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Brussels, 25 April 2012
"The challenge of winning citizens' trust" - Remarks by President Barroso at the seminar organized by European Ombudsman
President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso participated on Tuesday 24 April in the debate with citizens "Europe in crisis - the challenge of winning citizens' trust" organized by European Ombudsman Nikiforos Diamandouros. This memo summarises his key remarks both from the statement and in reply to the questions posed both by participants in the room and on-line via Twitter.
ON CITIZENS' TRUST
There is a growing gap between 'people in the street' and the elites. Citizens feel the decisions are escaping them, or they don't know how decisions are taken. I fully support the commitment of the European Ombudsman to put citizens at the centre to overcome the crisis. The Commission will continue to work in close cooperation with European Ombudsman in this regard.
How we could fill this gap? Through leadership, through ownership. The EU is not just Brussels, it is for all. Europe is you, it is us. Leadership of EU institutions, but also at all levels, from national governments, parliaments, social partners, civil society, business, universities. All levels of society. Democracy is not just about state, it is about engagement. The Lisbon Treaty contributes to this as it gives stronger competences to the directly elected European Parliament and complements representative democracy with new mechanisms of participatory democracy, namely through the recently-launched European Citizens' Initiative.
While some Member States are in great difficulties, nobody questions their existence. The EU is different, it is a political construct. Eurobarometer surveys show that in many Member States, more people believe the EU is better placed to help get Europe out of its crisis than national governments or parliaments. But there is no place for complacency. On the contrary, this is why we need legitimacy by results
ON EUROPE'S RESPONSE TO THE CRISIS
Europe is not the cause of the crisis. We are in this crisis today, mainly because of two factors: irresponsible behaviour of some governments and also irresponsible behaviour in the financial sector.
The crisis has shown how interdependent and interconnected we are. In the age globalisation and integration of the markets, a high level of integration within the European Union is indispensable, namely to sustain the common currency.
We are fighting the crisis on all fronts. Prior to the crisis, national authorities were responsible for regulating the behaviour of the financial sector. We have now created EU-wide regulations for financial sector, and Europe is the most advanced constituency in the G20 in this respect. Other countries are far behind. We created the European Stability Mechanism that will be one of the most important financial institutions in the world, with equal resources to the IMF. And we put forward the proposal for Financial Transaction Tax.
It is also about determination. Determination of the most vulnerable Member States to continue with their efforts and structural reforms for competitiveness, but also determination of the strongest Member States to continue with their support. What would be the alternative? Disorderly default or bankruptcy would be catastrophic from a social point of view and the situation would be much worse than today.
The European Commission has been always on the frontline of the fight against corruption. Firstly by a strict audit system that is advanced compared to most of our Member States (from controls by European Parliament and the Court of Auditors to OLAF office) and secondly by supporting an increase of transparency financially and by other means across the EU.