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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following the meeting of German Chancellor Angela Merkel with the College of Commissioners
Brussels, 5 October 2011
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
It is indeed a great pleasure for us to have Chancellor Merkel with us today at the European Commission.
Of course we have regular and frequent contacts, but I am all the more honoured to receive Chancellor Merkel together with the full College of Commissioners.
After a bilateral meeting with me, the Chancellor had a working lunch with the entire College of Commissioners and we had this exchange of views on very important European issues.
We are all aware that Europe today is at a crossroads. The question is: do we want to roll back our achievements or make this a time of European renewal?
I am glad to say that the answer is clear: Only through European renewal, only with more Europe, with more committed European Union leadership we can build confidence in our common capacity to act.
Only through renewal we can ensure Europe counts in the world and that it is capable of defending its interest and also its values, namely our social market economy.
Renewal requires leadership and determination. That is why we need to say without ambiguity "yes" to a more united Europe, with strong Community institutions, working in close, loyal partnership with our Member States.
This is the only way to achieve what we need most: growth, rising competitiveness, more jobs. It is the only way to ensure Europe is taken seriously in the world, as both an economic and a political power. That is why must act together to put our house in order.
Some of the choices will of course be difficult, sometimes painful. But I believe that without those reforms, structural reforms, fiscal consolidation we will not be able to come back to economic and social progress.
Nowhere is this better understood than in Germany. With its ambitious structural reforms, enacted early, and its determination to maintain sound public finances Germany has shown the way in many areas. It has been rewarded with levels of competitiveness, growth and unemployment that are the envy of many other countries. Today, Germany has become an economic role model in Europe. And I am sure they may be proud of that.
We have already in terms of our common challenges made some advances in dealing with the challenges. We will soon be able to make use of the enhanced European Financial Stability Facility, so that it will be an effective firewall against contagion to the rest of Europe. And on this note, let me again congratulate the Chancellor on last week's overwhelming vote in the Bundestag, which was an important signal of German determination in support for the euro. I would like to use this opportunity to urge Slovakia also to give support to our decisions.
Another priority is the strengthening of financial regulation and supervision. Since the outbreak of the crisis, the Commission has tabled 29 proposals in this field. Many of these have already been adopted.
Just last week we adopted a very important proposal for a Financial Transaction Tax, and I know how well this was received in Germany. But we do not want to stop here, and the Chancellor and I agree the time is right to create new momentum globally: At the G20 summit In Cannes we will also press for a global Financial Transaction Tax.
Furthermore, we have enhanced our economic governance. The ECOFIN Council on Tuesday gave its final agreement to a strengthened Stability and Growth Pact, the so-called Six pack proposed by the Commission in September 2010. The Pact has now real teeth, and we are putting into place new systems to ensure that we can detect and deal with macro-economic imbalances. This is an important new tool to address our competitiveness issues and the Commission will make full use of it so as to place this procedure at the heart of our joint efforts for more discipline, for more stability, also for more competitiveness.
And finally, with the European Semester, we have transformed the way we coordinate our economic and budgetary policies.
The Commission will naturally play a central role in this ever closer coordination. This reflects our interdependence. I would like to thank the Chancellor for the support she expressed for this role of the Commission in the context of the European Semester in the German Bundestag at the beginning of September. Only with coordination at European level we can achieve our goals, because when the decisions of one have an effect on all the others, it's also legitimate that all the others discuss the decisions of each one.
But we need to go further. We must move towards a true Union of Stability and Growth, of Responsibility and Solidarity as I said in the European Parliament last week. I welcome the fact that Member States agree that more coordination and cooperation is needed, namely in the euro area. I also welcome the prospect of a better organised process with regular summits of the euro area and a strengthened Eurogroup, but it is at the same time indispensible to keep coherence with the Single Market and the European Union as a whole – in a true Community spirit.
Once again I want to make clear our position at the Commission that on matters of Union competence, matters that we have already transferred to the European Union, the Commission is the economic government of Europe. Of course the Commission will work in partnership with the Council and the Member Sates on matters that remain of national competence, because we also believe it is important to make that coordination.
Ultimately, a stronger Europe will only succeed by working with, rather than against the institutions. We must avoid parallel, uncoordinated processes in the future. As our countries and our policies are more interdependent than ever, the Community method and spirit are also more important than ever.
Stability and Growth require appropriate discipline, structural reforms and efficient investment. Today, the College gave Chancellor Merkel the details of our legislative package for the future structural funds the Commission will adopt tomorrow. This will help us to better inter-connect Europe, helping regions and countries that are lagging behind – but also to reinforce the competitiveness of Europe as a whole. We also want the Structural Funds to support our efforts to enhance fiscal discipline and pursue growth-enhancing reforms. So we are indeed making the Structural funds a tool for competitiveness and growth in Europe.
Let me conclude by saying how important Germany's contribution to Europe is. Without Germany we will not have the European Union as we have it today. The contribution of Germany remains decisive. Europe cannot be successful without Germany, and I also believe that Germany cannot be successful without Europe.
With this visit to the Commission, I think the Chancellor has once again testified to the strong commitment of Germany to our Union. I think this is the only way to go for success in our Union – to work closely between European institutions and our Member States. Once again I thank you, Chancellor, for your visit and your determination.