José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following the European Council
Brussels, 24 June 2011
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,
This may not have been a European Council with the drama that some may have expected, or hoped for. But that I will say it is a good thing. And it should not hide the fact that this was an important European Council that took crucial, substantive decisions, some of them with far reaching consequences. We took decision on economic policy, on migration, on the Southern Mediterranean but also very important and historic decision on Croatia and of course the decision about the next President of the European Central Bank.
On economic policy, it was important because on Greece, we have once again shown that we find agreement when agreement is needed. It was important because we have shown that our new way of dealing with the European economy is working.
We spent most of last night's dinner discussing the challenges member states and the EU as a whole face. We did this with an openness and frankness that I have not seen before.
It is this political commitment and willingness to take our interdependence seriously that will make the real difference and prevent the kind of complacency and leniency that we saw in the past in matters of economic policy. I expect this shift to now be reflected in the national implementation. We concluded European Semester and now we enter in the implementation of the guidelines that where commonly agreed. And the Commission will present in January it's assessment of the results in the next Annual Growth Survey.
On the issue of migration, let's be frank about it, it is a sensitive question, extremely difficult in public opinion of some of our member states and there was a tension in recent months and a temptation to roll back the core principle of free movement of persons. This European Council has shown that we all agree that we have more to gain from a joint approach and in fact I was quite happy to see in the conclusions that the free movement of persons as established in the treaty is on of the most tangible and successful achievements of the EU as well as being fundamental freedom which can not be jeopardised.
On Schengen, we have agreed on an EU based approach to avoid the risk of unilateral action which disrupts free movement and could also undermine the single market. The Commission will come forward with its concrete proposals shortly. And these measures will not affect the rights of persons entitled to the freedom of movement under the Treaty. That was also reiterated in the most clear terms by all the Heads of State and Government. On asylum, our proposals are already on the table and I am particularly pleased that this European Council has created the momentum that we need, namely to complete the common European asylum system by 2012, next year.
Also on the Southern Mediterranean, I'm pleased that the European Council has supported the approach that the Commission and the High Representative have advocated for the region. We all support the calls for democracy, social justice and shared prosperity.
We have a vision, we have a strategy, now we need to pull together to implement it. The situation in the different countries is very diverse with worrying development in Libya, Syria and Yemen with more positive signs from Morocco and Jordan. We need to work together. I visited Tunisia in May and I will visit Egypt next month to engage with the current authorities to see what more we can do to help.
Finally three very brief, but nevertheless important points:
Croatia – historic decision. I hope everything will be ready to welcome Croatia as a 28th Member of the European Union on the 1st July 2013.
Secondly, I want to congratulate Mario Draghi on his appointment as President of the European Central Bank from the 1st November this year. I know him well, I know his commitment to Europe, his exceptional competence in economic and monetary affairs. We wish him the best. I think he is going to provide the ECB the leadership that we are used to receive also from that very important European institution.
Last but not the least, I want to thank the Hungarian Presidency, and more specifically Victor Orbán. I think they have made a great effort in some very important issues, so it is fair to recognise the competent way in which the government of Hungary and all the team have developed its efforts for a stronger European Union.