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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Speech by President Barroso at the XIX Conference of EPP group leaders of National Parliaments
27 June 2011
Cher Joseph, président du groupe parlementaire du PPE,
Mesdames et messieurs les députes des parlements nationaux et aussi du groupe PPE
Permettez-moi de féliciter à nouveau le PPE d'avoir pris l'initiative de réunir pour la 14ème fois les chefs des groupes du PPE des parlements nationaux et du Parlement européen. Bien que votre conférence repose déjà sur une longue tradition, nous constatons aujourd'hui l'existence de contacts toujours plus nombreux et plus étroits entre le niveau européen et national. Et cela ne vaut pas uniquement pour nos gouvernements. Il en va de même pour les parlements, ce dont je me réjouis pleinement. Comme vous le savez, outre mes nombreux autres contacts avec les parlements nationaux, je compte parmi les participants fideles et réguliers de cette conférence.
Aujourd'hui, comme le disait tout à l'heure Joseph Daul, j'ai du quitter la réunion de la Commission de préparation du budget, les perspectives financières pour les années 2014-2020, pour être avec vous. Je le fais avec plaisir, non seulement parce que c'est mon parti, le PPE, mais aussi parce que je crois vraiment à l'importance des parlements nationaux. En tant qu'ancien parlementaire, la première fois que j'ai été élu au parlement national, l'Assemblée de la République, au Portugal, j'avais 29 ans, et j'ai toujours été réélu jusqu'à mon arrivée ici à la Commission. C'est pourquoi ce ne sont pas seulement des mots de courtoisie, je vous parle très franchement en tant que quelqu'un qui a cette expérience parlementaire.
On a pour habitude de dire, et c'est bien sûr vrai, que le Traité de Lisbonne a renforcé le rôle des parlements nationaux dans les affaires européennes. Vous procédez aujourd'hui à des contrôles de subsidiarité sur toutes les nouvelles initiatives de la Commission. Mais ce serait oublier que les centaines d'avis émis tous les ans par les parlements nationaux dans le cadre du dialogue politique, dialogue que j'ai d'ailleurs instauré en 2006, avant même le traité de Lisbonne, soit 4 ans avant le Traité de Lisbonne, expriment clairement votre intérêt plus grand à débattre du contenu de nos propositions que les seules questions de subsidiarité.
Il y a sans doute des questions de subsidiarité dont il faut discuter, mais il y a le contenu de ce que nous faisons ensemble. La Commission se félicite grandement de cet intérêt, et vous le savez bien j'ai toujours été favorable à l'élargissement et à l'approfondissement de ce dialogue.
Je suis aussi convaincu que les parlements nationaux peuvent contribuer, par l'intermédiaire de la COSAC, par exemple, au processus de planification stratégique de la Commission. Je vous demande de ne pas faire entendre votre voix uniquement en aval, mais aussi en amont.
Ladies and gentlemen, Europe is growing together. The European dimension today has a totally different weight in national and international politics than it had only ten years ago. In fact sometimes when you see the speeches of some politicians we have other impression but it is simply not true. Today the European Union with 27 member states counts much more in the world than before. And we see this everyday in the way we interact with some of our partners.
Every single day we are confronted with our interdependence in the most real and practical terms. Our economies are inextricably linked. This is the single, most important lesson from the economic and financial crisis. We have learnt that there are no peripheries in Europe and in the world. What happens in one part can affect all the rest We have learnt that an economic imbalance in one part of our continent can create - problems for the rest of Europe. And the crisis has shown that a bursting housing bubble in one Member State can have also a severe impact for instance on the banking sector in another Member State. A public debt crisis in one Member States can affect taxpayers in another Member State.
I could add countless other examples: the impact which national decisions on their energy mix can have on other member states' security of supply. The importance of nuclear safety across borders regardless whether a member state does or does not have nuclear power plants. Border management, migration and asylum policies all have repercussions in other member states. Even the outbreak of E-coli in Northern Germany has shown how closely webbed our linkages are across the internal market and that its handling was a matter for all of us, in fact a matter I had to discuss with the President of Russia in the Summit, to show how a small problem, which appeared as a small problem in one country, can become a huge problem for the whole of Europe and indeed for our relations with our partners.
I believe that in face of these facts we have to recognise one thing which is not always very popular to tell to our people back home. It is that we need more Europe, not less. This is reality. With less Europe we will not be able to manage all these factors of interdependency. So every people pretending now that we can do it with a minimalist Europe they are simply not getting the reality of today's life in Europe and in the world.
We need more Europe. More Europe does not mean all centralised Europe. It means of course a Europe in respect of the principles of subsidiarity but the joint commitment to the principles and to the instruments to face those common challenges. If not, we are going against a wall.
And I hope that this means also an increased role of the national parliaments handling European issues, participating in the European debate together of course with the European Parliament that is directly elected for the citizens but it is obvious that the issues of European integration are not foreign policy issues. They are internal policies in our member states and anyone who pretends otherwise either is lying or he or she has not understood the reality of today's economic and political life.
I would of course realise that by far the most important decisions continue to be taken at national level. Fiscal policy, taxation, employment and labour markets, wage setting, expenditure in education and R&D, health care, pensions – all these and others are mainly national competencies.
However, and this is what I mean by more Europe, we need to make these national policies work for a common strategy, for common goals, and sometimes with common instruments.
Europe 2020 is the strategy. We launched it early last year knowing that Europe had reached a turning point. We knew we had to choose a path that would lead us away from the worst economic crisis in the post-war period, a path towards growth and renewed prosperity.
