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José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Speech by President Barroso at the EP debate on the review of the Polish Presidency

European Parliament plenary session

Strasbourg, 14 December 2011


Prime Minister,

Honourable members,

I would like to begin by saying straight away that the Polish Presidency of the Council under difficult circumstances has delivered very important achievements.

The Polish Presidency has worked with great professionalism and enthusiasm.

Exactly 30 years after the introduction of Martial Law, Poland has shown during this Presidency its commitment to Europe, to democracy and to our common values.

I am sure that everybody remembers Prime Minister Tusk's inspiring speech here in this House six months ago.

That speech came from the heart, a true "act of faith" in Europe and a strong appeal for more European integration.

And what you just said Prime Minister and dear friend about the community spirit, about the need to fight narrow national interests and egoisms, and your support without doubts to strong European institutions is in fact very inspiring, too, and it is for us a great source of strength I these difficult moments.

Six months later, we can say that Poland has lived up to this reputation and the Polish Presidency up to our expectations.

The Polish Presidency has held up the spirit of partnership between the European institutions and the Member States.

Poland has constantly pushed for more Europe to address efficiently a crisis that has not only a financial and economic dimension but also above all a political one and as Prime Minister Tusk mentioned a problem of confidence, a problem of trust.

Let me highlight some of the concrete points we worked on throughout the Presidency.

First, a strong Europe; a more stable Europe that can withstand all kinds of weather; a Europe that can learn from its own mistakes and can address its weaknesses; building its recovery on sound and sustainable foundations.

We have laid the foundations on which any further reforms will be built.

The adoption of the legislative package on strengthening economic governance, the "six-pack" has significantly reinforced the Stability and Growth Pact. It puts more emphasis on debt limitations and extends the Commission surveillance to macroeconomic imbalances. Now we need to combine words with actions that we can reinforce this stability culture.

Yesterday the "six-pack" entered into force. It will put the Commission at the heart of ensuring fiscal discipline, in line with the position of this Parliament. We will accept this increased responsibility knowing that its democratic legitimacy derives precisely from this House.

To complete this set of tools we have come up with two article 136 proposals on further strengthening the economic governance. And more proposals will come, to bring the new fiscal compact as much as possible into our existing Union framework.

A strong Europe is also a Europe that is able to recreate the conditions for growth and job creation. As I said yesterday during the debate we need stability but we also need growth.

That is why our 2012 Annual Growth Survey puts a strong emphasis on the need for implementation of growth-enhancing actions. And I welcome the support to our fast-track programme for measures with a significant impact on growth and jobs. This includes the proposals on the Single Market Act.

During the Polish Presidency we have taken key decisions to prepare the relaunch of economic growth, through the development and strengthening of the single market, notably on the e-economy.

I would also like to mention the very good progress made in the negotiations on the unitary patent, which showed the energy and constructive approach needed. I call on the Member States to quickly resolve among themselves the one outstanding issue: the seat of the litigation court under the intergovernmental agreement.

Growth is also about green growth, energy security, and fight against climate change. And we are moving forward on all these fronts.

The Commission has already tabled proposals on completing the internal energy market, boosting energy efficiency, enhancing the coherence and coordination of our external energy policy and improving nuclear safety. Let me emphasize in particular the commitment of Poland to reinforcing the external dimension of the energy policy that has been adopted by the Energy council.

On the fight against climate change, Durban was certainly not a perfect agreement: but in the difficult circumstances we can say it achieved also some important results. Against all the scepticism, it was possible to make progress, with all major emitters agreeing for the first time to have a new comprehensive and binding legal instrument, which shall include limits on CO2 emissions. This was only possible because of the leadership from the European Union and I am particularly proud of the role that the commission has played in this matter.

We will now continue our efforts with our international partners to flesh out the new global climate agreement involving all countries as quickly as possible. And we will no doubt have a strong partner in this Parliament.

