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Vice-President of the European Commission
Responsible for Interinstitutional Relations and Administration
A stronger Europe: next steps?
Conference organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) "Step up for a stronger Europe"
Brussels, 25 September 2012
What are the next steps that need to be taken if we want a stronger Europe, and how far can we go? Well, my experience of the last two years tells me that the sky is the limit!
We all expected the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty to mark the end of the institutional debate on the future of the EU, introducing as it did a new way of working better suited to the enlarged European Union
But the crisis has showed that there are real flaws in the construction of Europe – the consequence of delayed structural reforms has become more visible and the cost of repairing the flaws considerably more painful
We have seen some flirtation with inter-governmentalism – only to realise that what we need in fact is 'more Europe'
Despite the fact that the Commission and the European Parliament called for just this approach from the very outset, it took some time to convince the Member States and for the idea of deeper integration to get real traction
So what needs to be done, now that there is widespread understanding of the need for more Europe? Well, first, we need to use the current Treaties to their fullest to make sure that we stabilise the situation in the short to medium-term: economic governance, banking union, better coordination of policies, a return to economic growth – these are all musts
I agree with Presidents Barroso and Van Rompuy: maintaining the status quo is not a solution, and complacency is a real danger: we need to act now to stabilise the eurozone, exit the crisis, consolidate economic governance and boos growth and jobs
These will be the top priorities for the Commission for the rest of its mandate. This, I believe, will be the true legacy of this Commission: a stronger union, using the potential of the Treaties to the max
But the deepening of EU integration will certainly raise new questions of democratic legitimacy and scrutiny. We will have to forge new relationships with the European and national parliaments to ensure that we have a legitimate political union to match the economic and financial one
Like all of us here, I am looking forward to seeing the conclusions of the report drawn up by the four Presidents, which I hope will show us just how far we can go towards economic and monetary union under the current Treaties. I know the Commission will do its utmost to make sure that we use all the avenues open to us
But there are clearly limits to what is possible under the current system, and it will also be important to have a clear vision of how the federation of nation states proposed by President Barroso in his State of the Union speech last week will work in practice; the new European structures for economic, monetary, budgetary and fiscal integration will require a political dimension – and for that the Treaties will have to be changed
This vision of an EU federation of nation states that will have to be thoroughly debated and analysed in the run up to the 2014 European Parliament elections – and the next Parliament and Commission will have the political task of bringing it to fruition
Whether they can achieve this will depend in large part on the overall political atmosphere in the EU – and that in turn will depend on whether we can succeed in our current job