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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso on the Lithuanian Presidency for the European Parliament Plenary
3 July 2013
Ladies and gentlemen,
Before starting my speech let me very spontaneously add my congratulations to the congratulations you have expressed to my good friend Jerzy Buzek.
Let me congratulate your country, President Grybauskaite. Let me congratulate Lithuania, and you personally, for taking up for the first time the rotating Presidency of the Council. I know from having worked together with you during five years, not six months, but five years in the Commission, how strongly committed you are to the European project. And this was recognised by the Charlemagne Prize which was rightly awarded to you this year. It is also the first time that a Baltic country assumes this responsibility. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Lithuania and the other Baltic states that from the very beginning have linked their regained independence and freedom to the European project.
The Lithuanian Presidency takes over at a moment when all our focus must be on delivery. It is the last full presidency of the Council before the European elections, so working closely with Parliament will be vital in order to finalise a number of important files.
There is no time to waste, and there is a lot of work on the table:
Following the political agreement on the Multi-annual Financial Framework, there will be a number of related sectoral proposals that are now in the pipeline. This is essential to be able to apply the new programmes as of the beginning of 2014.
We count on the Lithuanian Presidency's support also in overseeing the national part of the 2013 European Semester, including the first implementation of the so called two-pack - we will be reviewing national budget plans from October - and in moving forward the work on deepening the Economic and Monetary Union. The Commission will come with legal proposals on ex-ante policy coordination and on the Competitiveness and Convergence Instrument on which I hope we can make progress soon, but that will require a lot of management. Up until now, there was broad support for the general principles but a reluctance to really engage with the specifics.
We will also present a proposal for a Single Resolution Mechanism already next week, for adoption before the end of this mandate.
Some areas of work for the next six months are the result of recent momentum, and we should not lose this momentum:
On taxation, following the May Council and also the G8, there is room to make further progress, like on Savings Taxation and the fight against tax fraud or on the new proposal on administrative cooperation. We need to agree on concrete commitments and timeline regarding tax havens and aggressive tax planning, as proposed by the Commission.
We support that the Lithuanian Presidency has made the completion of the Internal Energy Market by 2014 one of its first priorities. I know President Grybauskaite, your personal commitment to this file and how important the work that you have been pursuing to make everything we can to avoid the Baltic countries to be seen as an energy island in the European Union. I think it is important to note that the Commission will report on evolutions in this field, of the internal energy market, already in early 2014. So your focus comes at the right time.
As we discussed yesterday, all means at European level are now mobilised against youth unemployment. The implementation of the Youth Guarantee schemes and the adoption of the Youth Employment Initiative will need to be carried through.
Progress on the Compact for Growth and Jobs and correct implementation of the country specific recommendations under the European Semester will be crucial to get Europe back on track to growth. At European level, finalisation of the remaining proposals under the Single Market Act I and convincing progress on the Single Market Act II will be key. The Commission will also propose legislation to complete the single market in telecoms.
In this context, let me highlight another element of the Commission's thinking that will help make sure that promoting structural reform and pursuing fiscal consolidation are mutually reinforcing.
We need to promote margins for investment for growth, in full respect of the Stability and Growth Pact.
So, following its commitments in the Blueprint for a deep and genuine economic and monetary union as well as in the two-pack, the Commission has explored further ways within the preventive arm of the Stability and Growth Pact to accommodate non-recurrent public investment programmes with a proven impact on the sustainability of public finances made by the member states in the assessment of their Stability and Convergence Programmes.
I want to announce today that, when assessing the national budgets for 2014 and the budgetary outcomes for 2013 we will – again: in full respect of the Stability and Growth Pact - consider allowing temporary deviations from the structural deficit path towards the medium-term objectives set in the country specific recommendations, on a case by case basis. Such a deviation must be linked to national expenditure on projects co-funded by the European Union under the Structural and Cohesion policy, Trans-European Networks or Connecting Europe Facility with a positive, direct and verifiable long-term budgetary effect.
Today, Vice-President Olli Rehn is writing to his colleagues, the finance ministers, and to the European Parliament to explain our approach in detail, as agreed in the Two Pack agreement.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The general motto of the Lithuanian Presidency is 'Credible, Growing and Open'.
I believe moving forward on the proposals I have just mentioned will be indispensable to reaffirm our credibility and to regain the economic initiative, to get us back on the path to growth as we should be by the end of the year.
Other elements of the Lithuanian presidency will testify of the European Union's commitment to openness, to our ambition to reach out to our neighbours and to play a leading role in global politics.
The Eastern Partnership in particular will remain high on Europe's agenda, and the Eastern Partnership Summit in November is the right moment to show how important this relationship is, and how we can deepen it further.
Like you, President, I strongly believe that we have a responsibility to do whatever is necessary to bring these countries, who are part of Europe, closer to the European Union. Provided these countries are carrying out the necessary political and economic reforms we should offer them closer economic integration and political association.. I hope the Vilnius Summit will confirm this very important strategic orientation.
We are therefore committed to make progress and where possible conclude ongoing negotiations for Association Agreements, including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas and steps towards visa facilitation and liberalisation with the region. Lithuania's geographical location and history give it a privileged position to strengthen these bonds, and I look forward to cooperating with you on this.
In the area of Justice and Home Affairs, we welcome Lithuania's keen interest and engagement to strengthen the EUs external borders management, visa policy, legal migration and internal security. We are confident that negotiations on the Smart borders package adopted by the Commission last February will be pursued with vigour under this Presidency. Progress in the adoption of the new Data Protection Regulation is also crucial to strengthen the level of protection of Fundamental Rights in this area and to ensure in the whole European Union a strong level of harmonisation and implementation in the Member States. The actuality of these days reminds us more than ever the need for progress in these discussions.
In the area of health protection, the Commission has welcomed progress made by the Council on the proposal to modify the tobacco directive. The Lithuanian Presidency should now work in close cooperation with the European Parliament in order to be able to achieve an agreement as soon as possible.
And on climate action the Commission will come with a proposal on the 2030 framework for energy and climate policies still before the end of the year.
To prepare for the period beyond 2020, works starts right now.
Strong and committed European political parties are needed for European democracy. As I mentioned in my State of the Union speech last year, we need a reinforced statute for European political parties in the run-up to the European elections next year. We came close to a conclusion of this file under the Irish Presidency. I would therefore urge the Lithuanian Presidency to treat this file as a priority, and I hope we can conclude a deal on this too.
We have a responsibility and an opportunity to make the next six months a period of progress and delivery.
The Lithuanian Presidency will be crucial in completing the preparatory work to allow all MFF programmes to start on 1st January 2014. We have important pending and forthcoming legislation to conclude in time for next elections. I am confident that we will manage if we work together in a truly constructive and pro-European spirit. I know it will be in this spirit of results, concrete results for the citizens, that we will work with you and I wish all success to the Lithuanian presidency, all success to our common European project.
I thank you.