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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Mr Werner Faymann, Austrian Federal Chancellor
Joint press point/Vienna
4 April 2013
My dear friend Werner,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is indeed a great pleasure to be back in Vienna again. I had the occasion to discuss these issues with Chancellor Faymann. I also had the honour to be received by President Fischer. I also had a good conversation with Vice-Chancellor Spindelegger.
Regarding our meeting today with Chancellor Faymann, we focused essentially on the major economic developments and decisions over the recent weeks. I think we can say that both of us agree that the European Union is acting with determination on several fronts to allow confidence to come back and to reinforce stability. Stability that is also important for growth. Our most important concern is growth and jobs and we agree that without financial stability this cannot be achieved.
Member States have agreed a deal on our future budget 2014-2020 and are now entering into final negotiations with the European Parliament, which needs to give its consent. The Commission is actively facilitating a final agreement between the governments and the European Parliament so that we can have a new budget for 2014. I think it is very important for citizens and business to have the planning security, to have predictability, so that we can have investment at European level. The budget, I insist, is not for "Brussels", it is for citizens, companies, researchers, universities, for the European regions and we need this kind of investment.
Secondly, the March European Council endorsed the economic and budgetary orientations set out in the Commission's Annual Growth Survey 2013, in order to enhance our competitiveness and boost growth and jobs. We are now expecting Member States to present their national reform and stability programmes along these lines and we will come later with Country-Specific Recommendations.
We have placed the fight against unemployment at the heart of our comprehensive crisis response. I want to reiterate this, because several times people discuss the European policy in terms of fiscal consolidation and correcting imbalances. This is part of the response and it is indispensable, but it is not all the response. Fighting unemployment, namely, youth unemployment, is a top priority. And I am particularly pleased that a European-wide youth guarantee that has been proposed by the Commission has been agreed by our Member States and that now we are going to have a new Youth Employment Initiative worth 6 billion euros that hopefully will kick in from 2014. Austria's support on these issues was key, and I am grateful for the support of Austria for this agenda. I am confident that the successful Austrian model continues to inspire others in coping with the social consequences of the crisis. Once again, I want to congratulate Austrian Chancellor Faymann for the very good results in terms of the fight against unemployment. Your experience deserves great attention from all over Europe.
Third, after the response on the Annual Growth Survey and on youth unemployment, the Commission has also specified its ideas on how to increase discipline and incentives to implement national reforms that are crucial for the rebalancing of our economies. We have now put some ideas on the table for discussion: the so-called contractual arrangements with the Commission and a new competitiveness and convergence instrument that acts as an incentive for reform. I think this is a further important stepping stone in building an architecture for our Economic and Monetary Union.
Fourth, on financial supervision and regulation, there was, as you know, an agreement on a Single Supervisory Mechanism, that is the backbone of our future Banking Union. We are going on with our proposals on the Banking Union. Financial regulation has been further stepped up through agreement on capital requirements and bankers' bonuses. The Commission will come forward with a proposal for a Single Resolution Mechanism by summer. All in all, we are working full steam to avoid citizens having to shoulder the consequences of a financial or debt crisis in the future. We are now establishing a Banking Union and an Economic and Monetary Union architecture that, hopefully, will prevent us to have some kind of crisis like the one we have been experiencing - like the one in Cyprus.
And this is my final point. I am happy that now an agreement was found, and this agreement ended more than a year of uncertainty regarding Cyprus. I hope this agreement will help the country on its way back to financial stability, to sustainable public finances and to a business model that is worth its name. It will also help to restore stability and confidence in the euro as a whole.
To conclude, Chancellor Faymann and I share the conviction that we need European answers to common problems; that Europe is not the problem, but it is the solution; that we need to work together at European level in the spirit of solidarity and responsibility. Staying the course is crucial now. Our efforts must not be relaxed in terms of growth-friendly fiscal consolidation, structural reforms for competitiveness and targeted investment for growth, having in mind the main concern of our citizens which is growth and jobs.
Let me thank the Austrian government, the institutions of Austria, the Parliament and the citizens of Austria for their European commitment and for helping the European Union to move forward, step by step, in the right direction. I think the contribution that Austria has been giving to the European debate in so many issues, from the need to have more active policy in terms of climate protection and protection of our environment to the financial transactions tax that I hope will finally see the day - because we have already enough countries to go for enhanced cooperation that was also, to a large extent, the result of Austrian leadership - these are concrete examples where we have seen that Austria is, together with the European institutions, promoting a very active European agenda, and I am very grateful to Austria for this. I really believe this is in the interest of Europe as a whole but this is also in the interest of all our Member States.
I thank you for your attention.