Vice-President of the European Commission
Responsible for Interinstitutional Relations and Administration
The Commission’s Work Programme for 2013
Speech to the EESC Bureau meeting
Brussels, 13 November 2012
Mr President, Honourable Members,
In his State of the Union address in September, President Barroso set out a direction for the EU; towards a democratic federation of nation states, a political dimension to frame the emerging European structures for stronger economic and social integration. This is what must be the backdrop to our work in the coming years: working together in a democratic spirit, making the EU more resilient to future crises, and giving a springboard for future growth.
In the meantime, we cannot stand still as we tackle the crisis. We need to keep working on concrete steps grounded in short-term results.
The Commission Work Programme 2013 is a translation of this overall vision into concrete measures. 2013 will be another key year in turning Europe round to face up to the crisis and to pursue the path of sustainable growth.
There is no simple solution. This is a task for society as a whole. Everybody must contribute. But we can together help to show a lead, to demonstrate how our Union provides the crucial added-value to offer prosperity and security to our continent.
The European Economic and Social Committee, in its letter to President Barroso on its key political priorities for 2013, stressed that "combining fiscal consolidation with growth and employment enhancing instruments is the way forward to put Europe back on the path to sustainable growth".
I very much appreciate the strong determination of your Committee to be ambitious for Europe. These goals must be top of the list for next year. We need to work together to define the right vision, to bring key proposals to adoption, and to have the budget ready to deliver its benefits from day one of the new programming period.
The Commission Work Programme also announces a number of targeted priorities for new actions next year. These are clustered around seven key objectives for Europe, seven areas where we can clearly identify that more is needed. Let me briefly take you through some of the main priorities.
A genuine Economic and Monetary Union: additional legislation to enhance stability, transparency and consumer protection in the financial sector, based in particular on the blueprint to a genuine economic and monetary union.
Boosting competitiveness through the Single Market and industrial policy: initiatives to cut costs for businesses in areas like VAT and invoicing, tackle obstacles to competitiveness and encourage key growth sectors through public-private partnerships in research.
Connect to compete: building tomorrow's networks today: modernising networks by liberalising in energy, by boosting investment in infrastructure like broadband, and by modernising Europe's transport and logistics.
Growth for jobs: inclusion and excellence: building up practical support to the unemployed in areas like public employment services, and making sure the EU does its utmost to support social inclusion.
Using Europe's resources to compete better: giving the long-term perspective so important to sustainable growth with a framework for energy and climate change to 2030 and dedicated action on air quality and waste.
Building a safe and secure Europe: working to boost justice through a European Public Prosecutor's Office to protect the EU's financial interests, security by fighting traffic in firearms and consolidating citizenship in the European Year of Citizens.
Pulling our weight: Europe as a global actor: driving forward our interest and values through a new generation of trade agreements, targeted action in our neighbourhood, and furthering the Millennium Development Goals as the world's leading development cooperation partner.
Macroeconomic stability, smart fiscal consolidation and sustainable growth must go hand in hand. Europe is one economy. Events in one corner of our Union impact on employment and growth elsewhere.
The details of building a genuine economic and monetary union are the subject of deep reflection. The blueprint which will be presented later this year will give a comprehensive overview. It will show how to take an ambitious approach, based on the existing institutions to ensure full democratic control. Making this happen will be a key priority for the coming years.
This Commission also continues to push for a strong and competitive financial sector to restore growth and investment in the real economy. In 2013, we will for example address shadow banking, and put key indices on a stronger footing. Businesses and home owners must not fear manipulation of interest rates.
We are not starting from scratch. The European semester is now established as a key pillar of economic governance. But to restore the confidence of citizens and markets, everybody must go further.
If stability is the basis for sustainable growth and jobs, competitiveness and confidence are their engines. Europe's economy can only survive with a strong and modern industrial base. Your Committee has rightly pointed out that we have "to boost the 2020 strategy, complete the single market, re-industrialise Europe and adopt an ambitious EU research and innovation policy".
That requires a strong single market. We need to fill regulatory gaps. We need to unleash the growth potential in networks and the digital economy. We need to exploit mobility. We need to use cohesion policy as a driver for reform, not just a safety net. We must all pull together to make sure that these actions are developed, agreed and implemented before the next European elections in June 2014.
Agreement on the MFF package is critical to this. It offers just the kind of smart investment the EU economy needs. And next year will also see new initiatives in key areas: on access to finance, not least for SMEs; on cutting costs in areas like VAT; on leveraging investment in strategic sectors from aeronautics to pharmaceuticals; on broadband infrastructure and electronic payments.
We also need to give investors the long-term certainty needed for long-term business decisions. Modernising infrastructure in ICT, energy and transport is critical to providing this certainty. So is a fresh look at European air and waste legislation. In particular, a framework for climate and energy policy to 2030 will provide the vision needed.
To build the future, Europe must build on its youth. Youth unemployment is a crisis within the crisis. As a society, we cannot afford the human tragedy and the economic loss of leaving a generation on the side-lines. We will tackle this issue already later this year.
And if many of the levers are national, there is much that Europe can do to invest in its people; to increase mobility between jobs and across borders; to target education and training on the right skills; to protect the most vulnerable. The European Semester is proving a key tool to stimulate job creation and to identify how the EU dimension can help individual Member States. Amongst new proposals will be very practical measures to network national employment services to work together.
The EU is a community of values. At a time, when our attention is directed at the economy, we must not lose sight of this. Safeguarding and expanding the freedoms of citizens releases human potential, boosting growth and jobs.
The EU must also protect its citizens by adapting to new threats and challenges. Concrete action next year to fight arms traffic, improve judicial cooperation or protect financial interests through a European Public Prosecutor will all help to ensure that citizens and companies can exercise their freedoms and rights in security.
In 2013, the Commission will also continue to defend European values and interests around the world. In external trade, this can make a huge difference, with the potential for 2 million new jobs across a range of agreements. Possible agreements with partners such as Japan and the US would have a huge impact.
And Europe must continue to show that it is a positive force worldwide, through effective development and humanitarian aid directed to those most in need and across an active enlargement and neighbourhood policy that will continue to make the EU an anchor of peaceful development in our region and beyond. Again, the new generation of programmes for development aid and cooperation will play a key role here.
The EESC's input is important to the preparation of the Commission Work Programme. I am pleased that the recently revised Protocol on Cooperation between the EESC and the Commission has offered concrete steps in the very first year.
In this perspective, the Commission has carefully examined the key priorities sent by the EESC to President Barroso. They constitute a very valuable input into the process of shaping the Union's political priorities. The priorities identified by the EESC for 2013 mirror very closely the Commission's plans until the end of this mandate.
The Commission shares your emphasis on promoting dialogue with civil society. Boosting its involvement at all levels of policy-shaping and decision-making in the EU will be particularly important for 2013, the European Year of Citizens, but also beyond. The Lisbon Treaty gives the Committee additional scope to play its role of privileged intermediary in the dialogue between organised civil society and EU institutions.
The result of a wide consultation of various stakeholders is an ambitious programme, but also a programme built on realism and on clear political choices. A good basis for European results.
These are crucial times for Europe. The steps we take over the next few years will decide our future path. I am looking forward to working closely with your Committee to move from programme to progress. To take the next determined steps towards a stronger, more prosperous and fairer Europe.
Thank you for your attention.