José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Debrief to the European Parliament following the Informal European Council meeting of 30th January
Brussels, 1st February 2012
Mr President of the European Council,
Distinguished Members of the European Parliament,
I would like to draw your attention to two main aspects of the informal European Council of Monday afternoon.
Firstly, the European Council was a first but a significant step of Heads of State and Government in recognising that it is not enough to focus on financial stability and economic discipline alone.
By bringing to the table concrete proposals to tackle youth unemployment and to finance SMEs, the Commission broadened the perspective towards the issues that are of greatest concern to our citizens – jobs and growth, sustainable growth.
This is an approach we have discussed often with this Parliament and I know you support the Commission's outlook, rooted in the Europe 2020 Strategy. Together we are moving. Of course more steps are needed. We will continue in this direction.
The second issue I wish to highlight is linked to the Commission's determination to maintain the role of the European Union Institutions and of the Community method in the new Treaty.
We are now entering into a new phase of economic governance, based on the European Semester, where governments recognise that even matters under their national competence, such as employment, should be dealt with at European as well as national level.
Due to the high levels of interdependence between our economies, we can no longer deal with economic and social matters only on a national level. When it comes to issues such as job creation, there is clearly a European dimension. National action, indeed also regional action, should be supported and complemented by European action.
Europe's economic problems are obviously not over. There will be a long road for recovery. I underlined the need for us to continue with the comprehensive approach to resolving the crisis that the Commission set out in its Roadmap to Stability and Growth in October last year.
From this point of view, it was important that Heads of State and Government agreed with our proposal to ensure that the European Stability Mechanism enters into force in July 2012. As agreed in December, we will reassess in March the adequacy of resources under the EFSF and ESM.
One main message coming from our discussion on growth and employment on Monday was the need to do much more to unleash the potential of the Single Market, Europe's "crown jewel".
Heads of State and Government agreed with the Commission's proposal to fast-track the Single Market Act and complete the Digital Single Market by 2015. I trust that we can rely on the European Parliament to make good progress on this growth package in the coming months, of course with the help of the Danish Presidency and we all know how determined the Danish Presidency is regarding these objectives.
The Single Market Act can improve the framework for our companies, but there is also more we can do to create the conditions that will help them thrive.
SMEs have created 80% of all new jobs in the European Union in the last five years and are the backbone of Europe's economy. We need to help them take up the great opportunities being opened up by our trade agreements with growing economies outside Europe.
Last December the Commission proposed using structural funds as guarantees for SMEs, to give them easier access to finance. We have also put forward a proposal to facilitate access to venture capital, that I would like to ask you to adopt this year.
On Monday I asked Heads of State and Government to be even more ambitious in cutting red tape for small and micro enterprises.
On youth unemployment, I called for an urgent response and made concrete proposals to halt this unacceptable trend. Each Member State will prepare a national job plan, centred on a youth guarantee to ensure that all young people are either in a job, in training or in education within four months of leaving school.
The Commission will set up action teams with the eight countries that are most affected by youth unemployment.
I've already written to the Prime Ministers of these countries proposing a concrete way to go forward. We will seek to redeploy €22 billion of European Social Fund money to improve job opportunities in Europe.
We will seek to maximise the European Union programmes we already have, namely Erasmus for studying, Leonardo for training and EURES for job vacancies.
The national job plans will be brought into the European semester exercise, so by the spring European Council in five weeks from now, we will give concrete guidance to all Member States.
We will continue also the dialogue with the social partners respecting their role to obtain the best possible solutions and to implement them smoothly. I personally met with the representatives of the social partners at European level and I know how committed they are to fight the terrible scourge that is youth unemployment.
Another positive step in this informal European Council was the endorsement by the Heads of State and Government of the Treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism. This is a very important part of the global strategy to strengthen the Economic and Monetary Union. We are making progress, probably not so fast as most of us wanted, but we are making progress towards a fiscal union in our European Union.
Twenty five Member States also reached agreement on the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union, which is an essential element of our efforts to regain stability and confidence.
As you know, this Treaty was not the Commission's choice, but rather the consequence of the lack of unanimity to amend the Lisbon Treaty. But the fact that 25 of our 27 Member States have agreed to sign this Treaty, is testament to the solidarity and determination within the Union to resolve this crisis together and to avoid a division between euro and non euro area Member states.
From the outset of the negotiations on this Treaty, the Commission, together with this Parliament, defended a series of principles: namely the primacy of European Union law, the need to keep the proper role of the Union institutions, a spirit of inclusiveness with all Member States, and the need to integrate the agreement into the Lisbon Treaty within five years.
In the final text, there are no new institutions that could weaken the role of the Commission and of this Parliament.
The contracting Member States agreed to respect the Commission's central role in delivering the Agreement's objectives in line with the Lisbon Treaty and the Community method. And they agreed to keep the Treaty open to all and compatible with the community method, respecting this European Parliament.
In upholding the Community method, the Commission has acted in close cooperation with the European Parliament and I would like to highlight the important contribution of the Parliament's representatives to the negotiations.
You will recall that we acted in the same spirit of partnership during negotiations on the modification of article 136 of the Treaty.
Today, I want to reaffirm on behalf of the Commission, the content of the letter sent then by Olli Rehn to Elmar Brok and Roberto Gualtieri, ensuring the involvement of this House.
I would like to note that this was the first European Council where Martin Schulz participated as President of the European Parliament. In the beginning of the Council he made an important contribution on these points and I am grateful for his clear commitment in upholding the principles dear to both our institutions.
It is relevant that Member States welcomed the legislative proposals made by the Commission on 23rd November last year, the so-called Two pack, within the framework of the Treaties, namely under article 136 and also that they committed to support further secondary legislation that the Commission will propose to further strengthen the Stability and Growth Pact, within the framework of the Lisbon Treaty.
This is a clear guarantee that the role of the European Parliament in economic governance will be ensured until this new treaty can be integrated into the EU Treaties.
Indeed we cannot respond properly to our current challenges without democratic legitimacy. Cooperation between national democracies with European democracy, and European democracy is embodied in this Parliament, gives us the legitimacy we need to take the decisions necessary for the prosperity of the European Union.
Thank you for your attention.