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SPEECH/12/150

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Werner Faymann, Austrian Chancellor

Press point

Vienna, 5 March 2012

Last week's European Council was not driven by drama, but a meeting focused on growth – what can we do together to re-launch the possibilities for growth. Because I believe we have to lay the foundations for future growth now on a European basis.

In fact, we have a strategy. Our Europe 2020 strategy is a strategy for growth and I welcome the renewed commitment of the European leaders to work together! I want to thank Chancellor Faymann for his commitment and also for his leadership role in the European Council on the financial transaction tax and on the issue of youth unemployment.

As you know the European Commission recently presented some proposals to fight the huge problem of youth unemployment. Just today I visited this Centre for learning and vocational training for young people with Chancellor Faymann. Thank you for organising this visit. In fact we believe that more has to be done in the short term. That is why we have created action terms with eight of the EU countries that are most exposed to the issue of youth unemployment. The Austrian model, because Austria is one of the countries that is doing better in terms of youth unemployment, is being considered in benchmarking as one of the references for other Member States.

So, what we have to do now is to consolidate this culture of financial stability in Europe. Without financial stability, there will be no confidence. Without confidence – no growth and no employment. At the same time we have to pursue our structural reforms in Europe, so that we become more competitive, because the global conditions have changed dramatically. That is why we need to pursue the structural reforms, also having in mind the need to preserve our social market economy and social cohesion.

That is the real challenging task we have in Europe – stabilise the euro zone. The tensions now in the euro zone are not so strong as they were before. We cannot say we are already out of the crisis, but there is a better situation than before for several reasons, and so we should now focus our mind on our Europe 2020 strategy – what we can do to foster growth, sustainable growth, not artificial growth because we have seen what are the consequences of it. We have growth that is fuelled by high levels of spending and debt of by irresponsible financial behaviour. And I think now from that point of view we are now on the right track.

And we are making progress also with this European Semester, this is collective governance where we work together – not receiving instructions from Brussels but the European Commission and the European institutions being important partners of the Member States in the way they prepare and implement very important and ambitious structural reforms.

That is why I really want to thank you Chancellor, dear friend, for your commitment and also for the commitment of Austria to this project. I think it is quite obvious that in the age of globalisation we need this kind of joint commitment at the European level.

So to show my commitment to Austria let me say some words in German:

Es ist klar geworden: es gibt keine "Insel der Glückseligen" in Europa! Ohne ein starkes, geeintes Europa schafft es kein Mitgliedstaat alleine, aus der Krise zu kommen! Ohne die Europäische Union würde das Gesetz des Stärkeren herrschen. Kleine und mittelgroße Staaten hätten nur eine schwache Stimme. Auch die größten und stärksten blieben schwach im weltweiten Vergleich. Deshalb ist unsere Europäische Union so wichtig. Sie ist unser gemeinsamer Schutz in stürmischen Zeiten.

The idea is the following: in the age of globalisation if you want to defend the interests of our citizens and also to defend our values we need the EU more than ever. Even the biggest Member States alone cannot do it. The 21st century is changing dramatically the relations of power. And if we want to count in the world and if we want to discuss with Washington, our allies, or with Peking or with Moscow we need this European Union to work together – of course in full respect with the different national identities.

So I really want to welcome the strong commitment expressed by Chancellor Faymann and his government to Europe: strong support for instance to the issue of strong response to the debt crisis. And I hope that Austria that is really at the centre of the EU, at the centre of the European civilisation and at the heart of Europe – I hope that Europe will also be at the heart of the Austrian people.


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