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José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Tarja Halonen, President of Finland

Press point

Brussels, 8 June 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It was a pleasure to welcome the President of Finland, Ms Tarja HALONEN, to the European Commission today.

President Halonen is here today in her capacity as Co-Chair of the Global Sustainability Panel of the United Nations. This is a timely and visionary initiative that has the Commission's full support.

Let me on this occasion also congratulate the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon for that initiative. Since he has now announced that he is a candidate for a second term, I would like to tell you how pleased I am with this announcement. I know Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon well. Even if the European Commission as such is not a member of the United Nations, we have a very intense working relationship with the UN and with the Secretary-General. Let me tell you how much we, in the European Union, appreciate his wisdom and his dedication to the solution of the important issues on our planet, from sustainability and supporting developing countries to our constant struggle for peace. I believe Ban Ki-moon has been and is a very good Secretary-General of the United Nations and we will be very pleased to see him continue in that very important position.

This Global Sustainability Panel of the United Nations, as a visionary and timely initiative, has, since the beginning, the Commission's full support. I myself put forward the candidature of Commissioner Connie Hedegaard's to take part in this work and of course she was accepted because of her very important personal qualities. I am delighted that she is an active and engaged member of this Panel, which the Commission is also partly funding, and all of this shows the importance we give to this work.

Global sustainability, that is sustainable development in all its forms, is not an isolated field of politics. It is an overarching, key objective. This was explicitly recognised in the revised EU Sustainable Development Strategy.

The Panel, under the leadership of President Halonen, has the opportunity to make a crucial contribution to pushing the Sustainable Development Agenda forward. Economic growth, inclusive development and environmental protection are not exclusive or even contradictory. We believe they are mutually reinforcing.

As you know the EU is already an ambitious trailblazer in this regard. Today sustainability shapes all our policies. It is at the core of our Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, inclusive and sustainable growth.

We are delivering on this strategy in concrete terms – with our cross-cutting resource efficiency and low-carbon agendas, which encompass major policy areas:

From building smarter energy grids and promoting renewables – you are aware of our very ambitious and binding 20-20- targets - to intelligent, sustainable mobility, from a new approach to the use of raw materials to specific research action on a European scale. So these are all examples on what we are doing in terms of mainstreaming environment protection and sustainability in all our areas of action.

In all these fields, we have proposed – and are already implementing – clear and concrete policy actions that put Europe on track to use its resources in a more sustainable way. A low carbon future is not only possible, it is imperative for our future, not least because it enables us to "green" our economies and make them more competitive.

We are also mainstreaming sustainability considerations into our external politics and development policies. We are working on a new type of "green diplomacy", a "green security policy" that tackles the challenges of climate change, scarce and threatened natural resources and changing demography together with our global partners. Ultimately, we are all stakeholders in global sustainability.

I am therefore looking forward to the Panel's report early next year, which I am sure will help the global community to set the right level of ambition for the Rio+20 Conference.

The European Commission is ready to actively contribute to the preparatory work. In fact we are already doing it also informally through the active participation of Connie Hedegaard. She is there for her personal capacity but of course she brings many of our views. We will present a communication this month with a first input for global discussions ahead of Rio.

In the same vein, the Durban Conference this year is a platform on which we should move the global climate action agenda forward.

I would like to thank very sincerely President Halonen for her work and also for the very open, constructive discussions today. We know each other now for many years, we have precisely looked at this as we met in 1995 as foreign ministers of both our countries. And it was of course not only a very good working meeting but also a very good personal experience once again to see my friend President of Finland so active on this very important field. And very informally we exchanged our views on how can we reinforce our work and the work of this very important panel of the United Nations, on how Europe can also keep the leadership role Europe has in the sustainability matters so that we can make a success namely having in mind the very important date of 2012 in Rio.

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