Honourable Members,

The Polish Presidency has also put a lot of energy into defending a united Europe. We just now heard a very inspiring words coming from Prime Minister Tusk.

Together with the Commission, the Polish Presidency has really been a strong advocate of the preservation of the coherence and the integrity of the European Union.

What we need is more integration and not fragmentation. What we need is to consolidate our acquis and not weaken what we have achieved over the last 60 years. What we need is to do is tap the full potential of the single market, not to damage it. What we need is more union, not a disunion.

And this is exactly what the Community method guarantees. It enables us to join forces in the general interest. It reinforces our solidarity and our cohesion.

Let me tell you very frankly, Honourable Members, that it was not without importance that the discussions about the reinforcement of the euro area took place during the Polish Presidency, because Poland, while supporting very clearly a stronger economic governance of the euro zone, was also putting clear that the stronger governance of the euro zone could not come at detriment of the overall objectives of our Union. And this was particularly important.

The same thing I want to say regarding the next Presidency – we are going to continue, hopefully to conclude, the negotiations for this new fiscal compact during the Danish Presidency of the Council. From the very constructive positions taken by the Prime Minister of Denmark, I am hopeful that we can conclude these negotiations with stronger euro area, with stronger governance, but at the same time also with stronger Union, because that is exactly what we need.

Honourable Members,

The last point I would like to make before concluding is about open Europe – united, but also open Europe.

Since the early days of European integration, our openness to the world and our attractiveness to our neighbours and to newcomers has always been one of our greatest strengths.

Over these six last months we have done a lot to advance our relations with our neighbours.

First, with enlargement countries, good progress has been made on the European integration of the Western Balkans. Last Friday we were happy to witness the signature of the Accession Treaty of our 28th Member State, Croatia, which will join in July 2013. This should constitute an incentive for the rest of the region to keep to the path of European reforms.

The successful Summit hosted by the Polish Presidency in Warsaw with our Eastern neighbours confirmed our ambition to create the necessary conditions to accelerate political association and further economic integration between the European Union and interested partner countries within our enhanced neighbourhood policy.

Association Agreements are being negotiated with 4 out of 6 Eastern partners, and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade areas with 3 of them. This Monday we just started further negotiations with Georgia and Moldova.

I will be travelling to Kiev next Monday, as we seek to conclude an Association Agreement with Ukraine. This House has called for the conclusion of the negotiations by the end of the year. The Ukrainian authorities need however to demonstrate that they abide by the principles and values that underpin this agreement, namely the respect for democracy, rule of law, human rights and judiciary independence.

The establishment of the European Endowment for Democracy, an innovation also brought by Poland, will greatly enrich the range of instruments at our disposal to support the process of democratisation and consolidate the aspirations of those fighting for freedom including in places in our Neighbourhood where democracy and rule of law need to be encouraged.

Finally, I will also travel tomorrow to Warsaw, once again, where I will participate in the European Development Days, an initiative on behalf of the Commission, this time in cooperation with the Polish Presidency, that shows clearly that even in times of crisis the European Union does not forget about the need to show solidarity to developing countries and to the most poor of the world. And as you remember sometimes ago when we have this enlargement there were some suspicions in the developing world that the fact that Europe was enlarging it was dedicating lesser interest and importance to the South of our planet. This did not happen. On the contrary – we are reinforcing our commitments to the developing world.

Honourable Members,

As I said, these were considerable achievements under difficult circumstances. But this crisis is not behind us and we have a lot of work ahead. As we move forward, I would like that all Member States will show the same level of commitment to Europe as Poland has shown.

You will be a tough act to follow. The challenge ahead will now be with our Danish friends.

And to conclude, let me very sincerely thank Prime Minister Tusk, all his team, his government, the team dedicated to the Presidency for your leadership, for your strong European commitment, for your political courage. I think this was a great example for all the member states that are committed to a stronger European Union. I thank you.

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