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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Speech by President Barroso at European Parliament Plenary Debate: Review of the Danish Presidency
Plenary session of the European Parliament/Strasbourg
3 July 2012
Mr President of the European Parliament,
I would like to thank Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt and her whole team, in particular Europe Minister Wammen, for a very engaged and dynamic Presidency.
The Presidency programme was called "Europe at Work". I think it is fair to say that you were a Presidency at work. You made a real effort to contribute to ensuring stability for Europe in these difficult times. I particularly congratulate you, Prime Minister, for your personal commitment to competitiveness and growth and for the Green Agenda. Areas in which, by the way, your country Denmark is a great inspiration for many of us in Europe and indeed in the world.
The results of this work are in large part reflected in the conclusions of the European Council, and cover the full range of the Union's activities. Since we will discuss the results of the European Council and the euro area summit in the following debate, in this speech I will only highlight a number of specific issues.
Let me start with the economy.
We have almost completed the second European Semester. Very serious and in-depth work has taken place on the Commission proposals for country-specific recommendations. I am satisfied with the consensus that emerged around them.
This work can of course not be separated from our agenda for economic growth. As the Commission has made very clear, growth can only be achieved through the combination of structural reforms and targeted investment. And the Growth Compact, now approved, recognised this, and indeed paved the way for determined action for growth.
I therefore appreciate in particular the speedy and constructive manner in which the proposal on the pilot project bonds for transport, energy and telecommunications infrastructure has been handled. I am very happy that we have reached a final agreement on the Commission proposal. The initiative will stimulate investment in infrastructure at the European level. I also appreciate the efforts to reach an agreement on the "two-pack", which is a central element in the EU-level efforts to strengthen economic and budgetary surveillance. This would also represent a first step towards implementing important elements of the Fiscal Treaty (TSCG). Thus I welcome the general approach in Council, and I strongly hope that Parliament and the incoming Cypriot Presidency can come to a final agreement before the end of this year.
Equally important is our progress in financial markets and financial services. Agreement could be reached on our proposals on derivatives markets and on the Single European Payment Area. And, very importantly, we are making enormous progress on the bank capital requirements package as well as on credit rating agencies. And whilst the Commission proposal for a Financial Transaction tax has unfortunately not met with unanimous support from Member States, I would like to welcome the decision to start negotiations under enhanced cooperation for all Member States that will wish to join the initiative.
This is a very important development. After all, we have seen once again in recent months and weeks both in the United States and in Europe, including in some of the major financial institutions, that practices that have fuelled the financial crisis are not yet eradicated from the sector. Once again, we have been confronted with reckless trading and market manipulation. It is time that these practices stop once and for all. And it is time that a sector that owes so much to the taxpayers' support accepts to hand back a fair share to society.
Mr President, Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Regarding the very difficult negotiations on the proposed Directive on Energy Efficiency, the agreement found in first reading by the co-legislators will be a major step in delivering the objective of 20% primary energy savings in 2020. The Commission estimates that the outcome reached would allow delivering approximately 2/3 of the total energy savings of the Commission's original proposal. So whilst we welcome what was achieved, we must also say that further work on reaching our 2020 objectives will be needed.
I was very pleased by the agreement reached on the "Roaming 3" regulation. This is an example of legislation that truly benefits European citizens and consumers. The regulation has now entered into force on 1 July. By putting a cap on data roaming we are taking an important step to protect consumers against shock bills and complete the digital single market.
Europe should be a global standard setter. Therefore I also welcome the agreement reached on the reform on the standardisation system which will enable more efficient standard setting in Europe.
Furthermore, the general approaches reached in the Council on the accounting directives, the venture capital funds and social entrepreneurship funds, as well as on the Alternative Dispute Resolution will hopefully prove to be good bases to reach agreement with the European Parliament very soon. On professional qualifications, we could have wished for more progress but work will continue.
