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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Closing remarks by President Barroso at the EP debate on the conclusions of the December European Council
European Parliament plenary session
Strasbourg, 13 December 2011
Many important issues were raised during this debate.
First of all, the issue of substance and form. I agree that in a community that is based on the rule of law form is important. That is why we in the Commission have done everything we could to get an agreement that could be considered compatible with the community method, agreement that could be signed by all the member states. I have to say that this was not only the position of the Commission and the President of the European Council. We presented that as the clear preference and it was the opinion of most of our member states.
Today I also presented to you in a very open way, because I think this is my duty in terms of democratic accountability to this Parliament, why I think this was not possible.
The alternative now is either to avoid stronger commitments of the European Union, namely of those member states that are ready to go further, or to try to put this agreement in a way that it is fully compatible with European Union law. This issue raises important legal and also institutional matters. I have made some of these points to you very frankly. I think it is possible to do it, but it requires efforts on all sides. And this is what the Commission is determined to do – always trying to be constructive. I think it is possible to come to an agreement that is fully compatible with European law and that addresses some of the concerns in terms of discipline and convergence in the euro area and indeed beyond the euro area.
I can state to you, what I also said in the European Council and in the informal summit, that I think this Parliament should be associated to the efforts now for finding that solution and I am ready to work with you for that purpose.
An issue that came very often in the debate today, was the position of the United Kingdom. It is important to put the UK relationship with the rest of the EU in its proper context. Emotions are what they are but I think as some of you have mentioned it is important to see how we can get out of a situation that was indeed unfortunate.
I welcome the statement yesterday by Prime Minister Cameron that he intends to continue to pursue a positive policy of engagement in the European Union on a whole range of issues, including growth and economic reform, smart regulation, fighting climate change and the development agenda.
I sincerely believe that we have a joint interest to agree, and to agree among all of us, I think it is in all of our interests to have a UK government that fully engages with the other member states and the European institutions. Indeed, it is the European institutions that are the best guarantee that the interests of all member states, including the UK will be fully respected. It is precisely through the European institutions and in full respect of the Community method that we can avoid any kind of split, any kind of directorium, any kind of deviation that will be negative for the overall interest of the Union and of each one of its member states.
I therefore hope that we can work constructively with the UK Government to make sure that the fiscal compact now agreed dovetails neatly with the EU treaties so that the interests of all member states and the European institutions, including this Parliament are respected.
Regarding the evaluation of the results, I was on purpose extremely prudent. I have tried to avoid, as much as I could, adjectives. The reality is that by now we have all learned that the solution of this crisis, as I have mentioned very often, is not a sprint, it is a marathon and I used the expression marathon, I was not just thinking about the Greek situation. Because one can lose confidence in one day, but to recover confidence takes much longer, so what we need now, in the euro area and in the European Union, is a commitment to sustainability, to persistence, to rigour, to discipline, to convergence over time. There will be no panacea. There is no silver bullet. In these matters there are no miracles. So I think it is important also that we show everybody, including our partners, that we are committed to a solution and that we will work consistently, coherently and over time to reach that solution.
Now, as some of you said, in fact I made the point also in my introductory remarks, the issue of budget discipline and addressing the problems of debt, is an important one, but it is not all the problem.
We have in Europe and in the euro area a problem of sovereign debt. This sovereign debt is partly the cause of the crisis, but it is partly also the result of the crisis. The crisis started with the subprime problems when in fact there was a problem in terms of the evaluation of risk by markets and investors.
So we have at the same time a sovereign debt crisis and a financial crisis, but at the core, at the origin of these different crises, we have a problem in Europe of competitiveness. We are losing our position to many of our competitors in the world.
That is why we need reforms to enhance our competitiveness and to liberate the potential for growth. That is why in fact what we have discussed in this summit is only part of the solution, because it addressed only part of the problem.
We need fiscal discipline, we need to be rigorous in terms of having a debt sustainability path, but we need also measures for growth. And I made this point very clearly – we need growth in Europe. That is why I think we have now and agenda, we have the Europe 2020 agenda, and we have other initiatives to address this major problem of growth. Without creating confidence globally that Europe is able to restore growth, I believe we cannot get out of this current crisis.
This is our position. This is the position at the Commission as sustained over time and we are ready to work with you and of course with all the institutions in that direction. As I said earlier - to build Europe of stability, but also Europe of growth; Europe of responsibility, but also Europe of solidarity. This is our commitment and we will go on working for this. Hopefully with all the member states and in full respect of the principles that made our Union what it is today. After all, a Union of free democratic societies committed to very strong values of rule of law, of justice, of freedom and solidarity.
I thank you for your attention.