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José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Remarks by President Barroso at the press conference of the first day of the European Council

Intermediary joint press conference with Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council

Brussels, 16 December 2010

Today was a good day for Europe because I believe we have done what we needed to do. We have a very important agreement on a permanent European Stability Mechanism, and also we have an agreement on the limited treaty change that enables this permanent European Stability Mechanism.

We also had a very good and debate on the economic situation Europe faces.

Everyone around the table showed determination to do what it takes to protect the euro. We are united in this. There is common resolve to ensure Europe comes out of the crisis stronger.

The measures we have taken this year are indeed far reaching and substantial. They need to be implemented, not just commented. Now we need to let the action do the talking, not the other way round.

We need to act in a coordinated manner with a response at all levels, national level and European level.

At national level, that means fiscal consolidation and structural reforms as we are seeing in many countries. Many of these measures are extremely difficult, to the point that they are creating anxiety in many parts of our societies. But these measures are necessary to put our economies back on track. Europe needs structural reform that enhances the growth prospect of Europe. We have some problems of competitiveness, we are addressing them.

At European level also we take some measures. In fact, we have been taking some important measures. Measures on economic governance are very important, following the work of the Task Force. Now we have Commission’s proposals on the table. I believe these are hugely significant changes. In fact, they are a fundamental change in the economic governance in the Euro Area. They address shortcomings that have been discussed for many years. They became more evident during the last financial crisis. We have agreed tonight on the need to speed up this work. I hope all the reforms will be in place by June next year.

We also have, and I want to underline this, Europe 2020 strategy to return the Union to growth for the economy and jobs for our citizens. In January, we will launch the first Annual Growth Survey, bringing together these growth-generating reforms with our budgetary outlook. It will be the start of the first European Semester.

These measures taken together are very important response to the challenges we face. They are the best defence against any crises. We have to think holistically in terms of response to the crisis, what we can do to consolidate public finances, fiscal consolidation, structural reform, growth and increased competitiveness in Europe.

To make sure we are fully equipped to defend the financial stability of the EU in the future, should we ever face difficulties again, we also have agreed tonight on a treaty change and the main features of the permanent mechanism to be in place from 2013. This was indeed a very important decision taken unanimously by Member States with the support of the European Commission.

I was very frank that our job is to deliver political answers, not just to contribute to academic seminars. There are many excellent ideas, but what matters is agreeing on the best option. And those are the ones we are taking.

Our task now is to hold the course, walk not talk, and prove those wrong who predicted the demise of our common currency. In fact the euro, we have seen it, is a very stable strong currency. There are some issues, there are some difficulties in some of our Member states and we recognize them. But we believe we have a strong currency and there is a clear determination of all Member States – Euro area Member States, but also the non-Euro area Member States, and the European institutions to address all the difficulties in a coherent and determined manner. I think that so far this European Council has shown that there is a real political determination and coherence to address the challenges. I hope tomorrow’s discussion will confirm what I have seen this evening.

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