It is of course necessary to make a special mention of the debate over the European patent, something that has been discussed for decades. There was a compromise on this between the participating Member States, but it unfortunately comes at the price of the deletion of important Community elements of the original Commission proposal. Whilst recognising the great efforts of the Danish Presidency on this difficult file, and indeed thanking you very sincerely for that effort, the Commission has therefore reserved its position and I have made this reserve very clear to Heads of State and Government during the European Council. The situation will now require an assessment between the three institutions. We are ready to work with you on this.
Mr President, Distinguished Members of the Parliament,
A central theme of the past semester was the effort made in bringing forward the multiannual financial framework. The European Council last week considered that the Negotiating Box prepared by the Presidency provides a basis and orientations for the final stage of the negotiation during the Cypriot Presidency with a view to reaching an agreement by the end of 2012.
Honourable Members, in this respect let me reiterate once again that the Commission is fully aware of, and will call for full respect of, the institutional prerogatives of all institutions. It was the Commission by the way which strongly insisted on this point during the preparation of this European Council and indeed when its conclusions were adopted.
The debate on the MFF will now enter its decisive stage. I need to underline that the Commission considers that the Negotiating Box still misses some important elements or is not the appropriate answer in our view in some areas. Whilst fully recognising the very serious work done so far, the Commission will therefore continue to defend its proposals under the incoming Presidency. I believe it is now clearer that the EU budget is an essential instrument to achieve, through investment, sustainable growth and jobs.
I am also particularly happy that we managed to agree on a new Financial regulation. I want to extend my thanks to the relevant players in Parliament and Council who have worked closely with the Commission. I know we went through a process of long and difficult negotiations. The final adoption before the end of the year of the Financial regulation will allow for a proper implementation of all the sectoral programmes of the MFF.
Thus on the MFF I strongly hope that Council and Parliament with the support of the Commission will manage to reach agreement by the end of this year. The EU needs to send a signal that until the end of this decade it will have a strong budget for growth and cohesion. And the EU needs to show that it is able to take difficult decisions in difficult times.
Mr President, Prime Minister, Honourable Members,
In the area of justice and home affairs important files have seen good progress. Let me mention the Asylum Package, notably the Dublin II Regulation and the Reception Conditions Directive. Negotiations have also advanced on the Asylum Procedures Directive and the reform of the Visa Regulation is on track.
This can however not yet be said of one important file, namely the question of the legal basis and on the nature of the Schengen Evaluation Mechanism. We are all aware of the sensitivity of this issue. As far as the Commission is concerned, we want solutions that can work. This is why we believe – together with this Parliament – that we need a Schengen Evaluation Mechanism with a strong European dimension. We are convinced that an inter-governmental peer review model does not deliver on the mandate set by the European Council of March 2011 and would have a limited added value in practice. At the latest with the Lisbon Treaty, free movement of people is a genuine Community concern. As I have said before, the Commission cannot accept this to be a final outcome and will continue to work for a better solution.
Mr President, Prime Minister, Honourable Members,
Let me end with a look at the external dimension: the focus on internal European issues has always to be combined with a broader perspective of Europe's role in the world. No more so than with the preparations and the decisions in Rio +20 for sustainable development. Although a number of our most ambitious objectives were not fully achieved the EU has remained committed and constructive throughout the negotiations, and our positions had a very important impact on the debate.
I would like particularly welcome the very good cooperation between the Commission and the Danish Council Presidency, in fact both Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt and myself were present in this Rio conference. And let me tell you that without the European leadership this conference would not have achieved what appears to me as a significant outcome: green growth is now explicitly and formally accepted by the international community as an indispensable part of our sustainable development agenda.
Mr President, Prime Minister, Honourable Members,
Important progress has been achieved during the past six months of the Danish Council Presidency, and I wish to reiterate my thanks for the very good cooperation. But we are only too aware of how very serious the situation is, and how much we still need to accomplish in the time ahead. I therefore count on ongoing commitment and ambition from all institutions to meet our common challenges.
I thank you for your attention.