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European Commission

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Mr Robert Fico, Prime Minister of Slovakia

Press point/Brussels

8 April 2013

I just had a very good meeting with Prime Minister Fico. We have had very friendly, open and, I believe, productive discussions.

We have talked about the current developments in the EU and also about the need to keep our reforms in the European Union, including the Economic and Monetary Union. And we have of course discussed the specific challenges regarding Slovakia.

We have talked, for instance, about the Structural and Rural Developments Funds. I believe there is a real need to improve their use in Slovakia. Frankly speaking, there is a risk that Slovakia will not be able to absorb some of the funds in the current programming period. We agreed with the Prime Minister that it is crucial to avoid this risk and to use those funds, which benefit the citizens, regions, businesses and also economic recovery and job creation.

For this purpose all possible efforts should be made to avoid losses this year. Commission and Slovak experts are together analysing all possible solutions to improve the absorption of funds and speed up the implementation of cohesion policy programmes. And together we decided to give a very clear mandate to our experts on the European Commission and on the Slovak side, to work for that purpose. So we want to increase the absorption capacity so that these structural funds money is properly used for growth in Slovakia.

This involves, among other ways, the accelerated submission of big infrastructure projects and also the more effective use of funds already allocated for the most vulnerable groups of citizens. In this context, I was very pleased to hear Prime Minister Fico on the results of the Youth Employment Action Teams which _I have created some time ago for the countries most affected by youth unemployment. The Prime Minister told me that the implementation of this programme, for his perspective, has been a success, and we believe in fact that this is very important for Slovakia and other countries. I am also pleased to note that Slovakia will have the opportunity to benefit from the Youth Unemployment Initiative under the 2014-2020 period, once we have the new Multiannual Financial Framework agreed.

In terms of the next programming period, for the years 2014-2020, the links between the use of funds, the purposes of our Europe 2020 growth Strategy and the National reform Programme should be reinforced. The funds will need to be concentrated on those priorities that have to contribute more for sustainable growth, to increase the growth potential of Slovakia. And we have discussed what we can do to achieve that purpose, mainly what we can do, be it through investments in infrastructure (we know that Slovakia crucially needs modern infrastructure, because that is important also for Slovakia competitiveness), but also what we can do in terms of education or training, so that the growth potential of Slovakia is increased.

Growth and job creation, unemployment and social inclusion remain the main issues that Slovakia needs to address and I reassured the Prime Minister that the Commission genuinely wants to help Slovakia achieve these objectives. And we are working hand in hand with our Slovak friends for that purpose. This is also why I welcome the commitment of Prime Minister Fico and the Slovak government to reform and the reliable preparation of the 2013 National Reform Programme.

We also had a very open discussion about the need to preserve sound public finances and strengthen institutions, human capital, and the business environment. These are the necessary conditions for a long-term growth in Slovakia and throughout the EU.

I have taken note of the good progress of Slovakia in terms of public finances. We have agreed that it is now important to give these efforts a sustainable nature or character. We are of course following with great attention the very commendable efforts of Prime Minister Fico and the Slovak government.

Before handing over to the Prime Minister, let me, Robert, once again thank you for coming to Brussels and for this very open discussion. We have now an excellent cooperation with the Slovak government and the Slovak authorities and not only in terms of the work in Slovakia, but also the contribution that you yourself bring to the European debate when, in the European Council, we meet and we discuss the future of our Union. We very much appreciate the commitment of Prime Minister Fico and the Slovak government to our common European project.

I thank you for your attention.

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