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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso at the press conference following the European Council
Brussels, 23rd October 2011
Today indeed we still have a heavy agenda. But this morning we started to discuss growth. As you know the Commission has presented recently a Roadmap addressing the most urgent issues on the euro area, but we have underlined again that part of the answer is growth. We need of course fiscal consolidation, but without growth our citizens will not be confident in their future and in the future of the economies in Europe. That is why I was invited by the European Council to present a report on growth (which I did) - "Europe's sources of growth". And the idea was to show how we could recover some of the €2 trillion in growth that we have lost because of the financial crisis.
And my message to the European Council was that the European Union can and must do much more to deliver growth. If we do not act decisively, to boost our growth rate and competitiveness we risk either recession or even a jobless recovery or even a lost decade. I can tell you that message was very well received, and I am happy with the Conclusions of the European Council that shows ambition in this chapter: by using the full potential of the single market, by building a digital single market by 2015, by helping SMEs with venture capital and smart regulation, by fighting protectionisms and promoting trade liberalisation, and also by looking at some ways, some investment to foster growth at European level. We will provide a list of specific proposals to be fast-tracked for adoption by the December European Council that will then be implemented hopefully swiftly. I believe, we can make this crisis into an opportunity for renewal.
An essential part of this is using the existing EU structural funds to the full. We have recently proposed to "top-up" payments to the six countries under adjustment programmes by increasing EU co-financing by 10% - which means an additional €2.6 billion to boost investment for growth. This was already accepted by all the member states, to have this mechanism in place. So I expect very soon this finalised also with the support of the European Parliament. And this one of the concrete examples I want to give you how we can use public investment, EU resources to help growth: But others were in my presentation, like the "project bonds", like the work with the EIB and other examples
Decisive action this week is also essential if the European Union is to continue to credibly lead the global response at the G20 in Cannes.
The conclusions set out the priorities that we will take to the Summit. Together with President Van Rompuy I wrote a letter to the Heads of State or Government of the European Union before this Summit and we are happy to see that these priorities are clearly reflected in the conclusions. This is the message that we will take on behalf of the European Union to the G20 Cannes Summit.
In this context we have also discussed the need to promote the financial transaction tax. The societal debate we have seen over recent week's shows the clear need for the financial sector to make a fair contribution back to society. This will also allow us to lead by example. We can say to our partners in the G20 that we are already working on the basis of the proposal of the Commission on a financial transaction tax.
We've also had a good discussion this morning on the relationship between the activities of the euro area and the European Union. There should not be a separation between the Euro area and the rest of the European Union. We want the Union to stay very strong. At the same time we recognise that we have to do more in terms of coherence, integration of the governance of the euro area. I am particularly happy with the conclusions where they highlight, and I quote "In this context the European Commission has the responsibility to ensure the respect by all 27 member states of the EU the legislation, including that relating to the Internal Market and safeguard a level playing field among all member states including those non-participating in the euro. So the idea is, the concept is – let's inside of the EU of 27 reinforce the economic governance of the euro area because this is important also for the sustainability and the credibility of our common currency. Some steps we have decided, President van Rompuy have already mentioned, and I will not repeat. But I think this is also very much in line with our ambition for a stronger euro and a stronger EU.
So tonight we will still have a lot of work. I think we should make significant progress on the rest of the comprehensive package. I think we are in a good situation to make progress so that we can finalise our work on Wednesday, namely with agreements on Greece, on banks, on leveraging the EFSF and on governance.
Let me conclude also with a more general remark. In the last couple of days, a page of history has been turned in both Spain and Libya. The definitive end of the Gaddafi regime offers a new beginning for Libya. Also other positive developments in the so called Arab spring like the elections in Tunisia are in fact very good news. But also in our Union, the announcement of the end of armed conflict by the terrorist organisation ETA represents a victory for democracy in Spain. I believe these are really important historical developments.
I thank you for your attention.