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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Concluding remarks by President Barroso following the European Parliament debate on the results of the European Council
EP plenary debate
Strasbourg, 24 November 2010
Thank you very much Mr President, distinguished Honourable Members,
I will answer two concrete questions and also make a general remark after the debate that took place this morning.
First of all, concerning the question raised by Mr. Schultz – an important one – about the Irish stress tests, let me say the following:
The common methodology of the stress test was agreed at European level and it was very rigorous with adverse macroeconomic scenarios. However, the implementation of the test was done under the supervision of the national supervisory authorities. It was only coordinated at European level by CEBS but there were no European Union competences for that, I want to underline this point. Until now, the European Union as such did not have this kind of responsibility. This is going to change, next January. We will have the new architecture of financial regulation and supervision in place by then, following Commission proposals and agreement in the Council and in the Parliament.
We'll have the three European micro-prudential supervisors: banking, securities, insurance and a European systemic risk board for macro financial stability and the risks associated with it. And that will provide much stronger tools and infrastructure to do the tests next time in a more unified rigorous and current manner.
So I want to underline this point: we did not have before the crisis the instruments we are creating now.
And then I come to the second issue: the issue of how we are dealing now with some sensitive issues like the permanent crisis mechanism.
I want to underline this very clearly: it was not my intention to raise the point but since there was a concrete question, I have to reply.
Unanimously – and I repeat unanimously – the heads of state and government decided to ask for a permanent crisis mechanism with the intervention of the private sector. I was one of those who warned during the European Council about the risks of raising this issue without proper preparation and communication.
But the issue was raised and decided and now we have to deal with it in the most responsible way. That is why I believe some of the comments made here today were really not helpful. We are still living under very difficult conditions.
I think what we need now is action and not more comment. We are dealing with very sensitive global financial markets. Some of the comments have sometimes a self fulfilling prophecy effect. So I think it is not helpful now to start speculating about countries that may be at risk. What we have to ask those countries to do is to implement all the measures that are necessary for achieving financial and budgetary stability.
That is why I'm not going to speculate about 'Plan B'.
Myself and President Van Rompuy, are doing our work - discussing the issues with responsibility with our Member states.
And regarding the role of the Commission, I want to be very clear once again. The Commission, and it was acknowledged by most of you, has always been putting forward ambitious proposals. We are for ambitious economic governance for Europe, but I think in the end we have to be realistic: we cannot together go beyond what is a common agreement also by our Member States. It is not helpful, when there is an agreement that anyhow represents a progress compared to the previous situation, to think about ideal situations that you know very well that will not come into place.
So the Commission is fulfilling its role and will fulfil its role asking for the most ambition possible in terms of common purpose, economic governance, stability of the euro area and not only of the euro area.
And I want to make that point very clear because I think it was not made during this meeting today. Some of you said that the problems are in the euro area. It is not only in the euro area. The euro is not the problem. I am absolutely convinced the situation would have been much worse if we did not have the euro. Some of you tend to forget that some countries that are not in the euro area have exactly the same problems and, in some cases, have worse problems of sovereign debt; that a country that is not even in the European Union and that is now asking to join the European Union, Iceland, went bankrupt and they don't have the euro.
So the reality is that the euro was not the cause of the problem. I think it is intellectually and politically dishonest to suggest that the problem is the euro. So what we have to do now is to recognise the specificities of the situation in the euro area, to address the problems, ask from all the Member States a commitment to work on it collectively – those who are in the euro area and those who are not – because I think they have also understood that there is a common interest in a common approach to resolve this crisis and that is what we will do in the Commission, in a responsible way pushing of course for the highest level of ambition, but at the end working in good loyal cooperation with all the institutions, with this European Parliament and the European Council.
That is, I think, the responsible message that we have to send. I think in a period when markets are extremely nervous, we should keep cool hands and we should give a strong sense of responsibility, of course also with a strong sense of common European purpose.