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José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Statement by President Barroso at the intermediary press conference of the European Council

Press conference

Brussels, 1st March 2012

Let me begin with congratulation to Herman van Rompuy – for his re-election for the second period as President of the European Council and also for his election as the President of the Euro summit. I would like to express my admiration for his work. He has provided much needed coherence to the European Council's work. I would like to state my high personal appreciation of the way in which he has been doing this with prudence, patience and intelligence. And also my very personal appreciation of the way we are working closely together, very smoothly "across the street", meeting every week. And also, not only across the street. In our summit with international partners I believe today that there is a much more stable and coherent position on behalf of the European Union, when European Union representatives – President of the European Council, President of the European Commision work together with our major partners. So, my congratulations and my best wishes for your mandate.

Very briefly three points on the discussions this evening:

Firstly, this was not, and that is an innovation, a meeting focused on crisis management, it was a meeting focused on growth. The structural reforms for growth and jobs, what Europe has to do to achieve it. Of course we were informed about Greece and there is also support for the action Greece is now taking, but there is an overall priority that is the need to combine Fiscal consolidation and structural reforms, the need to show that Europe is committed at the some time to responsibility, fiscal responsibility but also solidarity.

Secondly, there was a debate, a very interesting one, about the priorities for this year – based on the priorities that the Commission has presented in its Annual Growth Survey.

I think I can say tonight to you, my sincere impression is that Heads of State and Government are now considering this European semester as serious business. Not just a formality, but really an interaction about how, collectively, they can address the great challenges of governance in these extremely challenging times. We are entering a new phase of economic governance.

Policy has now been agreed by all Heads of State and Government, and I think it is important that it is understood that this is not imposed from Brussels. That policy will now be reflected in National Reform Programmes and afterwards in the Country specific recommendations that the Commission will produce.

There are very interesting points from the discussion. One important point I think is the ownership of the Europe 2020 strategy. We have a strategy for growth, and this strategy should be owned by all the governments as well as by the institutions in our countries, by all the stakeholders including by the way the social partners because more that ever we need to step up the quality of the social dialogue both at the European and at the national level.

My third point is precisely to say that there is a sense of urgency. It was clear in today's discussion, at least several of our colleagues in the European Council asking themselves for tighter deadlines, for more concrete programs, for more precise calendars, namely is some areas that we discussed like the implementation of the internal market.

This was really very welcome and I think that now we have the basis to go on with this European Semester and to have a real reinforcement of economic governance, not only in the euro area but in the European Union as a whole.

On behalf of the Commission today I have pushed for project bonds, I think it is important. We need of course for growth, structural reforms, we need to deepen the single market, we need to take advantage of many opportunities in terms of international trade but we also need some kind of targeted investment. And it is possible with good leveraging, working with others – namely the EIB – to achieve some important projects in terms of infrastructure because that infrastructure in transport, energy and broadband can be also for our growth. And I was even more specific about the need to bring down the cost of broadband roll out.

So I think it is time to move from crisis mode to growth mode. For this to happen, there was today also a very good discussion, I think there is a consensus on the need to close the implementation gap so that the decisions taken in the European Council by Heads of State and Government afterwards are really followed by concrete decisions in the Council. And this has been as you know sometimes a problem, and I think that there is this sense of momentum now.

Let me just conclude by welcoming the progress regarding the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to Schengen, as I said earlier, it is a question of fairness and objectivity. I think it is time for the obstacle to be removed, and I hope it will be removed relatively soon.

And also to welcome the decision on giving candidate status to Serbia. Just two days ago I received here President Tadić of Serbia and you remember I said that if it was not that day, it would be in the European Council that this problem will be solved and was solved, it was also a good decision because it shows that the EU remains very attractive. The reality is that we are going to welcome next year a new member, and there are others that want to join this very important project: a project of freedom, responsibility and solidarity.

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