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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
14 March 2013
We had a good discussion this evening. Indeed I think it was the most business like discussion we had for a long time. The balanced conclusions we have reached give a clear direction for what needs to be done next.
The President of the European Council presented a very comprehensive summary of conclusions. I fully subscribe to what he just said. Let me just briefly highlight a number of points from our discussion:
Firstly, the European Council has fully endorsed the Commission's Annual Growth Survey – the key economic priorities for the Union in 2013. A balanced approach that will bear fruit if we stick with it, if we implement it with determination.
Indeed, we need to deliver differentiated, growth-friendly consolidation, restore normal lending to the economy, promote growth and competitiveness, tackle unemployment and the social consequences of the crisis, and modernize public administration.
I also believe we should stick with our strategy because it is already showing some results. The reality is that compared to a year ago, the euro is more stable and there are signs that confidence is starting to return with interest rates and spreads generally decreasing.
In the presentation that I made earlier tonight to the European Council you can see that macro-economic imbalances within the euro area are being reduced. Competitiveness is improving in member states, especially those most under pressure from the markets. There is an increase in exports and improved current accounts, namely in programme countries.
Thirdly, we need faster progress on actions to push growth. At the European level, the Commission has put on the table a whole series of proposals to stimulate growth. In fact I believe we have to speed up the implementation. Today I already distributed a preliminary report on the implementation of the Compact for Growth and Jobs. And I said earlier, I believe the implementation is too low and too slow. And I welcome the Conclusions that call for the Council and the European Parliament to move quicker to implement many of those measures, including, for instance, the single market legislation, from the legislation regarding professional qualifications to public procurement and e-signature. A strong push is especially needed on key tax files like energy taxation, common consolidated corporate tax base, revision of the savings tax directive and the agreements with third countries.
At the same time, we need to maintain the effort at national and European levels on cutting red-tape for our small businesses. The work of the Commission in this area was welcomed and I was grateful for that support. Indeed we have just launched a major regulatory fitness exercise for our administration called 'REFIT'. We need to avoid that member states add additional burdens through gold platting. We need to have indeed a real announce in terms of better regulation. This is also critically important for our competitiveness.
Fourthly, while the macro-economic situation is, in many indicators, improving, and is more stable, unemployment is at an unacceptable level. That means we must tackle the issue of fairness head-on. The burden of many of our citizens, in particular in programme countries, is becoming unbearable. So they must feel that the incredible efforts they are making are for a reason, are spread fairly and are shared by all actors in society, including, by the way, the financial sector.
Tonight I have set out all the efforts being made by the European Commission to put fairness and the social dimension at the centre of the European Union's economic strategy. Establishing youth action teams, the Youth Employment Package, and the Youth Employment Initiative to implement the Youth Guarantee, which was already approved by the Member States but now needs means to be really deployed in the ground. We need to work together, country by country, sector by sector to see how we can get people back into work.
And as President Van Rompuy just said, following his initiative, a calendar was adopted for target discussions on very important issues for the European economy. So I can said today was indeed an excellent first session with solid conclusions that when implemented will make a real difference.