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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Mr Victor Ponta, Prime Minister of Romania
4 February 2013
Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to welcome Prime Minister Victor Ponta back to the European Commission and congratulate him on his re-election as Prime Minister of Romania and wish him every success for his second term. I wish you well, I wish Romania well.
We had a good exchange on this week's European Council. It is important that we get agreement this week between Member States so that the process can then move to the European Parliament. We have to keep in mind that this is a difficult negotiation. We have also to keep in mind that in the end we need the consent of the European Parliament. The unanimity of our Member States is not enough.
I will be pushing for a reasonable agreement on a budget that is future orientated, a budget for investment, growth, jobs and solidarity. The debate cannot only be about cuts but about how the money can best be spent to provide employment and improved living standards of all our citizens across all of the European Union. And Romania is an important example of the importance of European Union funds to make it possible to invest in transport, energy and infrastructure, for example.
I also hope that we will be able to agree to a new instrument on youth unemployment which is an acute challenge in many countries, including Romania. I believe it will be a good signal if we could have a special instrument to fight youth unemployment at the European level.
We also talked about the economic situation in Romania. I have welcomed the efforts of the Romanian government to reduce the deficit, expected to be below 3% of GDP in 2012. This is a real achievement, especially against a background of economic and political difficulties.
I encouraged the Prime Minister to continue stepping up Romania's efforts towards structural reforms, and towards a swift implementation of the current adjustment programme.
We had a good frank discussion indeed on the use of structural funds. We have talked a number of times about the need to improve the absorption capacity of these funds. I welcome the commitments of Prime Minister Ponta on this issue with particular focus needed on the preparation of the next programming period.
We have also discussed the cooperation and verification report that the Commission adopted last week. I appreciate the efforts that Prime Minister Ponta has made over the last six months to deliver on the commitments he made last July. The conditions now exist, with a more stable political situation, a new Government and Parliament, to make a real push on the reform process. We need to see further progress on the independence of the judiciary and the appointment to key posts. We will also look to politicians to set an example by stepping aside where integrity rulings or corruption charges exist.
As you can see we covered a lot of ground, not to mention issues like the Schengen accession. As you know, I support, and the Commission supports, Romania's accession to Schengen.
Let me thank the Prime Minister for his visit. I very much welcome our open exchanges; I know the Prime Minister is committed to deliver reform and he can count on the European Commission in the years to come. I believe this is important for Europe and it is for sure important for Romania.