José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following the meeting of the Friends of Cohesion Group
5 October 2012
Thank you very much Prime Minister for your welcoming remarks. In fact I am very pleased to meet again Prime Minister Robert Fico here in Bratislava and I really want to thank him for hosting this "Friends of Cohesion Summit."
But before speaking about the meeting let me say that before the meeting we had a bilateral, and I had the occasion to congratulate Prime Minister Fico for the measures and his commitment regarding structural reform in Slovakia. I know that some of these reforms are asking many sacrifices from the Slovak people, we know there are some costs in this adjustment, but we in the European Commission believe this is the only way to put Bratislava in a sound path for sustainable growth, for prosperity of all the Slovaks. I very much appreciate, Prime Minister, your commitment to reform, the strong emphasis you are putting on discipline, on convergence and the European path that we are underlining so clearly for your country.
Today we have this Summit of Friends of Cohesion. I said in the Summit that we need to work for an agreement in European Council in November. As you know there are friends of cohesion on one side but there is also some who are speaking in terms of better spending.
Not all the member states were here today as friends of cohesion. In that point of view I want to repeat what Prime Minister Fico said some time ago when he said: "Friends of Cohesion are friends of better spending, too."
This is important, it is important to reunite the different parties of Europe. That is why I made an appeal today during the meeting that the friends of cohesion and the friends of better spending should all unite in the European Council becoming the friends of growth – sustainable growth.
What we need in Europe is to create the conditions to return to growth, and the European budget is the most important instrument we have at the European level for targeted investment in growth. This is why there is a contradiction when some politicians say they want to support growth in Europe and afterwards they are proposing to reduce the European investment through the Multiannual Financial Framework. That is why I believe it is now important that the friends of cohesion show their commitment to discipline, to convergence, to linking this agenda of cohesion to the agenda of the new economic governance in Europe including in the Euro area, that they support the agenda of concentration, for simplification, for some conditionality at the same time when we are asking the net contributors to actively support the cohesion.
Because the euros spent on cohesion are not just beneficial for the countries that receive those funds. It is also investment that supports other parts of Europe and also has the important role to reduce imbalances in Europe and we know that many of the problems we are now facing in the Euro area and in Europe are because of very important imbalances we have among our Member States.
So, yes we know that now we live in times of fiscal consolidation, but precisely because we need to achieve fiscal consolidation, we need to have an ambitious policy for growth. Because without cohesion, without Friends for Cohesion, the reality is that some of these countries will not be able to meet the targets of the Stability and Growth Pact . What the Prime Minister just said regarding the contribution of the European Structural Funds for investment in Slovakia shows that without this support coming from cohesion funds, Slovakia and other countries would not be able to meet the targets of the Stability and Growth Pact, will not be able to give their contribution to stability in the Euro area and in the European Union in general.
This is why I believe this meeting was extremely good. All the Prime Ministers and the other representatives in a very concise way expressed their position and there was an overall agreement on the need to support the Commission proposal on cohesion and also an agreement on concluding if possible these negotiations until the end of the year. A very important moment will be of course the November European Council, so I think that this agreement was clear during this meeting.
Now we are entering in a very important phase of negotiations. By the way, apart from the Prime Minister that will be defending the vision of Slovakia, there will be another Slovak participating in the negotiations. This is my colleague, Vice President of the Commission, Maroš Šefčovič, because he is responsible for Interinstitutional relations and will have an important role in the negotiations together with Commissioner Lewandowski who is responsible for the Budget. And at the end, in the European Council, Prime Minister Fico will be there and I will be there as well, we will try to find an agreement that is important for sustainable growth in Europe. Cohesion should not be seen just as a kind of help that the richer countries give to the less prosperous ones. Cohesion is an overall objective of all the European Union. In the Treaty of Lisbon we have an objective of the European Union – social economic and territorial cohesion. This is not just for the Cohesion countries; it is for the European Union as a whole.
That is why I was very happy to listen today to the support to the Commission proposal. I also listened to the President of the European Parliament expressing on behalf of the European Parliament his overall support to our proposal and I hope that we will have a good, fair negotiation with a result that is good news for Europe and for the need to invest in sustainable growth in our Union.
I thank you for your attention.