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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following the first session of the European Council, 24-25 October 2013
25 October 2013
Thank you very much,
We started tonight with an important working session on the digital agenda.
I have presented this report, "Innovating in the digital era: putting Europe back on track". Since it is already online - precisely because we want to be coherent with our digital ambitions - I will not of course repeat what was presented here, also in a document that several weeks ago I addressed to all the members of the European Council. What I would like to tell you is that the discussion has shown that we all understand and agree on the urgency of action. Europe has been a global leader in this sector, but, let's be frank, Europe has lost ground to key competitors. We are simply not using the full opportunities offered by the digital economy.
What we need, first and foremost, is investment in ICT. There is a clear link between the amount you invest in ICT and the competitiveness of our economies.
We also agreed that our digital market in Europe is too fragmented. And this needs to be addressed. The telecoms reform package which the Commission has tabled in September will help us to address these important gaps. I hope tonight's discussions will create the momentum for swift progress.
And also, it’s important to note, that for the digital economy to thrive, citizens have to have trust in it. Obviously, the revelations over recent months and days have shaken trust in privacy and data security. This is a very serious issue, because for us Europeans, these are fundamental values. That's exactly why we will keep pushing for the adoption of the proposed legislation on data protection. Indeed, the European Commission has already tabled these proposals in January 2012, so before these recent events. Because we believe that data protection is critically important, not only as a fundamental right of protecting our privacy, but it is also important for consumers if they want to rely on business through the net.
Over dinner, we discussed the economic situation. We have reasons to be cautiously optimistic. We have seen a return to positive growth in the euro area in the second quarter of the year. And most recent indications we have from the third quarter, and also our extrapolations until the end of the year are also confirming this trend. But the recovery is still fragile and we need to continue with determination what we have begun. We must stay the course on fiscal consolidation and structural reforms. We also have to address the very important issue of targeted investment, that is why the MFF is so important and that is why we need to address specifically financing of SMEs and the Youth Employment initiatives. I will come back to that in a minute. And we also must complete the repair of the financial system. That’s why the presence of Mario Draghi was also very important because he was explaining the concrete way in which he is preparing the quality asset review. The ECB and EBA will have our full support in their important work on the comprehensive assessment of banks. In parallel, we need to make every effort to agree on the Single Resolution Mechanism before the European elections in May. I mean, to complete the legislative process, completing the Banking Union remains our top priority. And I was happy that Member States have agreed that they should come to a political agreement on the Single Resolution Mechanism, on the basis of the Commission proposal, before the end of this year.
We have also discussed further steps on economic policy coordination. I have made the clear case that member states must regard their economic policies as a matter of common concern, as stated by the treaty. The set of rules we have developed over the last couple of years reflect precisely that. National governments are not just responsible for their own country, but there is a collective responsibility for our economies as well. As you know, the Commission has a specific treaty based role to play in this and we discussed this and I'm happy with the conclusions.
I have also made the case that more needs to be done to secure appropriate financing of the real economy. We need to take immediate action here, and the European Commission-EIB Joint instruments can make a very important contribution. I would have liked to see more ambition, but we are making steps in the right direction.
Youth unemployment continues to be among our most urgent concerns. Unless we act quickly and decisively, a short-term tragedy can become a long-term societal crisis. That's why we are pushing so hard to deliver implementation of the European Social Fund and the Youth Employment initiative, which would provide much needed funding in countries with the most need.
So, overall, we have given the necessary push on issues that will further strengthen Europe's economy.
Thank you for your attention.