José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso on the future budget, trade and the Southern Neighbourhood following the European Council, 7-8 February 2013
Joint press conference/Brussels
8 February 2013
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,
The President of the European Council has just presented the political agreement reached by Heads of State and Government for the Multi-Annual Financial Framework 2014-2020.
The Commission would of course have preferred an outcome closer to its original proposal. As you know, in 2011, the European Commission made a proposal that was more ambitious than this result today, a proposal that received the support of a clear majority of the member states at that time. But I must recognise that the political deal made now was the highest possible level of agreement that the Heads of State and Government could reach at unanimity.
The levels agreed today by the Heads of State and Government are below what the Commission considers desirable given the challenge of promoting growth and jobs across the European Union in the coming years.
During the discussions I underlined that this political agreement launches a process. The next step is to obtain the consent of the European Parliament.
One essential condition for this agreement to work – and I have stressed this very clearly – is the maximum possible flexibility. This will allow us to adapt to changing developments for example by moving spending from one year to another. Without an agreement on flexibility the commitments foreseen cannot be translated into payments.
Now regarding the substance: the deal that has been agreed tonight can still be an important catalyst for growth and jobs. The positive elements, among others, that I want to underline are the following:
Firstly, the basic structure of the Commission proposal and some innovative instruments have been preserved, including the Connecting Europe Facility which provides for investment in transport, energy and the digital agenda. This makes our budget a tool for competitiveness and growth with a pan-European logic.
Secondly, in some areas we will be able to invest significantly more than in the past. This is true for research and innovation (the programme called Horizon 2020). It is true for Erasmus For All. We will also have, and this for the first time, a dedicated programme for SMEs, a programme called COSME. It also makes our budget more modern.
Thirdly, we have agreement on a new and very important Youth Employment Initiative. This is a commitment to act at European Union level on today’s main political and social challenge which is getting our young people back in work. This rightly reinforces the social dimension of our Union. And it builds on the action launched last year by the Commission with 8 Member States. It will also fund the Youth Guarantee and other measures at European and national level. I am also very pleased it was possible to preserve the aid programme for the most deprived people. Given the opposition in some quarters, we can consider this a very positive result.
Also externally, we kept our commitment to development aid and humanitarian aid, focusing now our support to the poorest countries.
Fourthly, the amounts allocated for cohesion and agriculture are significant and will be more targeted to sustainable growth and job creation. By the way, sustainability is a very important policy and indeed it's a commitment that we are keeping across policies. In this regard, the greening of agricultural policy deserves to be mentioned, as for instance our commitment to climate protection.
Fifthly, the solidarity dimension is reinforced by adapting the rules for co-financing and pre-financing to take into account the specific situation in the most vulnerable regions of Europe. And I know how important and urgent this financing is for some of the Member States, which without this European support will simply not be in a position to make the public investments they need.
To sum up, this has been a difficult negotiation, but a fair assessment should recognise that this deal is not perfect but it offers a basis for negotiations with the European Parliament. I hope these negotiations will be successful.
A very brief word on trade.
I am glad that the European Council has adopted strong conclusions that endorse the Commission’s ambitious trade agenda.
We need to move forward on free trade agreements as better access would increase GDP by at least 2% - double what we have agreed today. Opening to trade is a powerful leverage for the modernisation of our economies.
The Commission will push ahead to realise the full potential of an integrated transatlantic free trade agreement. I hope that very soon the High Level Working Group will present to us and President Obama a recommendation to launch negotiations on a transatlantic trade agreement. We will also soon launch negotiations with Japan. Widening the trade agenda with these two partners would be transformative not only for the European, but for the international economy.
These will be far-reaching agreements going beyond tariffs by integrating markets and removing barriers.
Finally, delivering on our commitments to our partners in the Southern Mediterranean continues to be a top priority. The case for engagement remains stronger than ever. I am pleased with the resolve shown by the European Council to continue supporting the transition to democracy in the region.
So, as President Van Rompuy said, it was a marathon and it was a marathon with very important results. We have covered very important matters during these very intense and rich negotiations.
I thank you for your attention.