José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso ahead of a meeting with German Chancellor Merkel, French President Hollande and business leaders of the European Round Table of Industrialists on European competitiveness
18 March 2013
Good evening ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, let me thank Chancellor Merkel for her excellent initiative to host tonight’s meeting with representatives of the European Round Table of Industrialists and invite President Hollande and myself to this discussion.
We are here tonight, to discuss with Leif Johansson and other eminent business leaders about how Europe can grow and compete. How Europe can give hope to our young people. How we can generate the growth and jobs our citizens expect and deserve.
We will notably discuss whether the current European policy framework is up to that challenging task – in areas like employment, research and innovation, competition policy, energy policy or education.
I am deeply convinced that Europe has the willingness to do more and better. It has the brains to excel on a global scale. It has a model of society of which we can be proud and which is worth preserving and modernising. And it has also at the same time the modesty to accept that many things can be corrected and that we can go forward to complete many of our work.
We know that this will be a bumpy ride. It is true, that thanks to the decisions taken together over the past years, confidence is gradually returning. Progress is being made in a number of countries which are improving their current account balances and public deficits. But the crisis persists as we can see from the dire growth prospects and record levels in youth unemployment and also the most recent development concerning Cyprus.
Last week's European Council has confirmed our direction by backing our broad policy response, including the sharp focus on growth-friendly fiscal consolidation and on addressing the social consequences of the crisis. I am convinced – we need to hold our nerve and stay the course: the structural reforms that are underway in our Member States combined with the efforts to make our public finances sound and sustainable and also with targeted investment in areas like research and innovation, education, employment and infrastructure, all these efforts will pay off. Pursuing them is key to reinforce our competitiveness for the benefit of all. Growth indeed needs to come from increased competitiveness and productivity, not from debt creation. We have seen in the past that artificial growth fuelled by artificial debt, either public or private, is not a solution.
Final remarks: Competitiveness is not an end in itself. It is essential to our economic success, for growth and jobs. It is also about meeting the challenges our European model of society is facing. It is about defending our influence in the world. That is why I believe today's meeting can be an important contribution and once again I thank Chancellor Merkel for that initiative.