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José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Edmund Stoiber, Chairman of the High-Level Group on Administrative Burden Reduction

Press point

Brussels, 21 February 2012

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to welcome to the European Commission once again Dr Edmund Stoiber and to receive the Best Practice Report produced by his High Level Group on Administrative Burdens.

What we have discussed today is about growth. Reducing the administrative burden is an essential part of our efforts to improve the business environment in Europe. Small and Medium-Sized Companies stress time and again how crucial the reduction of red tape is for their businesses.

I am very pleased to say today that we are making very good progress.

33%: that is the reduction of administrative burden that the Commission proposals will generate. In other words, we are saving companies €40bn.

Many of these proposals have benefited from the support of the group lead by Dr Stoiber.

For example, when we proposed to scrap the paper VAT invoicing and replace it by e-invoicing. Or when we suggested exempting micro enterprises from European Union accounting rules.

So I really want to thank you, Edmund, for your great contribution and the contribution of all the members of your group. I really find it very important that someone with the experience of Dr. Stoiber, former Minister President of Bavaria, devotes so much of his time, his energy and his commitment to this kind of task - to better regulation, to work together with European institutions and also with Member States to make our administration more efficient.

That is why I have asked Dr Stoiber to continue working with us. We have agreed to prolongue the mandate of this High-Level group until the end of the mandate of the Commission and I am very happy that Dr. Stoiber accepted to continue to lead this group.

We have agreed that this group could even go further, based on the very good work achieved until now. We could focus much more on small businesses, which are the mainstay of our economy and are responsible for as many as 80% of all European jobs.

Small businesses today need our support. We need to help them so that they can continue generating the jobs that Europe needs, especially for our young people.

We also have agreed that in the follow-up of the report that we are now going to receive, and I already read the main conclusions and the executive summary - in that follow-up we will focus on SMEs, but also on critical points of public administration: public administration in Europe, public administration in our Member States.

So I think this is the theme for the next phase of the group lead by Dr. Stoiber - better regulation, SMEs and also administrative reform, so that we can make also our administration globally, not only in the European institutions, but in our Member States, more responsive to the concerns of our SMEs and more responsive of course to the needs and the imperative on growth. Our Member Sates are making huge efforts in fiscal consolidation, but we never miss the opportunity to say that fiscal consolidation is not an enemy in itself, it's a way of getting Europe more competitive, because we need to get back to the path to sustainable growth.

Before I conclude, a word on Greece since it is the first time I see you since the agreement in the Eurogroup.

The agreement reached in the Eurogroup on a second financial assistance programme for Greece is an essential step forward for the country and for the euro area as a whole. Together with the agreement reached with the private sector for a bond exchange offer, in which I am very confident a high number of private sector bondholders will participate, this overall package opens the way for Greece to construct a new and more sustainable economy, better able to generate growth and jobs. It also closes the door on a scenario of an uncontrolled default, with all its grave economic and social implications. That would be - to use the word of the Greek Prime Minister - a chaos for Greece and for the Greek people.

I am profoundly aware of the heavy burden that the Greek people are having to bear and I recognise the tremendous efforts made over the past two years, in extremely challenges circumstances. Nevertheless, as recognised by the Greek authorities themselves, not only the Government but also the Parliament, the measures being taken are essential and in many cases long overdue. There is no alternative to fiscal consolidation and to structural reform in Greece if Greece wants to regain competitiveness so it can generate again growth and jobs. I think that this message has to be clear. And the best way of showing our solidarity to Greece is to speak the truth.

The second programme will intensify the many ambitious structural reforms underway, which are helping to build a more modern and citizen-friendly public administration, a fairer and more effective tax system and a more friendly business environment in which employment can flourish. In sum: a more competitive Greek economy. This will offer Greece investment opportunities which the country would otherwise not have, and will demonstrate that fiscal consolidation goes hand-in-hand with measures to enhance growth. Growth is the goal but of course there are necessary difficult steps until achieving growth.

The Commission will in parallel continue to provide immediate and proactive support, through a reinforcement of the Task Force for Greece established last summer, the full mobilisation of cohesion funding and through the Youth Unemployment Action Team, which will be on the ground in Athens next week.

I also wish to recognise the fact that last night the rest of the euro area has at the end agreed with this program. I know that in some governments it is sometimes difficult to get the necessary support from their parliaments but I want to congratulate the finance ministers for their work because it was the right decision for Greece but also for the euro area. It is a welcome signal that our common goal is for a stable and prosperous Greece with a secure future in the euro.

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