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Vice-President of the Commission
Programme of activities of the Irish Presidency – closing statement
EP Plenary debate /Brussels
16 January 2013
Madam President, the Taoiseach rightly pointed out that the previous Irish Presidency welcomed new Member States to the European Union. On that day I was in Dublin and to see the flag of my country being raised up and my country being welcomed into the family of the European Union is still one of the most emotional and cherished memories I treasure and I thank you, Taoiseach, very much for that.
This time it is your seventh Presidency, and seven is supposed to be a lucky number. On top of that, you have enormous experience, you have a very strong pro-European commitment and you have a great professional team.
I have been working with Minister Creighton and Ambassador Montgomery for years already and I think that they are the best you can get. We in the Commission are ready for close cooperation and we all in this House wish you success. I would like to assure Ms Harkin that it is the Commission’s priority to break the vicious circle between bank debts and sovereigns. The Commission will stand by Ireland as for the other problem countries.
The Commission was very clear on one thing: that we support all measures that will improve market confidence and increase public support for the return process.
The Commission has also always made the case for solidarity and fairness in the European Union and we will continue to support the Member States and work with them on technical implementation of the possibility of using the European Stabilisation Mechanism for direct bank recapitalisation. I can assure you that solidarity and fairness would be the guiding principles here for the Commission as well.
Regarding the situation in Northern Ireland, which has been mentioned several times here today, I would like to underline that the Commission condemns violence of any kind. The EU continues to support the peace process in Northern Ireland by providing long‑term political and financial support to ensure a successful and sustainable settlement. Between 1995 and 2013, EUR 1.9 billion in EU funding has been dedicated to the programme for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the border region of Ireland. The Commission has set up a task force to make sure that the people of Northern Ireland get the full benefits of the EU funds and to promote good engagement by Northern Ireland’s administrations with the EU institutions and policymaking.
Coming back to our banking situation in Europe, we all agree that the Single Supervisory Mechanism agreement was a success and we would like to see the legislative process on this agreement being concluded. Now I think it is time and it is very important that we continue to work on the remaining banking union pillars. Taoiseach, your focus on results, jobs and growth is absolutely the correct one in the situation. We have to get a very ambitious agenda with the Single Market Act I and Single Market Act II and we will have to use the potential of the single market much better than any time before. Mr Audy just made a kind reference to my dear colleague Máire Geoghegan-Quinn and I can only subscribe to his statement because she symbolises the policies, the way the European Union and all our economies can be modernised through research, innovation and support of start-ups.
Ireland is the best example of how you can transform one country through these policies and this is how we need to transform Europe. But for that we need EU investment, we need the EU budget, therefore MMF agreement is crucial and I would like to underline the agreement which is good – an agreement which is supported by this House and which does not deviate further from the Commission’s initial proposal. I am afraid that further cuts called for by some, cuts across the board, including disproportional cuts to Heading 5 for administration, which represents less than 6 % of all the budget, would bring only small overall savings but would cause long‑lasting structural damage to the European Union, its structure and its machine. We need to resist this and work for a good agreement and for that you will have good cooperation and support from the Commission.
So I would like to wish you all the best, a lot of success for your Presidency and, if you will allow me, Madam President, to answer one specific question from Mr van der Stoep on the so-called tobacco issue. Here I would like to inform the House that the Commission has already provided Parliament, notably the Conference of Presidents and the Committee on Budgetary Control, with the information and has replied to all Parliament questions in writing. The Commission has ensured and will ensure full transparency insofar as legal provisions will allow this, keeping in mind that there is a judicial investigation ongoing in Malta.