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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Europe and Romania: a partnership for development
Doctorate Honoris Causa – University of Bucharest
Bucharest, 8 November 2010
I want, first of all, to say what an honour it is to receive this Doctorate Honoris Causa from Bucharest University. It is a privilege to receive this Degree from such a prestigious institution, the biggest and most prestigious university in Romania.
The history of the Bucharest University, and its immediate predecessor the Academy of Saint Sava, has accompanied the history of Romania in the last four centuries. This University has been an important player in all the major events of Romania's history. The emergence of the kingdom, the independence from the Ottoman Empire, the cold war period, the Bucharest student movement and the revolution of 1989 were all closely witnessed from within these walls. A special thanks to the Rector, Professor Ioan Pânzaru, for this great honour.
Let me take also use this opportunity to pay tribute to some of the most famous alumni of the Bucharest University. Some distinguished Romanian and European intellectuals and scientists, such as Constantin Radulescu Motru, Mircea Eliade – which has spend some time in my own country Portugal as cultural attaché -, George Emil Palade, Grigore Moisil and Mircea Cartarescu are all alumni of the Bucharest University. I felicitate the University for producing such talents.
Today, I will dedicate my lecture to three issues: the significance of the enlargement of 2004-2007, one of the main achievements of Europe in this first decade of the 21st Century; the economic partnership between the European Union and Romania; and some of the priorities of the European Union in the external area.
I am convinced that when, in the future, historians look back to Europe at the beginning of the 21st Century, they will conclude that the enlargement of 2004-2007 was one of its greatest achievements. In this period, the European Union grew from 15 to 27 Member States, unifying the continent in a peaceful way. This was a truly historical event: the peaceful reunification of Europe.
Although Europe did not witness a war of continental dimensions since 1945, half of the continent was certainly not pacified in the broad sense. A number of countries lived under foreign occupation and their citizens suffered violent repression by their own governments. If former Western Europe lived in peace, the so-called "Eastern Europe" did not, at least if we understand peace as the absence of illegitimate forms of violence.
The European peaceful unification is associated with a triple triumph:
Europe as a whole only achieved this after 1989. And integration into the European Union consolidated that historical triumph.
A twentieth-century thinker Norbert Elias concluded that the peaceful reunification in Europe could result in, and I quote, "an era in which it will no longer be individual states but unions of states which will serve mankind as the dominant social unit".
The European Union is the materialization of this political aspiration.
However, the triumph of peace and democracy in Europe should not lead us to a complacent attitude. Peace, the triumph of democracy, the respect for universal rights is not a linear process. Progress and set backs are both part of the historical process. Peace, democracy, prosperity and social justice are never definitively acquired, even when it seems to be the case. We must always strive to preserve and reinforce them.
In other words, as a Union of European democracies, we must periodically renew our commitment to our values. This is what we did with the last enlargement. Countries like Romania fought hard for their freedom and domestic peace. So when they entered into the European Union, the whole continent renewed its commitment to peace and democracy.
Many said it should not happen so quickly. I strongly believe it was the right thing to do at the right time. Romania and the European Union are stronger because of your membership.
The accession of 12 countries meant the renewal of the post-1945 European contract. The experience of the Central and European countries must be a lesson for all Europeans.
The "return to Europe" of Romania and other countries was also the return of Europe's commitment to its defining values and its founding principles.
Let me remind here the programmatic article called the "European Idea", published in 1919 by Constantin Radulescu Motru, a notable ex-alumnus of this University and a great European, which had a significant impact for the European consciousness of the Romanians: "The Romanian people - he wrote - came into contact with the essence of Europe at all the important crossroads in its historical past. At decisive moments, 'Europe' was brought to our public consciousness. The Romanian people can only live in communion with Europe."
European integration has delivered economic, social and territorial cohesion, and countries like Romania benefit and will continue to benefit from it. Romania was until 2008 one of the fastest growing markets in Europe with consistent annual GDP growth rates above 6%. Growth in this period was supported by exports to the EU, primarily to Italy and Germany, and a strong recovery of foreign and domestic investment. Since 1989 FDI has totaled more than $100 billion.
However during the last two years, Europe has gone through a very serious financial and economic crisis. We should be under no illusions. The difficult times are not over. I know that several countries, including Romania, are going through painful fiscal consolidation processes with high social costs. I want to commend the Romanian people and its authorities for the efforts made during this global crisis. The European Union is committed to hep Romania withstand the current period and a 5 billion euros financial assistance package has been granted to limit the deterioration of the budget deficit and preserve macro-economic stability.
Next year should see a return to growth in Romania but the efforts need to continue, notably as far as the budget deficit is concerned, to ensure a stronger and more sustainable economic activity in the future.
To guarantee the improvements of our economies, we must accelerate our reform agenda. Now it is the time to modernise our social market economy so that it can guarantee prosperity at home and competitiveness externally.
The priority in Europe is growth for jobs and prosperity. At the beginning of its mandate, my Commission presented “Europe 2020”, a strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The year of 2020 starts in 2010; it starts now.
A top priority is getting people in jobs. Europe’s employment rates are at 69% on average for those aged between 20 and 64. We have agreed these should rise to 75% by 2020. But it is not enough to create jobs. We must create quality and competitive jobs. Thus, the reform agenda should be centred on developing professional skills and on investment in life-long learning.
Growth also requires a strong investment in innovation. Last month, the Commission launched the flagship initiative Innovation Union which will use public sector intervention to stimulate the private sector and to remove bottlenecks which stop ideas reaching the market.
