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European Commission

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Statement by President Barroso following the second day of the European Council, 13-14 December 2012

Joint press conference/Brussels

14 December 2012

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me start with a warm word of thanks to Cyprus for the Presidency of the Council during the past six months. I want to thank them for their dedication and hard work, and especially President Christofias, my warmest thanks, because in the middle of a very difficult and challenging situation in Cyprus you and your collaborators have shown your commitment to the European ideals. There were real achievements during these six months. I will not quote all of them, but I think the Single Supervisory Mechanism, Schengen governance, common asylum system are especially important.

Special mention on the Unified Patent which, 30 years after the first proposal of the Commission, will finally become a reality. The Commission has put another proposal and through reinforced cooperation it was possible to drive this process to give our companies protection for their ideas at a fair cost. The benefits speak for themselves and hope that eventually all member states will take part.

Let me now focus on the other points of the conclusions that we have discussed today. Annual Growth Survey: there was a full endorsement of the five priorities presented by the Commission for the 2013 European semester, namely the need to pursue differentiated growth friendly fiscal consolidation, to restore normal lending to the economy, to promote growth and competitiveness, to tackle unemployment and the social consequences of the crisis and modernise public administration.

Precisely regarding one of these priorities, employment, the conclusions we reached on Youth guarantee are important: we need to get young people into the labour market to deliver a job rich recovery. Last week Commission presented a youth employment package. I hope it will play an important role in helping Member States tackle youth unemployment, by establishing youth guarantees and a quality framework for traineeships. Within four months after leaving school, we would like to have all young people to get back either into education, training, apprenticeships or a job. This is mainly a national responsibility, but the EU will contribute through a targeted use of the European Structural Funds, especially the European Social Fund.

Other important part of the conclusions is the Single Market. As you know the Commission has put 12 proposals on the table in Single Market Act I. Five have been agreed like the Patent and venture capital funds – need to get the others done quickly. All legislative proposals for Single Market Act II will be presented by the Commission by March 2013 so they can be adopted hopefully before June 2014, so in the current parliamentary cycle. We will set the ambition high – difficult issues exist and need to be tackled to boost growth like opening up network industries. But there was, at Heads of State or Government level, what I think is a real commitment to deepen the Single Market.

A word on smart regulation. The economic crisis has shown the need for good regulation and make the single market work. We need smart legislation to create growth and jobs. We must be careful that laws are not too costly. Much has already been done. The Commission exceeded its 25% administrative burden reduction goal by tabling administrative burden reductions to save our businesses approximately €40 billion.

And now we have launched a new initiative: Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme. We will map our acquis and evaluate its efficiency and effectiveness. We will look at the cost of red tape and compliance. If our assessment points to unnecessary costs, we will reduce them. If the legislation is not achieving its aims, we will change it or, simply, scrap it. That was also an important support to this agenda.

A final word on the European Commission contribution for what I believe is a great priority for us and should be even more in the future - Common Security and Defence Policy. When we think on the future of the European Union and its role as the 21st century actor a decisive element will be how we develop not only our foreign security, but also our common defence and security policy.

The defence sector, apart from the political and other aspects is also crucial in terms of exports, cutting-edge research and provides growth and highly skilled jobs.

The European Council, as the President of the European Council has already said, asked the Commission, together with High Representative Ashton, to work within its competences on this matter and we are ready and willing to play our part in driving forward this agenda, in particular in three key areas: industry, single market and research.

We will therefore present next Spring a "Strategy for enhancing the efficiency of Europe's Defence sector" to make the most of our single market to deliver a strong industrial defence base, this is critically important also for instance in terms of research.

So to conclude:

We had last night also a good discussion on future of the EMU. I believe national ownership and deep discussion is vital on these sensitive issues. No door was closed on steps towards deeper EMU and we will keep moving forward. The Commission will keep driving the ambition. We started this year as you know with many commentators, and not only commentators, many market analysts and actors, also in the financial markets, seriously questioning whether the euro and indeed European integration would survive. That was a common theme. I have got many questions about "Do you think the euro is going to survive, how long is it going to survive, how do you see the dismantling of the euro." I think that those commentators and those analysts have been shown to be totally wrong. We are tackling the crisis and we have a long term vision for our Union. This week was indeed a good week for Europe: Not only the Nobel Peace Prize that means a lot for us, but also, in more concrete terms, the very important agreement on SSM and on Greece, this was extremely important as well.

So I need to say to you that I am really confident that we are going to overcome the difficulties. Of course we have always, as we said, to match the ambition with concrete decisions, we have to find the right balance between the ambition and proper sequencing. But I think that we are making progress and I want to conclude wishing you and your families Happy Christmas.

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