Vice-President of the European Commission and member of the Commission responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro
Speech: Vice-President Rehn's remarks at the Eurogroup Press Conference
21 January 2013
Good evening to everybody.
Let me first wholeheartedly congratulate Jeroen Dijsselbloem on his appointment as President of the Eurogroup. I am looking forward to working with you Jeroen, over the coming two years, when many more important decisions will have to be taken, in order to help steer the euro area from stabilisation to sustained recovery, and to take forward the rebuilding of our Economic and Monetary Union.
Jeroen, haartelijk gelukwensen!
The start of a new era has to signal the end of an era as well. Jean-Claude, you have done an absolutely formidable job as President of the Eurogroup. You have been a proactive bridge-builder, during tough times when we have needed both proactivity and bridge-building. I recall many events of these years – especially the one in the Luxembourg Embassy in Washington in spring 2011, when we faced a low point of the crisis and were not very united at that moment, and when we once again had to straighten our lines and get ready to put out the fire. Your shrewd and witty locker-room talk helped to boost our morale and unite our efforts at that critical moment as well as many others.
So let me thank you on my behalf, and on behalf of the Commission, for all of your tireless work for the stability of the eurozone, through many long years, and indeed many long nights in this building. I count on you as a member of the euro area summit that you will trust the Eurogroup to take the necessary decisions for the euro area.
Jean-Claude will give a full summary of our discussion, so I will just make a few remarks on three of the issues we have discussed this evening.
First of all, on Cyprus. The Commission has been working closely with the ECB and the IMF to finalise a financial assistance programme with the Cypriot authorities. Building on the useful discussion we have just had, we will continue this intensive work in the coming weeks with a view to facilitating the necessary decisions by the Eurogroup in the course of March.
Second, on direct recapitalisation: the Eurogroup took stock of the progress made at the expert level on designing a future ESM instrument for this purpose. There are complex technical issues still to be solved, but today’s discussion will provide an important impetus in this regard.
Third, this year is the year we will prepare and support the return to market financing, I trust a successful return to market financing, for Ireland and Portugal. We have taken up this task together with our partners in the Troika as well as the Eurogroup members, and I expect that in the coming weeks and months we will be further preparing the successful return to markets of these programme countries.
A final point at the conclusion of this first Eurogroup of 2013. We have made very significant progress last year in tackling both the symptoms and the causes of the crisis. As a result of decisions last year, especially in the second half of last year, tail risks related to the integrity of the euro have disappeared. Market tensions have eased and confidence has begun to return. Against this backdrop it would be unforgivable if this good news were to lead to any form of complacency. The crisis remains very present in the lives of millions of Europeans, whether they are struggling to find work for themselves or to obtain credit to invest in their businesses, and thus to create jobs for others.
That’s why we need to proceed along the course of stabilisation and reform, with the same determination and sense of urgency. Once we can do so, then we can ensure that this year 2013 will be the year where Europe moves from stabilisation to sustained recovery and creates the foundations for sustainable growth and better employment.