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SPEECH/10/338

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Statement of President Barroso at the European Parliament debate on the conclusions of the European Council

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

European Parliament Plenary

Brussels, 23 June 2010

President of the European Parliament,

President of the European Council,

President of the Council,

Honourable Members, dear Colleagues,

Only a week ago we met in Strasbourg to prepare for the June European Council and the G20 Summit in Toronto. In front of this House I said that in face of the current economic problems, growth is the answer.

That this growth had to be smart, sustainable, and inclusive. That it must build on fiscal consolidation and structural reforms.

And that for this to happen we need to advance on several fronts at once:

  • Namely by adopting the Europe 2020 Strategy;

  • By rapidly concluding the remaining work on financial markets regulation and supervision;

  • By coming forward with ambitious measures to reinforce our economic governance in Europe;

  • and finally by entering the G20 meeting in Toronto with a strong and united EU position.

I am glad to say that exactly this has been the path taken by the European Council last week. And that happened largely on the basis of proposals put forward by the Commission. This European Council reached exceptionally substantive conclusions. As we took decisions on strategic orientations which point to the future and offer a vision. The result of the last European Council went beyond simply adding up national approaches. It delivered a truly European perspective, in three areas in particular: Economic governance, financial regulation and supervision, and also in everything that has to do with our future European strategy for growth and jobs – Europe 2020.

First, economic governance. Though this is still work in progress, the outline of what is needed is now clear. The Commission has set out some ideas in its communication of 12 May:

  • A European semester to bring together surveillance of structural and fiscal policies;

  • Making the Treaty provisions on debt work effectively;

  • More creative use of carrots and sticks to help the Stability and Growth Pact to head off future problems, and correct them when they arise;

  • Ensuring that national budgetary frameworks are set up in the right way to respect Treaty obligations;

  • Broadening economic surveillance to tackle macroeconomic imbalances and competitiveness problems in the internal market, so as to cover the full range of key issues and not just look at the budgetary dimension.

We now have a European consensus that this is the way forward. The next steps are for the Task Force, chaired by the President of the European Council to deepen this consensus and translate it into detailed action. With this in mind, the Commission will next week put on the table some ideas about concrete further action and we are already working on detailed proposals. We will have these on the table by the end of September, as I believe here time is also extremely important.

The second key area where we reached important agreement was financial services. We all know that the job here is not complete. And we all know how important it is to have the right regulatory basis for sound and responsible financial services in place, to give confidence that we have the bulwarks in place against future pressures.

Here of course the role of this Parliament is essential. As I did with Heads of State and Government last week in the European Council, I would likewise appeal to you to make every effort to ensure that the proposals on financial supervision are adopted before the summer break – so that the new arrangements can be in place for next year. The same urgency is there for alternative investment fund managers and capital requirements.

I was delighted that the European Council took up the targets in our 2 June communication to have the next phase of financial services proposals agreed by the end of 2011. Issuing these proposals will be a major focus of the Commission's work this autumn, and I am sure that this Parliament will be ready to give the speedy attention needed to these very important initiatives.

I also believed that it was particularly important for the European Council to agree on proposals for an effective and coherent approach on the stress testing of banks. Making the results public on a bank by bank basis is the right way to use transparency to fuel confidence and prevent the unfounded speculation which distorts the market. We will know exactly what problems still exist, and exactly how they will be tackled. And as I said in the European Council the Commission will stand ready to make whatever examination may be needed under our state aid rules in case interventions are necessary.

Another central strand of our action and I think probably one of the most important conclusions of this European Council was of course Europe 2020. This was now accepted by the European Council as the EU's strategy for economic growth for the long term in the sustainable and inclusive way we have proposed just a few months ago and to which this House has given substantial input. I am reassured that it has been possible for this approach to be agreed so quickly and in particular that we have been able to agree the five headline targets including on education and fighting poverty. I would like to underline this point, because it was not evident at the beginning that Member States would agree also to share their action in terms of what are mainly national competences, but that we can put together in a coordinated manner at European level. With this, the 27 Heads of State and Government have made far-reaching commitments. There should be full apprehension of the fact that leading an EU Member State is also leading one part of the EU and that there should be no contradiction between these important tasks of leadership.

The strong and positive political impetus put by this Parliament was extremely helpful in reaching this positive result and I want to thank you once again. I also want to thank the President of the Parliament because in the first part of the work of the European Council he made it clear with strong European conviction how important it was to reach agreement on those matters. Let me thank this House for the very substantial input which you are giving to this strategy and which I hope you will continue to give in the future because work is far from complete. We still have to define some of the most important and critical issues regarding the implementation of this strategy.

In fact we now face the hard work of putting the strategy to work, engaging people at all levels of society and in all parts of the economy. That is why I have welcomed since the beginning the idea of the ownership of the strategy also by our Member States. It could not, it should not be seen only as a strategy from Brussels or from Strasbourg. It is important that it is seen as a true strategy that mobilizes our society. The Commission will be coming forward with the flagship initiatives to drive the European dimension of the strategy, and working closely with Member States to develop the national reform programmes. The success of the strategy will also rely heavily on the work of this Parliament in your own constituencies, with civil society, with national parliament colleagues, but I would also like to say with social partners, with society at large. This will be a real common effort for the coming months and years.

This comprehensive economic approach gives us the strongest of platforms for the G20 meeting this week, a clear and united position which can offer the kind of leadership we have been able to offer to the G20 since 2008. In a joint letter signed by Herman van Rompuy and myself we have highlighted to all our G20 colleagues what are the priorities, what is the programme of the EU in this meeting. For the first time the EU apart from its Member States put together a position regarding what are our priorities for global action. And I think this should be welcomed. We have action under way, and we have a clear timetable for the future. That is the challenge we can take to partners worldwide. Some of the matters are extremely controversial for some of our colleagues at the G20, for instance the issue of the bank levy and the financial transaction tax. But it was in fact important that at European level we have reached a consensus on those matters.

In conclusion, the success of last week's European Council shows how the EU is most effective when it concentrates on the priorities. When we face a new challenge, we should resist the temptation to rush to set up new mechanisms and new structures, those kinds of institutional debates that never end. We should rather have confidence in the institutions we have, give them our support and have confidence in our ability to deliver in just the way we saw last week.

Honourable Members, before concluding, let me just congratulate the Parliament, the Council and the High Representative for the successful outcome of the negotiations on the External Action Service. The Commission very much welcomes an agreement which clearly foresees a service which is part of the community system and that largely follows the proposals that Catherine Ashton has put forward in agreement with the Commission, working alongside the institutions and with the same rules of accountability as any other part of the European Public Service.

And I would also like to tell you that the Commission will work hard with this House and the other institutions to ensure that the European External Action Service will be up and running as soon as possible. This was one of the important innovations of the Lisbon Treaty, we now have to make it a reality. The European Parliament can count on the Commission to defend the Community method as being the best way to deliver the results our citizens expect to see. I believe this European Council was indeed a very important progress for our European project. Thank you for your attention.


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