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European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services
Statement at the Treasury Select Committee
House of Commons
London, 13th December, 2010
Thank you Chairman and Honourable Members.
I am honoured you have invited me today.
I know you were keen to see me. This feeling is mutual. Ten months after my appointment, it is clear that we can and must do business together.
I was asked to make this statement short. It will be. Two points to start on a personal note.
I was first elected a Member of the National Parliament in France at the age of 27. Actually, I was even the youngest member of the Parliament. But it is a privilege we all lose quickly. I have been an elected representative most of my working life ever since. So I have the fullest respect for this house, its members and for its parliamentary work.
Second, I am a committed – even passionate – pro-European. And to my mind, that goes hand in hand with being a loyal patriot. I am equally passionate about democracy. I believe in a democratic European union. Which means accountable European institutions - full participation of national parliaments. This spirit has been reinforced by the Lisbon Treaty. That is why it is only right that we should speak today.
This is my fourth visit to London since I took office in February. Why?
Because to state the obvious, London is the biggest financial centre in Europe. And as I have kept repeating for 10 months now, a strong City of London and a strong Canary Wharf are good not only for London and the UK, but for the rest of Europe too. Of course, I want a strong, vibrant, sustainable financial sector in the UK.
It is equally obvious that financial markets do not stop at the UK borders. Financial markets operate on a global scale, which means that our regulatory and supervisory approach also need to be at European and global level.
My agenda is essentially the G20 agenda.
Let us be frank. The crisis hit Europe and the UK very hard but also the US and Japan. We are not out of the woods yet. Its effects are there for all to see – jobs, growth. and the tough spending cuts. Not to speak of the political consequences in many countries. This must not happen again. There must be no return to business as usual. Otherwise, the liberal free market principles which we all believe in could be seriously at risk. We need to learn all the lessons from the crisis, and put them into practice together.
That is my job description.
Let me stress that I listen to all opinions. And balance them carefully.
The changes we are putting in place are not detrimental to the UK, but rather for its long term benefit.
Because, if we can get the new regulatory and supervisory structure right – which is the real challenge - then we’ll be creating a sounder, safer, more equitable financial system for our citizens. We need to do this in parallel with our main partners, and first and foremost, the United States. Such a system will be more attractive to investors, making the UK and Europe more competitive globally. This financial services sector will be at the service of the single market and more broadly, the real economy. Creating jobs. Creating sustainable growth. That is my objective.
I look forward to our discussion.