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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Speech by President Barroso at the Citizens' dialogue in Warsaw
11 July 2013
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all my apologies, we are arriving a little bit late because we had a very interesting conversation with the President of the Republic, Mr Komorowski, but it is indeed a great pleasure for me to be here with Tadeus Mazowiecki, the first directly elected prime minister of a democratic Poland, to open this Citizens' dialogue in Warsaw. As you know I have a great affection for this city and for this country. I have been very much inspired by your pro-European sentiment and your rich cultural, scientific traditions.
In fact we are here in the Copernicus centre which I have visited before.
It is nearly 500 years since Nicolaus Copernicus [Mikolaj Kopernik], started to map the universe as he saw it. And I also believe that today, the European Union we must map the future.
The world is changing dramatically today. The financial crisis that happened some time ago: not created in Europe but with a great impact in Europe, was unprecedented because of globalization. It has shown us how deeply interconnected we are. And in fact, Europe, which was not the cause of the problem, but was a victim of the problem, is now working to become a solution for this problem, because the world has been transforming rapidly. And the main issue for us today in Europe is to keep our values, to protect and defend our interests in a world that has changed dramatically. We have a model that most people call a social market economy. It means open economies, but with relatively high levels of social welfare. We want to keep this model. But how can we do it when there are big challenges, including from international competition?
And this is why we have been developing a policy that basically tries to reach a consensus. The consensus to put our public finances in order. Because with big imbalances we will not of course be able to manage our economy. We need to make some structural reforms so that our economies become more competitive. But also there is a need for investment, especially investment in social areas, including of course the crucial issue of youth employment. This is one of the most dramatic problems we are facing today: the high levels of unemployment in Europe in particular among the young.
And of course at the same time we have to keep confidence regarding the need for integration in Europe, not only the countries of the Euro, but all the European Union Members. It is critical and important that there are no doubts about financial stability in Europe.
And I think this consensus is now gaining ground, it is being consolidated. It is not easy to take decisions among 28 countries. And now we are 28 countries after Croatia joined 1st of July. But, in fact we have been making progress in that direction, in what have been extremely challenging times.
And I think we have to understand that today, without our unity at European level, a country like Poland, countries that are smaller, countries that are bigger, even the biggest member states of the European Union on their own will not be able to influence global developments when faced with giants like the United States, China or other very large countries with a continental scale.
But together, the European countries, with more or less 500 million people, and are by value the biggest internal market in the world, can in fact have an influence; we can keep our model and our values. We are in fact among the most decent societies in the world, while at the same time that we respond to the urgent needs of our population.
And this is why we want to engage in this debate with you, we are doing that all over Europe. Vice-President Reding, my colleague from the European Commission, she has been doing that. Here in Poland we are joined by Roza Thun and I am very happy to have this opportunity, even if I cannot stay for the whole afternoon. But Viviane will respond to your questions.
I am glad to have this opportunity to, even if it is briefly, to convey to you this message, a message of confidence, because I believe confidence is part of the solution. I have been saying that the missing variable in the equation for growth in Europe is confidence. Because there are resources in Europe, there is enough capital, enough human capital as well, enough imagination, energy to overcome the current problems if the Member States, our governments together with the European Institutions are ready to do it.
But they can only succeed of course, if they have the support of our citizens. By this I mean you and that is why we need to give this new impetus to our common European project. I thank you very much for your attention.