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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with philosophical and non-confessional organisations
Joint press conference, meeting with philosophical and non-confessional organisations/Brussels
27 November 2012
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to welcome today the eminent representatives of non-confessional and philosophical organisations here at the Commission headquarters. As you know – our three institutions, European Council, European Parliament and the European Commission – are holding a regular dialogue with these organisations, as well as with churches and religions, based on article 17 of the Lisbon Treaty.
I want to thank President Van Rompuy and Vice-President Surján, representing the President of the European Parliament, for joining me in this meeting.
But before I enter in today's topic, "Intergenerational solidarity", let me make a more general point regarding solidarity. And I want to mention Greece. I welcome the agreement reached by the Eurogroup earlier this morning on Greece. As you know, the European Commission has been making very important efforts to help guide the quick implementation of the programme and ensure adequate support to Greece until Greece has has regained market access.
The Greek authorities and the Greek people have demonstrated a strong commitment, and the Commission wants to salute the efforts made by the Greek citizens in this extremely difficult time.
The Commission continues to consider that these efforts will contribute to a better future for the Greek people and we hope that they will now be translated in important decisions.
Ladies and gentlemen, the topic of today's meeting was "Intergenerational solidarity: setting the parameters for tomorrow's society in Europe" – a very important topic that translated also in numerous important discussions and initiatives throughout the "2012 European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations", which is now coming to an end.
Let us be clear: Solidarity is a fundamental value of the European Union. It is the glue that holds our societies together. It is a moral commitment to take responsibility for each other, solidarity among people and also solidarity among countries.
However, the current crisis is a real stress test for our European values.
As many of us expressed in today's open, constructive and very fruitful debate, where people suffer, the temptation is big to follow populist ideas and to see the European Union as a scapegoat for their problems. In reality, the EU is the only framework where both solidarity and the necessary reforms can be brought together for the common European good.
In crisis times, the added value of the Union and that of its common policies and institutions are often heralded in words but not always translated into deeds and means, as you could for example see at last week's summit on our future budget.
I think it is very important now that the governments of Europe accept to translate those commitments to European solidarity into concrete decisions.
We also see this erosion of values and principles also in our day-to-day lives, in the lack of inter-generational solidarity, in the excessive burdening of some parts of society in support of others, or persisting inequalities of men and women. Millions of European citizens today are affected by unacceptable high levels of unemployment and poverty. Young people do not always have a perspective. And nobody can guarantee that today's young will receive pensions high enough to afford a living. That is why it is important to keep our commitment to a social market economy, as it is enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty.
Today's discussions have brought to the fore an impressive wealth of experiences among participants. Participants singled out many lines of action, but I want to underline three of them:
1. We need a perspective for the young, in terms of education and employment; Threw a s a very important emphasis on the role of education.
2. We need to value more the contribution that senior citizens can bring to society and foster the exchange of skills between the generations; Regarding most senior citizens, we also agreed that it is important to fight against discrimination, because this unfortunately is one of the areas of discrimination in Europe – discrimination against older people.
3. And we need to find a good balance of burden sharing among generations (also to avoid "overcharging" the so-called sandwich generation, and we should also of course in that matter be particularly attentive to the needs of women, because when we speak about non-discrimination. It is not only the discrimination among generations, but discrimination between genders.
The Commission is doing its utmost to move our European reform agenda forward in this sense, to allow a truly fair, inclusive and sustainable economy.
Just tomorrow we will outline our proposals for next year's reforms in our Annual Growth Survey that kicks off the 2013 European Semester of economic policy coordination. Investing in our young people will feature prominently in the Annual Growth Survey as well as the reform of our employment policies, tax and pensions systems.
Let me also mention that just yesterday we decided to improve the EURES jobseeker mobility network, and very soon, at the beginning of December, the Commission will also adopt a 'Youth package' to give young people a better perspective through Youth Guarantees.
To conclude: participants today and citizens at large have high expectations: The European Union, its institutions, its Member States need to match our vision with action and means. We must be coherent. We cannot reiterate our commitment for growth and jobs, without following up with action and investment. We cannot reiterate our commitment to solidarity and not translate it in concrete commitments at European level.
We therefore should spare no effort to work hand in hand and restore solidarity between nations, between states and within states, between the rich and the poor, the old and the young. Today's meeting is an important contribution to this aim and I am encouraged by the commitment shown by all participants.
I thank you for your attention.