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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following the Friends of Cohesion meeting
Joint press conference/Brussels
13 November 2012
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
Let me first thank Prime Minister Tusk of Poland and Prime Minister Passos Coelho of Portugal for their initiative and their leadership. I think it is a great initiative to organise this Friends of Cohesion summit here at the European Parliament in Brussels, involving also the European social partners. I was already present in the two other summits in Bucharest and in Bratislava but I think, as Prime Minister Tusk said, that the fact that now two governments decided to organise it here in Brussels and in the European Parliament is in itself a very important statement. It is that these countries, Portugal and Poland, relatively distant in geographic terms, believe that the future of Europe is working together, working also with the European institutions (the European Parliament and the European Commission), and working for the common good of Europe; that Europe that we want to build and consolidate is a Europe of cohesion, a Europe of solidarity. And so, the meeting in which I just participated is a very important one, because so many governments expressed their commitment to an ambitious and at the same time realistic budget for Europe as well as their commitment to a cohesion budget.
It was also very important to listen to the social partners, represented by Business Europe and by ETUC. Business organisations and trade unions do not always agree, but this time there was a very positive message of agreement – they want growth. Business organisations and trade unions believe it is critically important for Europe to come back to growth. And the most important instrument for investment in growth we have at European level is the seven year budget, the Multiannual Financial Framework. So let's now see if the governments that are always saying that growth is critically important are ready to come to a compromise on the most important instrument for investment in growth we have at European level. And inside these financial perspectives, cohesion is critically important because it is not only in the interest of the most vulnerable regions, the less developed regions of Europe, but for growth as a whole, because as it was said during the meeting when there are investments in infrastructure or in research, or in many other areas of the structural funds, these investments have also a direct benefit in the net contributors countries. So cohesion should not be seen as a policy just for some parts of Europe but, as it is stated in the Lisbon Treaty, social, economic and territorial cohesion is a fundamental principle or objective of the European Union as whole. And I think this point is extremely important.
That is why I participated for the third time in this summit of the Friends of Cohesion, because I'm a friend of cohesion, the Commission is a friend of cohesion. The Commission put forward what we believe it's a good proposal for cohesion and for the financial perspectives and we would not like to see it now put under threat, with arguments that sometimes are, frankly, not fair. But I'm also a friend of better spending. I believe it is important to use every euro with efficiency and with rigor. That is why I've encouraged the Friends of Cohesion to show their commitment to a modernised cohesion policy that is a cohesion that it is also to increase competitiveness, to increase convergence all over Europe. And this message comes also from that meeting. As I said before, I'd like to see the friends of cohesion and the friends of better spending united in a grand coalition as the friends of growth, a truly European coalition for Europe.
And I think it is important to make the case now. I've seen in the last days interesting developments, for instance European scientists and artists that have mobilised to defend our "Erasmus for All" proposal. Researchers, Nobel Prize winners of science, mathematics, medicine, physics, that are asking the governments of Europe to support our proposal for "Horizon 2020", the investment in research and innovation. Most prominent business leaders have spoken out in favour of the Commission's plan to invest in strategic infrastructure in transport, energy and internet (the so-called "Connecting Europe Facility"). And today we have seen in a meeting the most important social-economic organizations at European level, ETUC and Business Europe defending also the need for an appropriate investment in growth, including in cohesion, social, economic and territorial cohesion.
I hope that these arguments will be heard in the European Council. I hope that in the European Council the Heads of Government will not only consider in a narrow way what they define as a national interest. That they are able to think European and how much it is important to reach a consensus on a budget for Europe.
Just today I had organized a meeting with the President of the European Council, President of the European Parliament and also the rotating Presidency of the Council, the President of Cyprus, and we have discussed the perspectives for an agreement. Once again I want to call on all Heads of State and Government to go an extra mile to reach a consensus at next week special European Council and also with the European Parliament by the end of the year. I think it is important for Europe and it is important for Europe to show its commitment to cohesion, to investment and to growth for all its citizens.
I thank you for your attention.