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José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Mr Rosen Plevneliev, President of Bulgaria

Press point

Brussels, 26 January 2012

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,

First of all let me say how pleased I am to welcome to the European Commission President Plevneliev. I would like to congratulate him on his election and I really want to thank him for coming to Brussels so soon after taking office in his first visit outside of his country. It was only on Monday that the President took office. Really I see this gesture, Mr President, as a clear indication of your strong commitment to the European Union and to our common values.

The President's political programme which he set out when taking the oath of office is strongly pro-European. And it is a strong reform-orientated political programme of 10 priorities.

We have discussed a range of European and national issues and I was really impressed by the commitment of President Plevneliev to our common agenda, by the points he made in our conversation considering that the European Union should not been seen as something outside but as internal politics. The understanding of the President of Bulgaria of the needs to put at the same level an integrated development and harmonisation of Bulgaria with the common European goals, namely the Europe 2020 strategy. This is exactly the position of the Commission.

The EU is not a foreign power in our Member States. We are the European Union: the institutions and the democratic Member States of the Union. And the goals that we discuss at the European level, for instance the Europe 2020, our strategy for growth and jobs, are indeed also national goals. And that is precisely the perspective that we, the Commission, are preparing for the informal European Council next Monday and I hope to have of course the support of Bulgaria for this very ambitious agenda for Europe.

We need, both in Europe in general and in Bulgaria in particular, smart fiscal consolidation to be matched by measures to deliver structural reforms, boost growth and lift Europe out of recession.

At the informal European Council next Monday I will push for immediate action in three areas: tackling unemployment, especially youth unemployment; a deepening of the single market as a way to boost growth, and also specific measures to help SMEs in Europe.

I am especially concerned by the youth unemployment situation which is reaching crisis point. This is also a particular concern in Bulgaria with youth unemployment at almost 26%. Other countries have even more difficulties in that area. I hope that the informal European Council will support my proposal to establish special Action Teams to produce targeted plans based on best practice, so that we can have job programmes for youth in all our Member States, specifically those who have more difficulties in this area.

In this context, we also need to look at the use of structural funds. We had a very good discussion regarding structural funds. How the structural funds can boost competitiveness in the European Union, how they can give a contribution to avoid that imbalances grow wider in our Union. Why it is in the interest both of the poorest regions of Europe and the richest regions of Europe to have an ambitious Multiannual Financial Framework, to have a commitment to growth all over Europe. That was particularly important in terms of our discussion. Bulgaria is precisely one of the countries where we are working hard with the Government to speed up absorption capacity and ensure that funds are targeted towards growth and jobs. Progress has been made. We believe that this can be also a matter of discussion in the informal European Council – how we can, in some cases, redeploy unallocated money, money that is there, for the most immediate concerns and objectives in terms of growth in Europe.

I am also very pleased with the fact that the President has made clear his push for reform of the judicial system in Bulgaria. It is important that all of the State institutions are fully behind the reform process and I welcome the President's personal commitment on this issue.

I also assured the President of Bulgaria of our support for Bulgaria's accession to Schengen. I have personally raised this issue in the December European Council and I hope that the remaining reserve can be lifted as quickly as possible.

Bulgaria has a central role to play in the decision-making process in the European Union. President Plevneliev has shown his strong commitment and he has shown that it is important for a country like Bulgaria not only to see what Bulgaria receives from the European Union, but also what Bulgaria can contribute. In fact the public opinion in Bulgaria, I know, is very much pro-European and we need this enthusiasm, we need these positive contributions from our Member States, some of them relatively new in our Union, to be at the centre of decision-making in Europe and that is why I really welcome the quality of the conversation I had, one of the many I am sure we are going to have with the President of Bulgaria.

Once again thank you for coming so soon to the Commission and congratulations for your election.

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