Investing in innovation also means promoting world class universities in Europe. European universities must attract the brightest and the best. The Commission will take an initiative on the modernisation of European universities. And a prestigious Institution such as Bucharest University must be part of this European effort to put our universities at the top of the world rankings.
Finally we need to strengthen and deepen our single market. The internal market is Europe’s greatest asset. At the end of last month, the Commission presented a comprehensive and ambitious Single Market Act. This proposal aims at exploiting to the full the potential of an integrated market of 27 member states, 500 million consumers, and 20 million enterprises which account for 175 million jobs.
Energy, for instance, is an area where we need to complete the internal market. We need to do for energy what we have done for mobile phones: real choice for consumers in the European marketplace. At the same time, we must ensure energy security and solidarity among Member-states. This will give us a real European energy community.
The Commission will present this week an Energy Strategy for 2020, building on the three key principles of competitiveness, sustainability and security of supply. This Strategy will be followed by an infrastructure package aimed at filling the missing links of our electricity and gas grid and an energy efficiency plan which will enable us to achieve our 20% target.
I believe that energy policy will be the next great advance in European integration. We have come a long way in five years. The next five years will be even more remarkable. And Romania has a pivotal role to play as we build a Southern Gas Corridor with Turkey and the countries of the Caspian region.
Another great challenge for the years to come is the future budget. The Commission came forward with the initial ideas for the budget review.
The budget has to be ambitious, for a strong Europe demands ambition;
It has to be intelligent, and focus where Europe is a real added-value;
It must preserve solidarity, contributing to the reinforcement of European cohesion;
And it must be innovative; for difficult times require innovation. In particular we must discuss without taboos and with open minds new sources of financing and the issue of own financial resources.
I have spoken about a reinforced Single Market, an Innovation Union and a fairer budget. All will be crucial for Europe’s and Romania’s growth and prosperity.
All of these are being done to make Europe a better place to live for its people. We should never forget that Europeans themselves are our greatest resource. We should not take that for granted. The European institutions and each of the governments need to do more to explain the benefits that Europe brings.
For many Romanians, Europe is a symbol of freedom and justice. I want to see a Europe where every one of its citizens can move and work freely. That is why the Commission is committed to helping Romania join the Schengen area as soon as the technical requirements are met. I don't believe in playing politics with people's freedoms.
And that is why the Commission has spent the last three years pushing the authorities to honour their commitments on judicial reform and the fight against corruption. This is not an easy process, but it is one that I know has massive public support for the Commission's efforts. We will continue to work with the authorities to make this happen.
The European Union is not just about what we can do from Brussles but also what can be done at national, regional, local level and by each one of you. Romania and Romanians have an important role to play in this regard.
This morning I have participated in the Danube Summit which is a good illustration of a concrete and promising project initiated y Romania. It is an initiative that puts Member States and non Member states of the EU working together to address the specific challenges facing the Danube region. The European Commission will help this process and next year we will present an EU Strategy for the Danube Region, accompanied by an action plan. Territorial cooperation is also a promising way of shaping our future.
As Robert Schuman has said in 1957: "Europe will not created in one attempt, or as a composite whole, but rather by concrete achievements paving the way towards solidarity".
An enlarged and more prosperous Europe is also a stronger Europe. And we need a strong Europe to deal effectively with the world outside our borders. To preserve and to improve what we achieved during the last half a century we need to be able to shape the world around us. Together, European states can achieve results that they could never dream of on their own. The challenge for the future is how to use the power and the capabilities we have built up during decades of European integration, in order to promote our values and interests externally.
Romania must be at the heart of EU's foreign policy in particular regarding our enlargement strategy and our neighbourhood policy. External relations start at our borders.
The enlargement process has not stopped in 2007 and we continue engaged in fulfilling the European perspective of the Western Balkans.
The Neighbourhood Policy, in particular its Eastern dimension, are also a priority for the European Union. This policy has provided a framework for a more focused relations with our Eastern neighbours, namely Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Romania can play a leading role in this area.
The European Union relations with Moldova have developed very dynamically in recent years. We will spare no effort to demonstrate that Moldova’s rapprochement to the EU can bring positive benefits to the Moldovan citizens.
The Eastern Partnership offers these countries the chance of making a strategic choice: a pro-European orientation. In order to achieve this, we offer an institutional framework that brings them closer to the European Union.
On the political front, the European Union is committed to active engagement with these countries, to reinforce democratic transformation. In economic terms, we want to integrate them as much as possible into the European economy, aiming in the medium-long run to establish a free trade zone and a European Economic Area from the Atlantic to the Caspian Sea.
A stable new Eastern Europe requires the reinforcement of our strategic partnership with Russia. It is a critical partner. We have known some difficulties, but I am firmly convinced that we have the conditions to reinforce our relations, including through the partnership for modernization.
Moving westwards, the partnership with the United States is an essential relationship for the European Union. The economic relationship across the Atlantic is by far the largest between any two trading blocs in history. Our bilateral trade relations represent 33% of world trade in goods and 44% in services. We are also united by shared values and common strategic and political interests. In November, we will have the annual EU-US summit and I hope it will give a fresh impulse to our transatlantic agenda.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have tried to demonstrate in my lecture that despite remaining heavily attached to its foundational values, the European Union is a project in constant renewal.
Andrei Plesu, Professor here at the Bucharest University and former Minister of Culture and former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania as put it very rightly when he said that: "The ultimate meaning of Europe lies in its organic integrity and in the harmonius diversity of its geographical and spiritual body"
Thank you vey much for your attention