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Vice-President of the European Commission, EU Commissioner for Justice
Main Messages: Helsinki Citizens' Dialogue
24 September 2013
Ignore the doom-mongers. Europe is being fixed: Unit labour costs are falling in countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal. Member States that were shut out of the capital markets for years can now borrow again from private investors at sustainable interest rates.
Finland went through a tough bank crisis in the 1990s, but after serious and difficult structural reforms, it came out strong and competitive. Today, Finland holds the 3rd place in the World Economic Forum's global competitiveness index, being the leading EU Member State; and the economy grew by 0,7% - that is one of the best rates in the EU. These are the best proofs that work is rewarded with success. Finland can be a European model for other counties in economic difficulty today.
2. The euro
I know that you Finns are great fans of the Euro: 65% of you see it as a key for a European identity and 75% of Finns want the euro.
The 'true' Finns are those who know the euro wins. Everybody wins from a strong euro.
As Commissioner for the euro Olli Rehn was always a steady hand at the wheel of keeping the euro stable and putting Europe back on a solid track of recovery – after most stormy weather. In Europe we need experience and steady hands to bring us to calm waters. If someone has to drive the way out of the crisis, it'd better be a Finn. As they say in the Formula 1 racing world: "If you want to win, employ a Finn".
3. Banking Union
Banks are born national but they operate and die European. The collapse of the financial system was prevented in almost all EU countries thanks to huge injections of government money. The total value of state aid is estimated to amount to about 12.5% of GDP. In Ireland alone, the cost of state capital support to the three largest banks amounted to 29% of GDP.
We need to federalise banking supervision and resolution.
4. Data Protection
Data is the new currency of the digital economy. Like any currency it needs trust to be stable.
Trust is bankable. A survey carried out by the Cloud Security Alliance after the recent surveillance revelations found that 56% of respondents were hesitant to work with any US-based cloud service providers. The economic impact of these doubts has now been quantified. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation estimates that the surveillance revelations will cost the US cloud computing industry $22 to $35 billion in lost revenues over the next three years.
Data protection will be the selling point: a competitive advantage.
5. Net neutrality
I stand for an open and free internet. The important thing is that we do not only talk about net neutrality in press releases but also put this principle into practice. That's why we always need to look at the fine print.
This is not the first nor the last time I make clear that I consider Internet access is a fundamental right, the same as the freedom of expression and the freedom to access information.
I call on everybody to stand up for net neutrality, not in the headlines, but also in practice.
Finland has been always been one of the drivers of Europe's digital market. I am sad to see a successful European company, the crown jewel of Finland, leaving our market. We need to boost the digital single market and end regulatory fragmentation: creating the right competitive conditions, so that companies stay in Europe. This is what our data protection reform will do.
7. Labour mobility/Free Movement
Current levels of mobility are relatively low. In 2012, 6.6 million EU citizens lived and worked in a Member State other than their own. That is only 3.1% of workers in the EU. An additional 1.2 million people live in one EU country but work in another. The economic crisis has led to a decrease in labour mobility flows between EU countries: In the period from 2009 to 2011 these flows decreased by one third compared to 2006 to 2008.
To encourage people to move, the European Commission is working on a proposal that would ensure that a person looking for work in another Member State would be able to receive unemployment benefits for up to six months.
We have done away with borders in Europe. Free movement of people is one of the building blocks of our Union, one of your most precious rights. Sadly, there are those who are trying to limit this fundamental right. Ugly populism is rising in some Member States. But whilst such rhetoric may win votes today, the price would be paid by generations of European citizens tomorrow. This is why I expect national politicians to be firm and resist populism.
By the way, limiting free movement would also hurt our economy – and that at a time, when Europe needs more growth. Because we know that labour mobility benefits both the individuals who find jobs in this way and the countries they go to. For instance, after the EU enlargement round of 2004, labour mobility from the new Member States is estimated to have increased the GDP of the "old" EU15 countries by around 1% in the period from 2004 to 2009.
8. Croatian implementation of the European Arrest Warrant
When asked on the Croatian implementation of the European Arrest Warrant, Vice-President Reding answered: "There is no compromise at this stage with Croatia on the European Arrest Warrant. We expect that the law is changed." When asked on the meeting with the Croatian Justice Minister: "I hope the Croatian Justice Minister will travel to Brussels to discuss this matter further."