Europe 2020 spells out our high level vision, our broad targets, and provides the framework for translating these into concrete, measurable and effective policy actions.
To do so, we had to move away from the purely consensual working method of the old Lisbon strategy. We have to enhance multilateral surveillance: we all need to be vigilant that all Members States play their part.
This is why we have set up the European Semester. On the basis of the National Reform Programmes and the Stability or Convergence Programmes by all Member States, the Commission on 7 June adopted its Country Specific Recommendations which were endorsed by the European Council only last Friday.
The Commission's Recommendations mark the closure of this year's European Semester for economic policy coordination and the opening of the "national semester". Indeed, in the coming months, Member States are expected to implement those recommendations by integrating them in their national policy making and national budgets for 2012.
We have been covering all areas of economic, fiscal and social policies. Failure to implement reforms in one Member State will not only affect that Member State alone but also everyone else. It is of course premature to draw any conclusions. Every member state is different, and as we all know some are doing better than others. Nevertheless let me assure you that all Member States have to do very serious homework, not only Greece, Portugal and Ireland that are now experiencing specific European Union and IMF programs.
In overall terms, and this should not come as a surprise for anyone in this room, fiscal consolidation must continue. The banking sector must be fixed. Macro-economic imbalances have to be corrected. Pension systems must be reformed. Front-loading growth-enhancing policies is a top priority. And tackling the social impact is above all a moral necessity.
There have been many positive elements in the national programmes although clearly we have to be more ambitious. In a whole range of fields the national commitments made so far would not be sufficient to achieve our commonly agreed Europe 2020 targets, notably as regards employment, energy efficiency, R&D, tertiary education and combat of poverty. On the other hand I feel encouraged by the debates in the European Council last week that Heads of State and Government have understood the value added of this coordination for themselves. I can tell you that in all the time I have spent in the European Council for many years now that was the most sincere and open discussion ever in terms of economic interdependency between member states because member states' Heads of States and Governments were not discussing only what we can do at the European level but in which way what they are doing at the national level can have or not an impact on others and the benefits of cooperating.
Once again the Commission fully respects the principle of subsidiarity and the main responsibility to design and implement these policies lie with the Member States. You, as national parliamentarians, have a key role to play in this process, particularly when voting on your national budgets and other economic legislation.
At European level, we need to make sure that our compass points to the same direction, that our efforts reinforce each other rather than undermine each other.
And this is why we also need instruments at European level with real meaning. The current Stability and Growth Pact did not help prevent the crisis we are in. In spite of having the pact excessive deficits and public debt were allowed to add up over years. Macro-economic imbalances even fell out of its remit. In the financial sector, there was no EU-wide system of supervision in place that could have intervened in time. We could ask ourselves where were the national regulators, the national supervisors? How was it possible to come at that point? And last but not least, when the sovereign debt crisis in Greece fully burst out Europe did not have a mechanism in place to step in and to give the necessary signals of confidence to the markets. That is why at the end we had to adopt some new instruments, we are in the process of adopting some of them, I believe that we are doing well but we are reacting in fact to situations that were not predicted.
The EU over the past two years has addressed all these points what we are preparing is this comprehensive response to the crisis. We have the Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. We have set up the European Semester the first time ever. We will have a profoundly revamped Stability and Growth Pact, I hope. We will have a European procedure for tackling macro-economic imbalances in the member states. We have just given a fresh push to our single market to unleash its untapped potential. We now have in place a system of European financial supervision. As a safety net, we will in future have a permanent European Stability Mechanism that has to of course be ratified in the parliaments of all our member states.
Last but not least, the Commission will this Wednesday adopt its proposals for the next EU budget from 2014 to 2020. This budget will be a realistic budget in terms of size in times of austerity. But it will be an ambitious and future-oriented budget as it will much more than in the past support our Europe 2020 priorities for growth and jobs in Europe's regions, for investing in modern infrastructures, in research and innovation, for a modern agricultural policy, for projecting Europe's strategic interests in the world. Also a budget for our cohesion. In short, this will not be a budget for Brussels and I want to highlight this because we have to win this debate. Less than 6% of the total budget is spent in administration. All the rest is money for the regions, for the workers, for the farmers, for Europeans in general. 90% of this budget will be sent to provide value added to our member states, for our economy, for our citizens, designing programmes which without this investment most likely will not see the day, that will not be possible to have. Some of these programs will in fact present an economy because those programs avoid the duplication of expenditure. Let's give an example, agriculture. Agriculture is typically in the case where people criticise that Europe is spending too much in agriculture. Can you imagine what would be the situation in Europe if you had 27 national budgets on agriculture? I can tell you. We would be sending much, much, much more and we would probably be breaking the internal market with protectionist policies in different member states to protect their market against the others. So indeed the common agriculture policy is an economic for our overall budget. And so are many other parts of our investments. That is why, I'm telling this because I think it is important that the EPP, not only the in European Parliament but also in National Parliaments, is able to explain with rational and reasonable arguments why we need investment at the European level, what we need also to compliment the efforts made at national level by some instruments that give coherence and ambition to our efforts at the European level.
Finally, let me tell that last Friday all Euro area Heads of State and Government have reiterated their commitment to do whatever is necessary to ensure the financial stability of the euro area as a whole. To make this commitment come true, all pro-European forces, whether at national or European level, whether in government or in opposition, have to assume full responsibility. I want this to be understood. In political life we all have responsibility, we can sometimes be in the opposition, other times in the government but we have this responsibility. And my message to you is that we all have European responsibility. We can be in the Commission, in the European Parliament, in the National Parliaments but my point is that we all as national leaders we share this board European responsibility. Thank you for your attention.