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José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Statement of President Barroso following his meeting with Jyrki Katainen, Prime Minister of Finland

Press point

Helsinki, 31 March 2012

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,

It was a pleasure to meet my good friend, Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, once again and to have this opportunity to go in detail on some of the most important issues on the European agenda.

The European Commission and Finland share the most important points of the European agenda. We are very committed to fiscal consolidation and structural reform. Without this, the European Union will not be able to restore confidence and without confidence there will be no investment, and without investment, no growth.

So, we have an agenda – agenda of stability and growth. We have to understand that without doing everything that is necessary for stability, we cannot achieve growth. Finland has been a strong supporter of this agenda and we have been working very closely with Finland, and today with the Prime Minister we have confirmed this convergence not only in terms of the analysis of the situation, but also about the priorities of the future - the need to go on with determination in our reforms so that Europe becomes more competitive. Not only some of the countries which are more vulnerable now, but Europe as a whole.

The world has been changing dramatically. The global competition is much more challenging now and the way for Europe to win this competition is precisely to become more competitive, to invest in what are its strong assets. We have to complete our internal market - we have the biggest market in the world by value, but the reality is that it is not yet been completed in many areas, for instance in the digital area. The markets of the future will become more and more digital, but we don't have yet a fully integrated internal market in the digital area. So that is a point that by the way Prime Minister Katainen has been pushing forward and I really want to thank him for his leadership regarding the digital agenda. This is part of our priorities for growth in Europe.

Another issue for growth for Europe is to have more market access in other faster growing economies. Russia certainly is a close partner and we would like to have an even deeper relationship with Russia where there are also important possibilities. I hope that the Russian partners will also work with us in that direction. There has been some progress, namely around the so called Partnership for Modernisation, and also, as you know, the Commission and the European Union have been a very strong supporter of Russia joining the WTO. So probably now we have the conditions to go further and we are looking forward to this opportunity to work with Russia and other economies and to increase also the economic integration and to increase economic opportunities on both sides.

Another important issue for us is what we can do at European level to foster innovation. We all know in Europe that Finland has been a champion of innovation and has been very successful in many of the initiatives taken to foster innovation. It is an area where I think we can do more.

For growth to happen we also need some kind of targeted investment, because we know that there is no fiscal space. I hope also that in the next Multiannual Financial Framework Finland will work constructively with the Commission and with the Member States, so that the next budget of Europe can be seen as a budget for investment in Europe. We have a strategy for growth, we have the Europe 2020 agenda, we have the deepening of the Single Market, but we also need some instruments of investment and that budget can be an important contribution.

These were, among others, the most important points we have discussed today, as always very openly and in a very friendly atmosphere and I want to thank the Prime Minister for the quality of these exchanges. I think that the strong support that Finland has been giving to the community method and to the community institutions is very important. Europe has to be a project of unity and it has to be a project of fairness. And in order to be a project of fairness, it has to be a rule-based project. It can be a Union only if we are sure that all governments, big or small, old or new, from the centre or from the periphery, richer or poorer, if all respect the rules. That is why we need strong European institutions, independent institutions that work in partnership with the Member States, and not replacing of course the competence in the Member States, but they should deliver the common decisions that have been agreed.

And I want also to thank Finland, the Government and Prime Minister Katainen for the constant support that Finland has been giving to this community approach. I think this is the way to have our European Union stronger and always in full respect of the principles of fairness and also the equality of all our Member States.

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