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European Commission

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Minister-President of Hessen, Mr Volker Bouffier

Press point/Wiesbaden

14 September 2012

Guten Tag,

Ich freue mich sehr, dass ich der Einladung der hessischen Landesregierung nach Wiesbaden jetzt endlich nachkommen konnte. Ministerpräsident Volker Bouffier habe ich zuletzt in Brüssel im November vergangenen Jahres getroffen.

Heute hatten wir eine sehr gute Diskussion über die Situation in Europa, und insbesondere darüber, wie wir die Krise in der Eurozone bewältigen können.

Doch lassen Sie mich zunächst die Bedeutung der Regionen bei der Gestaltung der Zukunft Europas betonen. Hessen ist ein exzellentes Beispiel. Ich möchte Ihnen daher zu Ihren wirtschaftlichen Erfolgen gratulieren und Ihnen für Ihren Einsatz für Europa danken.

And I would like also to thank of course the Deputy Minister-President of Hessen, Mr Hahn, for his participation in this meeting as well as the members of the government of Hessen.

And before I will touch some of the points we have discussed in this very open and frank meeting let me address another issue we have been following with great concern: the absolutely unacceptable attacks against the German embassy and the British embassy in Khartoum. We condemn it in the strongest terms. This is unacceptable, and it is against all the rules of the civilized world. Nothing justifies these kinds of attacks.

Yesterday I received in Brussels the President of Egypt, Mr Morsi, I had the occasion to express also my strong condemnation for attacks on Islam. Respect all the religions and the freedom of religion but nothing justifies violence against embassies, against diplomatic personnel, and I hope that all the issues can be treated in a peaceful, respectful way.

Once again I want to express on my own behalf and on the behalf of the Commission my very sincere solidarity to Germany, to the government of the Federal Republic, and to all those who feel threatened at this moment, as also to other countries like Britain.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Shaping Europe's future means tackling the crisis of today, and stabilise the situation in the Euro area, that is why we have spent some time during our meeting today discussing these issues. We need to return to sound public finances. We need to strengthen our competitiveness. And we need to ensure the proper functioning of financial markets to the benefit of the real economy.

When looking back to 2010 when the sovereign debt crisis started, and I am saying this without any complacency, I think we can say that in the European level we have achieved a lot.

We have a new Stability and Growth Pact that increases discipline; we have a Fiscal Treaty, which will give us real teeth in ensuring fiscal discipline at national level. And we are going even further with a piece of legislation which is currently before Council and the European Parliament, the so-called "Two-Pack".

The so-called European Semester coordinates the fiscal and macro-economic policies of our member states, with a strong role for the Commission as representing the European common interest.

We have established financial backstops like the EFSF and the ESM, which provide support to countries under stress - under strict conditionality. You will not be surprised to hear from me that I very much welcome the ruling of the German Constitutional Court of last Wednesday.

We also have other programmes going on in terms of support to some countries, and we know also the important action taken by the European Central Bank.

But let's not forget, and I am saying this because I believe people sometimes tend to forget it, the European currency, the euro, is not the cause of the crisis. We have countries outside the euro that have had in fact big problems in their financial sectors.

The euro is not only a currency, it is also an expression of the European unity and what the European project means in terms of peace and prosperity for all of us. It is and remains one if not the major asset of Europe and I believe that the European countries, namely the euro area countries will do what is necessary to defend that currency. And this requires determined action not only from Brussels or from Frankfurt, from the European Commission or from the European Central Bank. It requires a constant effort from the national governments to put their finances in order, namely the countries that have allowed big debts grow. And it also requires from all of us in the euro area to be committed to the ideas of solidarity and responsibility. Not only solidarity, not only responsibility – we need both.

And we need to put a brake on the irresponsible behaviour of some of the players in the financial markets.

Here, in Wiesbaden which is very close to Frankfurt, one of the most important financial centres in the world and indeed the important financial centre in continental Europe, we should not forget that one of the root causes for this crisis is precisely some behaviours in the financial sector. Between 2008-2011, 4.5 trillion euros from Member States' budgets have been made available in support of banks.

This is why we need financial stability and why we need some more integrated forms of supervision in the EU, namely in the euro area, and that is why the Commission has put forward some proposals that we are of course discussing constructively with our member states. But these we believe are indeed very good contribution for our common goal that is financial stability.

I am sure that the financial centre of Frankfurt will greatly benefit from the future central role of the European Central Bank in banking supervision and enhanced stability. And the city's banks can have hope: their reputation will become better again once it is clear that they respect and implement the new rules and the important standards we have in the euro area and in the EU.

That is what we have. But we also know that the crisis is not over yet and that a lot remains to be done. Minister-President Bouffier and I agree on the goal and that is good. We probably do not agree in all the details, steps and speed to achieve it but I think that we can say that we are committed to this project, this great project it is the European unity and also the euro as an expression of this unity.

That is why I believe it is important that at the European level we engage all the relevant leaders. That is why I visit whenever I can not only the capitals, not only Berlin and Paris, but like today also Wiesbaden, because I know, and it is also a point Minister-President mentioned to me and I agree, that whatever project we have we need to have the people with us, the citizens with us. And we need to explain things.

These issues are sometimes difficult, even experts do not know sometimes very well what they are saying. So we need to make the case with our citizens: what is at stake, what can we gain if we have a solution and what we can lose in Europe if we do not have a solution for the euro. And I believe that we are going to have a solution, I believe in determination. And that is why I am asking all the political leaders, all the democratic leaders, namely those who have such a responsibility like the once leading such an important Land like Hessen to explain these issues, to make the case for Europe with rational and reasonable arguments. This is why I very much appreciated the quality, the frankness and the openness of our conversation.

To conclude let me once again show my progress in German.

Ich glaube fest daran, dass wir weiter gehen müssen. Wir müssen unsere kurzfristigen Maßnahmen verbinden mit einer größeren Vision von einem stärker integrierten Europa. Wie ich in meiner Rede zur Lage der Union vor dem Europäischen Parlament vor zwei Tagen sagte, müssen wir uns in Richtung einer europäischen Föderation von Nationalstaaten bewegen. Aber umgekehrt darf das Festlegen auf eine zukünftige Richtung keine Entschuldigung für die Nicht-Bewältigung unserer unmittelbaren Probleme.

Ich hoffe, dass das Land Hessen, sein Ministerpräsident, seine Regierung, sein Parlament und seine Menschen eine konstruktive und aktive Rolle auf diesem ehrgeizigen Weg spielen. Ich bin überzeugt, dass für ein wirtschaftsstarkes, exportorientiertes Land mit 6 Millionen Einwohnern wie Hessen mehr Europa mehr Möglichkeiten bedeutet.

Ich danke Ihnen für Ihre Aufmerksamkeit, und ich freue mich darauf, mehr von Ihrem schönen Land zu sehen: heute Abend Kloster Eberbach und morgen die weltbekannte documenta in Kassel.

Ich danke Ihnen für Ihre Aufmerksamkeit!

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