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European Commission

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Speech by President Barroso at the EP plenary debate on the review of the Irish Presidency including the MFF agreement

European Parliament/Strasbourg

2 July 2013

Mr. President,


Ladies and gentlemen,

Honourable members,

Let me first thank you, Taoiseach, Dear Enda Kenny, for the excellent cooperation during this Council Presidency and very sincerely congratulate you on the impressive work and results. Let me add a special thanks to the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and the Europe Minister Lucinda Creighton, to all your political colleagues and civil servants, for their dedication and their competence, which made this a focused and very successful Council Presidency.

Honourable members,

The core priorities of the last months were clearly set out at the start of the Irish Presidency and carefully maintained thereafter: stability, growth and jobs.

We have made further progress in updating the European Union's architecture to the pressures of the 21st century economy, showing that we are learning the lessons from the crisis.

Some of the main deliverables of the past months were in the field of financial services, where political agreements were found between co-legislators on two cornerstones of the Banking Union: the Single Supervisory Mechanism and the Capital Requirements Directive and Regulation. A general approach was also agreed in Council on Bank Resolution and Recovery, on the Directive and Regulation on Markets in Financial Instruments and on Packaged Retail Investment Products.

A political agreement in second reading on the Deposit Guarantee Schemes still needs to be found, indeed, there has been a standstill for one and a half years.

On the economic governance front, the two pack has entered into force, the European Semester method is gaining strength, and we have started debate on ex-ante coordination of major economic reforms and on the Convergence and Competitiveness Instrument, which is the way forward to guarantee the responsibility of, and the solidarity between member states in the future.

Let me specially thank the Irish Presidency for the support given to the consolidation of the European semester. As I said in the previous debate, I think now we have a much more structured and credible exercise of collective economic governance in the European Union.

As we made clear from the previous debate, we have made progress on measures that can help create more growth and jobs directly.

Today we can say that youth employment is at the top of the priorities of European Union action and of course the Irish Presidency gave certainly a very important contribution for this.

Following the Commission initiative, the recommendation on the European Youth Guarantee was adopted earlier this year, one of the main elements to break the cycle of youth unemployment, and with the preparations during the past months and the decisions taken just last week I believe we are making sure we will meet that challenge, together. Now the key is implementation. Let's create no illusions about what the European level can do. A lot has to be done at national level, but I believe we have now the political momentum to make this a reality – the success of the fight against youth unemployment.

We have also during the Irish Presidency launched negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement with Japan and we have now a mandate to start negotiations on the transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the United States. Both negotiations will be difficult and sensitive, but the potential benefits of ambitious deals would be unprecedented. Ireland clearly understands the importance of the boost these deals can bring, and I thank you for your support and leadership in the Council.

In taxation, one of the priorities of the May European Council and so important for the legitimacy of every other effort we make in terms of public finances, we now have a mandate for negotiating savings taxation agreements with non-EU third countries, as well as a Council decision authorising enhanced cooperation for a Directive on Financial Transaction Tax.

And in the area of enlargement, the historic decision to open negotiations with Serbia was confirmed and the Council agreed to open negotiations on a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Kosovo.

So it was an eventful six months.

But no deal was more important than the political deal reached on the Multiannual Financial framework last week.

Last week's agreement represents a good compromise between the interests of the Member States and the objectives of the European Parliament, and as you know is the result of the longest and the most hard-fought budget negotiations ever.

I believe the final result sends out an important signal that the institutions of the European Union are able to work together and agree on a budget that will help the EU emerge from the crisis.

The European Commission has fully played its role and I am happy that the President Schulz and the Taoiseach were able to meet with myself first to unblock the negotiations and then to build on that to come to an agreement at political level on the MFF. Of course, we hope this to be formally endorsed by all.

The dynamics of the negotiation process – unanimity in the Council, consent by absolute majority in Parliament – requires that all sides move towards a consensus. I want to praise all those that have worked for this objective, namely the negotiating teams of the European Parliament - without their commitment this would not have been possible - but also of the Irish Presidency and of the Commission.

For the European Commission, the objective has been to ensure that the future budget is workable and manageable. As you know our initial proposal was more ambitious, but the final outcome respects those principles, maintains the necessary balance and keeps the basic structure of the initial proposal intact. From the beginning, the Commission called for a maximum possibility of flexibility and we have strongly supported the European Parliament in this demand, so I'm satisfied that this was finally achieved.

The role of the European Parliament throughout the negotiations has been very significant and successful. In addition to the flexibility of payments and commitments, the European Parliament was able to secure a number of important breakthroughs. Let me just mention some – on the mid-term review of the MFF, on support for measures against youth employment, education, research and SMEs, on the consolidation of the programme of aid to the most deprived, and of course the clear commitments regarding the amending budgets for 2013, which need to be fully honoured… And of course I would also like to remind the decisions concerning the follow up about the own resources issue. Taken together, they show how the European Parliament was able to use its consent power responsibly and effectively.

For this reason, after Member States in the European Council have already given the MFF their full backing, I hope this House too, in its political resolution, will support it tomorrow.

We need this budget. Not for the European Union institutions, but for our citizens, for our regions, namely these that are in a more difficult situation where the investment coming from the European Union is by far the most important part of the public investment.

In the context of the MFF, I also need to refer to the very important achievements on some of the sectoral MFF programmes during the Irish Presidency. Let me just name a few of them as examples:

An important agreement was reached on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy after 2013 – another of the Irish priorities - strengthening the position of farmers within the food production chain, making direct payments fairer and greener, and making the CAP more effective and more transparent.

An agreement on reform of the Common Fisheries Policy was also reached.

And in terms of the other sectoral MFF proposals, some of them very innovative with which the Commission is especially proud like COSME for SMEs, like Connecting Europe facility, like Creative Europe, like Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020, there is now a political deal.

Ladies and gentlemen,

To conclude, the Irish Presidency had all the elements of a successful one: a clear set of priorities, genuine political commitment, technical knowledge and drive, and a safe pair of hands to manage it all. And the capacity, as you underlined Taoiseach, to build and reinforce on the relation of trust and respect between the Presidency of the Council and the European institutions like the European Parliament and the European Commission.

Thank you for the hard work and close cooperation.

We will all benefit from that in the next six months which, under the first ever Lithuanian Presidency, promise to be just as important for Europe's economic and political future.

I thank you for your attention.

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