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President of the European Commission
Prime Minister Jansa,
My first word goes to the Slovenian Presidency. Slovenia is an example of the success of enlargement. It is the first Member State among the Member States having joined in 2004 both to adopt the Euro and to have the Presidency of the European Council.
Prime Minister Jansa, you and your country are symbols of the struggle for freedom, a fundamental value for Europe. Listening to you, I recalled the enlargement of the Schengen area at the end of last year. I recalled the journey along the borders being opened – from the borders between Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany to the borders between Estonia and Finland, between Slovakia, Hungary and Austria to the borders between Slovenia and Italy. Borders where less than 20 years ago people were killed because they tried to cross them. Today these borders disappeared. The celebrations that we attended showed the genuine emotion of the people. This re-inforces my firm belief: The enlargements of 2004 and 2007 which unified Europe in peace and democracy are one of the greatest achievements of European history.
The example of Slovenia demonstrates that the Member States which joined the Union in 2004 and 2007 are now at the core of European integration. It also shows the European credentials of Slovenia. I wish to express to Prime Minister Jansa my full support for the next six months.
The Commission will work very closely with the Slovenian Presidency on central issues of its programme such as the stability of the Western Balkans, Kosovo and Bosnia in particular, enlargement, European neighbourhood policy, asylum and immigration, cooperation with strategic partners and intercultural dialogue.
Today I want to focus on three of our priorities for 2008: the Treaty of Lisbon, the package on energy and climate change and the renewed Lisbon Strategy.
(The Treaty of Lisbon)
2007 leaves the European Union in good shape. The progress towards conclusion of a new Treaty met our expectations. The Union followed the roadmap proposed by the Commission in May 2006:
first, the Berlin Declaration, which celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome and outlined a vision for the future of the Union;
then, the June European Council, where under the German Presidency, we agreed on a precise mandate for the IGC;
and, finally, the signature of the Treaty of Lisbon in December.
The process of reaching agreement showed a remarkable degree of consensus between Member States and European institutions on the way forward. We have a credible and balanced Treaty and I believe that it provides strong foundations for the future. We have avoided much of the disunity and the disagreements of previous institutional debates. This leaves the Union in good shape to ensure we deliver our political priority for this year: a successful ratification of the Treaty.
I call on all Member States to proceed swiftly and decisively to ensure ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon.
(Energy and climate change)
Next week, the Commission will adopt the climate change and renewable energy package. Our proposals meet the ambition set by all Heads of State and Government in last year's Spring European Council, who called for precise and legally binding targets. The Commission is now acting on that mandate. I see with great satisfaction that it is also a priority both for the Slovenian Presidency and for the European Parliament. We will have to work hard to have the package adopted by the end of 2008.
Our package will complement the proposals presented last year on the energy internal market. A European energy market will give more options and better prices to European citizens and is essential to meet the three central challenges the European Union faces in energy: competitiveness, sustainability and security of supply.
We knew from the very beginning that transforming Europe into a low carbon economy is not an easy task. But this is the moment to be serious, responsible and coherent with our commitment. The Commission will follow a balanced approach to the efforts asked to Member States. They start from different places, have different circumstances, and some are more able than others to finance investment. We also need to minimise the costs of adaptation for the European industry, and to address the challenges faced by energy intensive industries. The Commission is well aware of these realities, as our proposals will show.
But do not expect us to compromise on the European interest: to lead global efforts to fight climate change, to ensure energy security and to provide a competitive advantage to our economies. Both our international credibility and the credibility before European citizens depend on the fulfilment of the targets established in March 2007. Bali was a great success in setting out a roadmap to agreement, but our package next week is a clear demonstration of our willingness to put our money where our mouth is.
The energy and climate change package should be seen as an opportunity to Europe in economic terms. It will encourage innovation and it will increase competitiveness. It is a mistake to oppose the fight against climate change to the competitiveness of European industries. The Union should lead the global efforts to tackle climate change. And European industries should continue to be world leaders. At the same time, we will also create new markets and new jobs, and make sure that we have the "first mover advantage" in many sectors. It is true that our package aims at a more environment-friendly Europe. But it will also contribute to a more industry-friendly, a more jobs-friendly, and a more consumer-friendly Europe. It will be a win-win initiative.
(A new cycle for the renewed Lisbon Strategy)
Three years after its re-launch in 2005, the Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs is working. It has contributed to a better performance of European economy, in particular, to the creation of 6.5 million new jobs over the last two years. We expect the creation of five million new jobs up to 2009. Structural reforms are also helping economic growth and improving the prospects for European long term prosperity. These are very encouraging achievements.
As we launch the next Lisbon cycle, we need to take ambitious decisions in the Spring Council on areas such as research, innovation, the business environment, professional skills and qualification of labour.
The Commission is making proposals to turn the "fifth freedom", the free movement of knowledge, a European reality in order to speed up innovation and making it available to a higher number of European citizens.
We also need a Small Business Act for Europe to foster the growth of the Small and Medium Enterprises, which create nine out of ten new jobs. This is a priority for the Commission in 2008.
Last but not the least, Europe needs active labour policies.
Policies that give people the skills to realise their potential.
Policies that allow our citizens to secure their employability.
Investing in people is the surest way to guarantee our citizens that they will remain employed in spite of changing from job to job. We need to offer prosperity not just for some, not even only for the majority, but for all. That is why "investing in people and modernizing labour markets" remain one of the four priority areas for the new Lisbon cycle.
We must promote the entrepreneur spirit of Europeans. Creation of jobs, innovation and competition are the keys to European success.
Economic forecasts for 2008 and 2009 are already slightly less optimistic, due notably to financial instability coming from the other side of the Atlantic, and we should take these signals seriously. Yet, we should fight negative discourses. Our economic fundamentals are sound and solid. We also know that economic downturn could blunt the readiness to pursue economic and social reforms. It may be a natural reaction, but it is the wrong lesson to draw from past experience. Global competition and the prosperity of our citizens require that Europe does not lax in its reform process. This is the only way to keep and to re-inforce our European model of social cohesion.
One of the keys to success in 2007 was the Commission's ability to work well with the Parliament and the Council. We would never have had agreement on the Treaty or solutions for difficult dossiers like EIT and Galileo, without this partnership approach. The triangular institutional partnership between the Parliament, the Slovenian Presidency of the Council and the Commission will be crucial to our success in 2008. With a ratified Treaty, an agreed energy and climate change package, and a delivering Lisbon Strategy of growth and jobs, we will certainly have in 2009 a more confident and a better prepared Europe to face the future.
(50th anniversary of the 1st Commission meeting)
To conclude, let me thank you very much, President Poettering, for the congratulations on the 50th anniversary of the 1st meeting of the Commission. It has been a long journey since 1958. The European Commission has been at the centre of the European integration process as a source of dynamism and ambition, as a reference for all those who believe in the European project. Today, I am proud to be leading this institution at the beginning of the 21st century as we face new challenges and require new solutions. The Commission will remain loyal to Walter Hallstein and all the founding fathers who worked tirelessly 50 years ago. In close cooperation with the European Parliament and with the Council we will continue to promote our common goals. A strong Europe, an open Europe, a Europe of freedom, prosperity and solidarity.
It is in this spirit that I once again wish you, Prime Minister Jansa, every success in your presidency, in which you can count on our support.