicurity approach, as suggested by the Annual Growth Survey and already recommended to Italy by the Council last July and we look forward to seeing the content of the reform in detail."

On structural funds

"We have also taken new measures to use structural funds as a guarantee for SMEs to gain access to credit at any stage of their normal business activity and not only at the time when they are established or are expanding, as was the case until now. This is of particular importance in this period of lack of liquidity for enterprises and public budgetary constraints.

For example, as regards Italy, an "Action Plan for Cohesion" has been agreed at the end of 2011. This plan provides for a reprogramming and concentration of some €3.7 billion Euros in favour of four priority areas: employment, education, digital agenda, and railways. Equally importantly, the plan has launched a new reinforced governance of European Funds between the Italian government and the Commission. It will allow Italy to better exploit European Funds."

On the Multiannual Financial Framework

"Our proposal for the next Multiannual Financial Framework is clearly centred on growth and job creation.

The European budget is not a budget for current expenditure. It is a budget for investment in infrastructure. Investment in small and medium-sized enterprises. Investment in our regions. Investment in training, education, jobs. It is a European budget for the European citizens.

It is a budget to relieve pressure on national budgets. It is a budget to make sure that one Euro spent at the European level brings more that one Euro spent at the national level."

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