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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following the first day of the European Council, 27 June 2013
28 June 2013
Ladies and gentlemen
Today was a growth and jobs Summit. It was also about creating a new consensus to get our economy growing again. The reality is that our growth performance is disappointing, and in some parts of Europe we have a social emergency. So we need to face this situation with courage and determination, and I believe a part of the response is confidence.
Of course, confidence is a very vague political word. But I think that in these current circumstances it has a special meaning, also from the economic point of view. Confidence is a key variable in the equation for growth at the European level. And this European Council was from that point of view extremely important, because it was a way of getting a consensus on the priorities for the future. And what are these priorities? They are of course what has to be done at national, and what we can do also at European level. I welcome the fact that the President of the European Council has decided to put precisely these two issues – youth employment and SMEs – at the centre of the agenda.
We have endorsed the Country-specific recommendations the Commission has proposed. I think this year the level of ownership of these Country-specific recommendations by the Member States was very much improved and I am very happy with the consensus generated around the need to speed up structural reforms. Reforms take time, sometimes reforms are difficult, but they are critically important to build a dynamic economy and sustainable growth to keep our social market economy. And, in fact, in our Country-specific recommendations the Commission has pointed out the most urgent reforms that are needed, and I was really happy with the good reception that our recommendations have received.
But, reforms are not enough, and the reality is that sometimes reforms are taking too long to produce results, especially in terms of employment. This is why we also need investment, investment for the SMEs and also investment for the most acute social problem in Europe which is unemployment, including particularly unemployment of young people. That is why, already in March, we have agreed that anyone under 25 leaving school or recently unemployed should within four months be eligible for a job, a traineeship or an apprenticeship. And today we have agreed the money to back up our words. This youth employment initiative of €6 billion we have decided it will be frontloaded, it means: used already in 2014 and 2015, and, as already mentioned by the President of the European Council, in fact because of flexibility it will be for this youth employment initiative a much more important amount for the next years.
We also need to get finance to our small companies – they are the lifeblood of our economy; and today we have agreed to use public funds intelligently to unblock loans to SMEs, provided they have sound projects. I welcome the endorsement of heads of state and government tonight of the Commission and European Investment Bank ideas to accelerate lending to those SMEs most in need. Some issues from a technical point of view have of course to be decided by the ECOFIN Council but there was – and the conclusions reflect that – a strong endorsement of the need to do more in terms of the investment of the EIB together with the structural funds, trying to maximize the leverage effect. And this was, without a doubt, good news.
As you know, we have presented before the European Council a progress report on the growth compact. And we make in a very objective manner what is going better and what is going not so well. In fact, there is still much to be done to complete the energy market, the digital economy, research and innovation, that will drive growth in the 21st century. But it is also fair to say that a lot has been done during these last years. One thing is sure: we had a growth compact but we cannot develop this growth compact without a growth fund. Our growth fund at European level is of course the multiannual budget. This is why I was delighted that this morning we have agreed, with the President of the European Parliament and with the President of the Council - the current Irish Presidency, agreed politically, on the next multiannual budget for Europe. This is critically important now, so that we have all the instruments to develop the policies agreed.
Tomorrow, as the President of the European Council said, we are going to discuss Economic and Monetary Union, namely the issue of the Banking Union, and I want to signal it was an extremely important agreement by finance ministers yesterday of the Commission proposal for Bank recovery and resolution. This is very good news. And now we have the things ready to come with the next step – it will be the mechanism for resolution. So there is also progress in the Banking Union.
Indeed, the last 24 hours have been a great success because we have obtained this, by the Council, this approval of the Directive on Bank resolution and recovery; we have an agreement between Parliament and Council on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and today we have also agreed on the next MFF, and we have in this European Council very important decisions regarding youth employment and support to small companies.
A good day of work for Europe.