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José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Statement by President Barroso following the informal meeting of the Heads of State or Government of the Euro area

Press conference following the informal meeting of the Heads of State or Government of the Euro area

Brussels, 11 March 2011

Let me begin by returning to the situation in Japan, which is unfortunately much worse than initially assessed. The European Commission has this evening activated the European Civil Protection Mechanism. This will allow Europe to channel efficiently its assistance to Japan, which has requested search and rescue teams and search dogs for ongoing operations. Once again I would like to express our deep solidarity with Japan and Japanese people in the face of one of the biggest tragedies that this country knows in its history.

On our discussions tonight:

President Van Rompuy already presented the very important political agreement amongst the euro area on the "Pact for the Euro". I think this is an important Pact in terms of competitiveness and convergence for the Euro area.

Following the work carried out since the last European Council, the Pact now fits fully with the economic strategy set out for the 27 Member States in the Annual Growth Survey, which we have tabled in January. It focuses primarily on matters under national competence. I believe, it represents an added value both in terms of policy and in terms of ambition. But it is not a parallel exercise. The Pact is in line with the Treaty rules and its commitments will be brought into the Stability Programmes and National Reform Programmes assessed by the Commission. It fits into the EU Semester, which started this year.

This is a very important agreement, because as you know when the Pact was launched there were some doubts about precisely the point of governance. I think now we have a solution. It is fully compatible to the Treaty, but that reinforces economic governance. As you know, we have been for a long time asking the Member States to commit to higher levels of economic policy coordination and stronger economic governance, especially in the Euro area.

But not only for the Euro area. The Pact is open to the non-Euro area members if they so wish. Today's deal is crucial for the euro area, but it is relevant for the whole of Europe. This is not a closed club, it is an open club – our European Union.

All of these points were very important for the European Commission. We have raised them at the 4 February European Council. They were taken up in the joint paper that Herman Van Rompuy and I presented, and I am pleased all of these points could be agreed tonight. I want to thank the President of the European Council for the great cooperation and also for the spirit that it was possible to develop in the presentation of this Euro Pact.

A response which is about restoring competitiveness so as to bring growth to Europe. And about restoring public finances so as to bring sustainability to Europe.

We also have discussed the issue of the EFSF and the ESM and all the other points regarding the comprehensive response for the stability of the Euro area. The EFSF and the ESM will be more flexible, with strict and clear conditions attached.

We have listened carefully to the Prime Ministers of countries that are currently under an EU-IMF programme - Greece and Ireland - and have discussed the measures we can take to make the implementation of the programmes more sustainable.

We also welcomed the important additional measures taken by other countries. We have discussed particularly Portugal. As you know regarding Portugal there is a joint statement by the Commission and the ECB that details our positive assessment of the additional measures announced by Portugal, I believe we are making progress while trying to deliver a comprehensive response for the Europe area.

This is an important progress, because we have addressed not only the issues of competitiveness and convergence, but also other important matters in terms of building confidence for the Euro area.

Together with the other parts of our economic governance package, for instance the proposals that have been put forward by the Commission, for instance the consensus that has been reached in the Task Force chaired by the President of the European Council, we have now a real credible plan for reinforcing the economic governance in the European Union and I think this is critically important for the overall efforts of credibility.

So I hope that this is now going to be translated very soon in terms of agreement, namely by the Council and the European Parliament, so that we can have a full agreement on the proposals for stronger economic governance so reinforcing the Euro area and the stability in the European Union as a whole.

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