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SPEECH/ 10/21

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Speaking with one voice: defining and defending the European interest

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

EP Plenary: vote on new College

Strasbourg, 9 February 2010

Monsieur le Président,

Mesdames et Messieurs les députés,

"La Commission promeut l'intérêt général de l'Union et prend les initiatives appropriées à cette fin. Elle veille à l'application des traités ainsi que des mesures adoptées par les institutions en vertu de ceux-ci. Elle surveille l'application du droit de l'Union sous le contrôle de la Cour de justice de l'Union européenne. Elle exécute le budget et gère les programmes. Elle exerce des fonctions de coordination, d'exécution et de gestion conformément aux conditions prévues par les traités. À l'exception de la politique étrangère et de sécurité commune et des autres cas prévus par les traités, elle assure la représentation extérieure de l'Union. Elle prend les initiatives de la programmation annuelle et pluriannuelle de l'Union pour parvenir à des accords interinstitutionnels."

Comme vous le savez bien, ceci est le texte de l'article 17(1) du Traité sur l'Union Européenne. Je l'ai lu car il montre l'importance de la Commission pour la réalisation du projet européen; une Commission qui, d'après le même article, est responsable en tant que collège, devant votre Parlement.

Ainsi, aujourd'hui, nous voyons la démocratie européenne à l'œuvre!

Aujourd'hui, votre assemblée, composée de représentants directement élus par les citoyens européens, est appelée à se prononcer sur le nouveau Collège des commissaires.

S'ajoutant au vote sur le Président de la Commission du 16 septembre de l'année dernière, ce scrutin tient une place essentielle dans la légitimité démocratique de la Commission et donc du projet européen dans son ensemble.

L'équipe qui se présente devant vous aujourd'hui est prête à affronter les défis qui s’annoncent.

Elle associe l'expérience et les idées neuves, elle reflète la large gamme d'approches et de sensibilités qui fait de l'Europe cette formidable terre d'idées.

C’est une équipe pour laquelle vous pouvez voter en confiance, une équipe qui mérite votre soutien. Et ensuite….

Ensuite quoi?

Les choses reprendraient leur cours habituel?

Non, je refuse de croire – et nos concitoyens ne comprendraient pas – qu’après ces années de débat institutionnel, nous poursuivions, pour l’essentiel, comme auparavant.

Nous vivons en effet des temps exceptionnels.

Les défis auxquels nous confrontent la crise économique et financière ainsi que le changement climatique et la sécurité énergétique – pour n'en citer que quelques-uns – sont tout simplement trop considérables pour que nous ne modifions pas notre façon de faire.


Honourable Members,

This is a time for boldness. This is a time to show our citizens that we care, and that the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty will make a real difference in our ability to serve their interests.

I believe that our economic and social situation demands a radical shift from the status quo. And the new Treaty allows this.

Our task is to use the new mechanics to bring on new dynamics!

So let's get away from the intellectual glamour of pessimism and constant denigration of the European Union that is doing so much damage to Europe's image.

Let's move the discussion from institutional input to policy impact.

What Europe needs to succeed is policies focused on results, better governance structures and confidence in our own ability to solve the problems we face. Our common currency, the euro, will continue to constitute a major tool for our development and those who think it can be put in question must realise we will stick to our course. The European Union has the necessary framework to address any challenge that appears in this respect.

We can start by asking ourselves: does the EU count in the world? And the answer is yes. But does the EU count as much as it should in the world? The answer is… not yet.

Europe counts when we speak with a strong and united voice. When the European interest is clearly defined and vigorously defended. In trade for example, and competition policy.

It is less successful when we act according to narrow national interests, in an un-coordinated way. Or in areas where collectively the EU is not able to defend and promote its collective interest.

So, in summary, we have to ask ourselves: are we doing everything we can to define and defend the European interest – an interest that is more than the sum of its parts?

Frankly, I believe we have to do more.

We need to set our work in an overall, longer-term vision of where we want the European Union to be. This will ensure coherence, and offer a sense of direction that actors across Europe can recognise and support.

The political guidelines I presented to this House are the starting point for this vision of 'Europe 2020'. They are the fruit of our experience over the last five years. And not least, they are the fruit of intensive discussions with this House.

Thanks to your strong support for these guidelines, I regard them as a useful point of departure for us.

