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Vice-President of the European Commission - Responsible for Inter-institutional Relations and Administration

Intervention at the Review of the Belgian Presidency

Review of the Belgian Presidency

Strasbourg, Tuesday 18 January 2011

Mr President,

A great deal of positive evaluation and praise has been expressed in the House this morning. On behalf of the Commission I would like to say that it is very well deserved. With its European spirit, the Belgian Presidency clearly demonstrated impressive efficiency and a very cooperative approach. When the Belgian Presidency took up an issue, we all knew that it would pursue the European goal – and only the European goal – and that it would do so in a spirit of loyal cooperation among the institutions. The Belgian Presidency’s very good cooperation with the European Parliament and very close contacts with the Commission resulted in what is clearly a very impressive list of achievements.

Today we can say that the Lisbon Treaty is now fully operational. We have managed to give our citizens a new voice through the European Citizens’ Initiative, and we managed to reach an agreement on more transparent and effective rules for comitology. I worked on both of those issues with the Secretary of State, Olivier Chastel, and I must say that I was always impressed by his cooperative spirit and high level of professionalism.

A calm and constructive approach was needed for the conclusion of the debate on the 2011 Budget, and for the beginning of the new economic governance in Europe. Even in complex, protracted discussions on issues such as divorce, financial supervision and even patents, the Belgian Presidency managed to achieve clear progress.

It is very clear now that we need to carry forward the positive spirit and efficiency of the Belgian Presidency. Clearly the economy, recovering from the crisis and fiscal consolidation remain top priorities for us all. We received good news last week with the successful sale of Portuguese, Spanish and Italian bonds, and we saw reductions in the spreads for Belgium and other countries. But it is also very clear that we need to press ahead with structural reforms and that we have to work even harder. If we do not want to have a jobless recovery, we need to look at how we can reform our labour market rules and how we can remove the obstacles to higher employment in Europe. At the same time we need to protect the vulnerable in our society and reduce poverty. This is the only way we can develop our social market economy in Europe.

A lot will depend on how we start the European Semester and to what extent we will collectively be able to be ambitious in our national reform programmes, in our consolidation efforts and in implementing the EU 2020 Strategy. The Belgian Presidency made a major contribution to the launch of this new process of economic governance and we now have to continue the excellent work it started.

Prime Minister, Secretary of State, I should like to thank you very much for your excellent work. I would also like to thank all your diplomats very much for creating a positive atmosphere in which the next presidency can continue the work you started so successfully six months ago.

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