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Vice-President of the European Commission and member of the Commission responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro
Vice-President Rehn's remarks at the ECOFIN
ECOFIN Press Conference/Luxembourg
21 June, 2013
Thank you Michael.
We have indeed had two intensive but productive days here in Luxembourg. It has been worth the hard work – though I am aware that for you it is not yet over.
Mid-summer is the longest day of the year, so there will be enough light to strike a deal on the EBRD. We took one big step towards a banking union yesterday, and I expect another one tonight. We've used the new economic governance to recommend reforms to Member States in order to unleash the growth potential of Europe and its capacity to create jobs. We’ve taken initiatives to address the bottlenecks to lending to SMEs and to alleviate youth unemployment. And we’ve endorsed Latvia’s euro membership.
Let me stress the significance of this point. Latvia's desire to adopt the euro is further evidence that those who predicted a disintegration of the euro were indeed behind the curve. Instead of having fewer members, the eurozone will have one more member as of next January, and in 2014 there will be 18.
I also want to welcome the strong endorsement given today to the country specific recommendations. There have been substantive and constructive discussions with the Member States in recent weeks and, I am pleased to say, the final recommendations are very close to those put forward by the Commission last month.
The ball is now back in the court of the Member States. Implementation is key. We will have a first occasion to take stock of this in the autumn, when we present, for the first time, our assessments of draft national budgets under the rules agreed in the ‘Two Pack’, which is now in force.
Let me say, though, that these recommendations should not be followed just because the Commission says so, or just because the ECOFIN, or the European Council, say so. They should be followed because they represent a blueprint for recovery – for the reforms needed to boost competitiveness, ensure sustainable pensions, and more dynamic and inclusive labour markets. In short, to remove obstacles to growth and job creation in Europe.
The key to unlocking jobs lies above all with the Member States themselves. But there is much that can be done at the European level. This will be at the top of the agenda of the European Council next week, where we hope to see an agreement to frontload to 2014 and 2015 the deployment of €6 billion for the Youth Employment Initiative, which the Commission has proposed.
To step up job creation, we need to get credit flowing to SMEs, especially those in southern Europe. The Commission and the EIB have set out in a joint report for the European Council a set of concrete ways to address the financing trap in which too many of Europe’s small businesses find themselves.
Let me conclude by thanking Michael for his skilful chairmanship of the ECOFIN these past six months and for the very efficient and constructive work of the Irish Presidency in helping to steer the European economy to greener pastures. Go raibh mile maith agat!