The broad priorities are clear: making a successful exit from the crisis; leading on climate action and energy efficiency; boosting new sources of growth and social cohesion to renew our social market economy; advancing a people's Europe with freedom and security; and opening a new era for global Europe.

I believe in a Europe that is open and generous. A Europe that is particularly dedicated to the Millennium Development Goals.

I believe in a Europe that shows solidarity to others, as we have shown recently in Haiti, where we have contributed in an important way with emergency aid, and we will also contribute with significant reconstruction aid.

But we can achieve more with better coordination at European level and I will make proposals in this sense, exploring the new opportunities offered by the treaty.

The European External Action Service will also be a very important instrument to make our foreign policy more coherent and effective.

I can promise you that if this College is granted your support, we will set to work straightaway, turning the political guidelines into an ambitious work programme – a work programme that I want to discuss with you.

Our Europe 2020 vision is both a structural and comprehensive reform strategy, and an exit and recovery strategy. So we will make sure we embed short-term measures to get Europe working again into our longer-term objectives, promoting jobs through sustainable growth.

We will spend the next five years turning our vision into reality: making Europe a resource efficient, inclusive, social market economy – reflecting what makes us special, the European way of life.

This means growth based on knowledge and innovation: improving our productivity by increasing our R&D and innovation performance, better exploiting the potential of ICTs and creating a digital single market, raising education outcomes and promoting skills.

This means an inclusive, high employment society: empowering people through high levels of employment, using flexicurity, modernising labour markets and social protection, fighting poverty, with a view to building a more inclusive society.

This means greener growth: building a competitive and sustainable economy, tackling climate change, accelerating the roll-out of smart grids and genuine EU scale networks, modernising the EU's industrial base, and turning the EU into a resource efficient economy.

To achieve these goals we must recognise that the interdependence of our economies requires better and more co-ordination.

Some national politicians, let's face it, are not in favour of a more co-ordinated approach in economic policy. But if we want to overcome the crisis, reinforce the social dimension and establish a good basis for a strong economic future for Europe in the globalised world; if we want to reinforce our industrial base and launch new common European projects (and not just bilateral ones): then stronger economic co-ordination is the only way forward.

Other very important challenges need to be tackled during this mandate. We have already mapped out a very ambitious and far-reaching programme in the field of justice and home affairs. This not only includes the fight against terrorism and crime, it also includes the very important priority of a common approach to migration. In this area we show to our citizens our commitment to both freedom and security.

During this mandate we will also focus on the budget review and new financial perspectives.

We believe that we should concentrate on the quality of the expenditure, on its European added value and on its effectiveness, so that the financial perspectives become an instrument to realise the ambitions of Europe: for our strategy for sustainable growth and jobs, and also the goals of economic, social and territorial cohesion.

Honourable Members,

This can only come from strong European institutions and a determination to raise our level of ambition, to deliver change.

So it is most welcome that a key change in the Treaty is the strengthening of all the European institutions.

I intend to use this to reinforce the contribution we can all make to the European project, together. This is no time for our institutions to pull in different directions.

But of course the Commission will always have a special relationship with the Parliament, as under the Community method, we are the two institutions with a specific role to identify, articulate and give reality to the European interest.

That makes us the two Community institutions par excellence, with a particular responsibility to ensure that the EU is more than the sum of its parts.

It was in this spirit that I offered, in the political guidelines I presented to you, a new partnership with the European Parliament. It was in this spirit that we discussed a new Framework Agreement, the principles of which are embodied in the resolution before the House today.

This framework agreement should drive forward our common efforts to deliver genuinely European responses to the issues faced by Europeans today.

So as well as updating the agreement to reflect the Lisbon Treaty, it must set out new ways in which we will make co-operation a day-to-day reality.

It must help us to fashion a new culture of partnership and purpose, to use our common leverage to offer a real advance for the European project.

Also several of these issues imply co-operation with the Council. So I would very much welcome a broader agreement that unites the co-legislators, together with the Commission, on a set of principles for inter-institutional co-operation.

Honourable Members,

I said we need to be bold. I said we cannot continue with business as usual. I have outlined some innovations, and our priorities to tackle the social situation. I am convinced they will strengthen our institutions and help us achieve our goals, in full respect of our values.

Because let's never forget, our union is founded on values: respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights.

Today, a new chapter in our European adventure opens.

Let's work together to make it a real success – for all our citizens.

Thank you for your attention.

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