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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following the first session of the European Council, 19-20 December 2013
19 December 2013
Indeed, since this is our last European Council in 2013, I think we should acknowledge that 2013 has been a very busy year and as it draws to a close we can be proud of what has been achieved. This is well reflected in the process that is now going now, namely the progress we had this very week and today on a number of crucial issues.
The first of them being the banking union, something that – let's be frank – some time ago, if we were saying that it would be possible to have, many people would say it would not be realistic. But we have, not only the Single Supervisory Mechanism, now we are also very close to have a final formal decision on the Single Resolution Mechanism.
On banking union, I would like to welcome the political agreement reached between EU finance ministers on the Single Resolution Mechanism. It was an unanimous approval and today it was supported politically by the European Council. I think we can say this is a real breakthrough and shows the EU can make swift progress even when issues are complex and politically sensitive.
While the Commission would have preferred a system based fully on the community approach, we welcome the important progress made by the Council. It is a sound basis for the negotiations with the European Parliament. I firmly believe that we can, and must, reach a final agreement before the European elections.
This is the beginning of the end of bank bail-outs. Banks not taxpayers will carry the cost for their own mistakes.
We need to be able to show voters that we finish what we start. The Single Resolution Mechanism is the last piece in the comprehensive reforms that we have been developing to create a thriving, yet more responsible, European banking sector.
Over the past five years, we have radically changed the rules for banks in the European Union. We have now a single rulebook. Today Europe's banks are better capitalised, better able to manage risks and better supervised. We have now – and it starts operating very soon – a Single Supervisory Mechanism. We now have common rules for resolution of failed banks and we have also common rules for protecting taxpayers' deposits in the event of future bank failures. Directives proposed by the European Commission, as you know, that have been just approved this week. And now of course we are going to put the last piece of this building, the banking union.
But the banking union as it was stated in the Blueprint of the European Commission and also in the so called Four Presidents' report: it's a piece of a deep and genuine EMU. That's why we have not only to consolidate the banking union, we need to go forward on the economic union. And that is why it was important today to have the agreement by the European Council on the principles underlying contractual arrangements and solidarity mechanisms for competitiveness and jobs, namely for the euro area. This agreement reflects a balance of opinions that offers President Van Rompuy and me a good basis for taking the work forward next year. I believe this maintains the momentum towards a deep and genuine Economic and Monetary Union, as we have been proposing.
All of this shows that the EU is making a difference and tackling sensitive issues head-on. In the last couple of months alone, in addition to all the banking union achievements I just mentioned, we have reached agreement on the European Union's seven year budget, a critical element for investment in Europe. We have now asked Member States to speed up their preparations so that namely the Youth Guarantee and the Youth Employment Initiative can indeed start already in January. And also we have agreed on the delicate legislation that our citizens care about like cross border health services, consumer rights, and sensitive legislation such as the tobacco directive – that was also approved, which I very much welcome - and Eurosur, as a way of responding to the problems of illegal migration in the Mediterranean. So Europe is working! Europe is acting!
And I think it was particularly important today the discussion and the very ambitious conclusions reached on security and defence at this European Council. For many years, as the President of the European Council just stated, there was not a real discussion on defence and security at the European Council. As I have said a number of times in my State of the Union speeches, Europe needs a strong and credible Common Security and Defence Policy, so that Europe can play its full role on the world stage. This must be underpinned by a competitive and efficient security and defence sector. With around one and a half million jobs and a turnover of ninety six billion Euros this is a sector that is very important for the European economy. But not only for the European economy: as it is very well said in the conclusions of the European Council, defence matters. This is primarily a task for the EU Member States, but the Commission can assist within its area of competences. In this sense we have already tabled proposals to strengthen the internal market and the competitiveness of our defence industry.
We developed in particular three main themes:
First, we want to develop a genuine internal market for defence.
Second, we need a comprehensive industrial policy that creates opportunities for all Member States and industries of all sizes throughout the EU. In particular, we propose a number of measures to support SMEs and better integrate them in the defence supply chains. We also suggest, for example, to develop common standards and a common approach to certification. This is essential to ensure the interoperability of our Member States's equipment and forces and to cut costs. Joint capabilities should equally be explored. And we have seen that the strategic gaps cannot be filled by one Member State in isolation. A joint approach is needed. And the Commission is ready to bring its support to our Member States actions, through an appropriate regulatory framework and by exploiting the dual use potential of our research programmes.
This is why the third point is important: we propose to fully develop synergies between our civil research programmes, Horizon 2020, and those co-ordinated by the European Defence Agency. Our proposals are designed to facilitate defence co-operation and strengthen our ability to deliver defence and security capabilities and operational capacities that Member States consider that are needed.
A stronger Common Security and Defence Policy is not a luxury. It is in today’s world a necessity. It is also a pre-condition for a successful foreign and security policy. It's a great contribution for Europe's role in the world. And we believe, after today's discussion, that we can say that all Member States agree that a comprehensive EU response can make a difference.