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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Speaking Points of President Barroso at the press conference with the Prime Minister of Italy, Mr Enrico Letta
15 June 2013
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to thank Prime Minister Letta for his friendly and warm welcome. In fact, it's our second meeting in the past two months; we are going to see each other again next Monday and Tuesday [at the G8 meeting] in Northern Ireland; this shows our commitment and our complicity in favour of a strong Europe, a Europe where Italy is playing a very important role.
Today, among other issues, we have discussed two critical points of national and European agendas: tackling the current economic crisis and fighting unemployment – in particular, youth unemployment.
Let me start by saying that Italy and its people have made tremendous efforts to make it possible for the country to regain confidence on the markets, confidence among investors; Italy has carried out a large structural adjustment and this is bearing fruit.
Last month, the Commission recommended the closing of the Excessive Deficit Procedure for Italy, which is also a clear sign of the success of recent fiscal consolidation. I would like to share this success with the Italians.
While fiscal consolidation continues to be necessary – particularly in countries with high debt, and this is the case of Italy – we also need growth-oriented policies.
Structural reforms are one way to restore competitiveness and bring back growth, sustainable growth. We must use the breathing space we have to push forward these reforms, as we recently set out in our Country Specific Recommendations.
I have very much appreciated, Prime-Minister, the fact that you have put the Country Specific Recommendations for Italy at the centre of your priorities for the government and for the reforms that I know you are very committed to pursue in Italy. But we know, at the same time, that these reforms take time to produce effects, and we need to move more rapidly to address the most pressing problems, particularly youth unemployment and the financing of the economy.
Together with the efforts for the Banking Union, and there I would also like to thank Italy for its commitment and support to this agenda, there are two main priorities for the next European Council. Youth employment and financing to the economy. And I believe we need a new consensus, what I have called a new European consensus where, instead of long debates about austerity and growth, the Heads of State and Government agree a set on concrete policies on these areas: how to fight youth unemployment and how to restore financing to the economy.
Priority number one: youth unemployment. There are already many initiatives on the table, put by the European Commission, for instance the Youth Guarantee, the youth employment initiative, but we need to go further. That is why I very much welcome the initiatives taken by Italy and personally by the Prime Minister, to put this at the top of the agenda, and everything that you and others are doing to achieve concrete results in terms of response to the need of fighting the problem, the drama of the high level of youth unemployment in many parts of Europe.
Another important priority is to restore normal lending to the economy, especially for SMEs. The Commission is working with the European Investment Bank to come up with new instruments to foster the financing of the economy. This is critical and important in some of our Member States.
It’s also very important now to deliver on the investment at European level. That is why I want, once again, to urge the governments of the European Union and the European Parliament to come as soon as possible with a positive decision on the next Multiannual Financial Framework. We need these funds for investment in Europe, for instance for youth employment initiatives.
In fact, for this fight against youth unemployment, we need resources at national level, but we also need some instruments at European level. That is why we are working on the best way, in cooperation with our Member States, to use the structural funds for that objective, and other objectives that can help us to restore growth in Europe.
So I think I can say that Italy and the European Commission share a common purpose regarding growth, the need to restore sustainable growth in Europe and in the World. And I am looking forward to be in Northern Ireland with Prime Minister Letta, discussing with other leaders, what we can do also at global level in terms of trade, in terms of taxation, in terms of increase transparency, to push forward our agenda for growth and jobs.
And since one of the topics we are going to discuss in G8 is precisely trade, let me welcome the agreement that was reached yesterday by the Council, by the ministers of the Member States of the European Union, on a mandate for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the United States.
Last February, together with President Obama I announced our political decision to bring about an ambitious trade and investment agreement between the EU and the US. And today, only few months later, the European Union Member States have agreed on a mandate for the European Commission to negotiate with the US.
This will be an agreement between the world’s two most important economies, which should bring about growth and employment and support the world’s economic recovery - and all this without costing a cent to taxpayer’s money. The sooner we start the better for our agenda for growth in Europe and in the world.
Once again, let me thank Prime Minister Letta for his commitment to this agenda for growth, and also for his strong leadership in what regards our European Union.