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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Mr Demetris Christofias, President of Cyprus
Brussels, 22 February 2012
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
I'm extremely pleased to welcome President Christofias, my dear friend Demetris who I know now for quite some time, and also the members of the Cypriot Government, to the Commission. We began with a bilateral meeting which was followed by a working lunch with the whole College and also by a meeting in the "Salle Jean Monnet" meeting room of the Commission.
We had indeed a very substantive meeting where we have seen the priorities of the next Presidency of the Council, the Cypriot Presidency, and we had an exchange on the most important issues.
So I can tell you that we have seen at first hand the excellent state of preparations for the Cypriot Presidency which will begin on the 1st July. I am sure this will be a success and the Commission will provide all the help it can both before and during the Presidency.
We have covered a whole range of issues, both in the bilateral and plenary sessions. I just want to pick out very briefly a number of points.
We have discussed the challenging economic situation, both in Europe and in Cyprus. The agreement yesterday on the second programme for Greece is an important signal with a direct implication for Cyprus in terms of banking sector exposure. The Cypriot authorities have taken important steps over the last year in terms of fiscal consolidation. The Commission believes that Cyprus is on target to reach a deficit of 2.7% by 2012, in line with our recommendations.
The most important point we have discussed today, about Europe in general, is the need to strengthen the potential for growth and competitiveness. The Commission has been advocating for a long time now, and apparently now we are being heard, that stabilisation is not enough. Discipline is not enough. It is indispensable but we also need to have growth, we need to have convergence. We need to have hope for our citizens.
And that is why I believe our discussion today with President Christofias was helpful. It is important that during the next Presidency of the Council to get this right: to make clear and to explain to our citizens that we are going through a very challenging period where some structural reforms are in fact very challenging, but that there will be light at the end of the tunnel and that together we should work for growth enhancing reforms in Europe.
The youth unemployment situation is also a cause for concern. At the last European Council we have agreed on national job plans with a specific youth guarantee to ensure that young people are either in a job, in education or training if possible within four months. I have underlined to President Christofias that we are ready to help where that is needed, working with different Member States. I want to thank President Christofias for the support he gave already in the European Council to this agenda, to the priority that the Commission gave to youth unemployment and also to the support to SMEs.
Another issue that we discussed is the Multiannual Financial Framework, because if everything goes right, it will be during the Cypriot Presidency that we will conclude the negotiations on the financial perspective for the next period (2014-2020). I was really very happy with the degree of convergence of views between Cyprus and the European Commission and the commitment that Cyprus has to bring forward this extremely important package, the Multiannual Financial Framework, because we also need to use these financial perspectives as a tool for growth. We need the structural reforms, as we have been saying, but we also need some investment at European level for achieving higher degrees of growth in the medium term.
In our bilateral meeting we have also discussed the settlement process and the relations with Turkey. President Christofias knows my position well. I fully support the UN process and the need for both sides to make steps forward. It is of course important not to let the sands of history to slip through our hands. It is a difficult and very challenging process, but I have always encouraged different parties to remain committed to that project. I also made it clear that the European Union, and not only the Commission, will support Cyprus as a Member of our Union and in its role of Presidency of the Council.
I want to thank President Christofias and the Government Ministers for the excellent working sessions and wish you every success for the first Cypriot Presidency of the Council. I thank you for coming here to Brussels.