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Brussels, 27 January 2012

Remarks by President Barroso ahead of Monday's informal European Council

On growth and smart fiscal consolidation:

"Growth is and has always been at the centre of the Commission's comprehensive response to the crisis. That is precisely what the structural reform agenda is about. But since structural reforms can take time to make their benefits felt, we have also put forward many ideas to stimulate growth in the short term, for instance by using EU funding more effectively to ease the credit squeeze on small businesses. I will propose to Member States to redeploy structural funds to boost growth and job creation even further."

"We cannot resort to fiscal stimulus to boost growth at the present time. The current fragility of our economies stems from a lack of confidence in Member States' ability to pay their debts. That is why smart fiscal consolidation is crucial in our crisis response: not an end in itself, but a means to achieve sustainable public finances, without which there can be no lasting recovery. But I emphasise it must be smart: countries which cut in the very areas they need to nurture for future growth will pay a heavy price down the line. This is not a choice between fiscal consolidation and growth. We need both!"

On youth unemployment:

"We cannot accept that almost a quarter of Europe's young people are unemployed! I will be proposing the creation of joint 'action teams' with the Commission, Member States and national social partners, to come up with targeted plans by April to help tackle youth unemployment. I also want Member States to commit to a 'Youth on the Move' pact to ensure that all our young people are either in a job, in education or in training within four months of leaving school."

On support for SMEs:

"Small businesses are the backbone of the European economy – and they need our help. We must do more to help them through this crisis. The Commission has put proposals on the table to free up available funding, reduce the burden of red tape and address decisively the problem of late or non-payments of outstanding invoices, which are responsible for a quarter of all bankruptcies in Europe. These must be agreed and implemented swiftly."

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