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European Commission

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Viviane Reding

Vice-President of the European Commission, EU Justice Commissioner

Main Messages: Citizens' Dialogue in London

Citizens' Dialogue in London

London, 10 February 2014

1. The EU is stronger with the UK. The UK is stronger within the EU.

100 years after WWI, after 40 years of the UK being inside the EU, the Winston Churchills, Harold Wilsons and a line of UK politicians on both sides of the political spectrum have long recognised that Europe is far from being confined to the continent.

The UK has been shaping world history for centuries and can continue to do so as part of a European Union that collectively is a big player on the world stage.

The UK also needs the EU

The Confederation of British Industries (CBI) estimates 4-5% of British GDP can be attributed to its EU membership. And that British households would each be £3,000 a year worse off outside the EU.

It is the EU's clout in signing trade deals worldwide, already worth £15 trillion ($24trillion), which is opening up markets for UK companies.

2. Europe is overcoming the crisis.

The euro is not the cause of the crisis.

The crisis had hit a number of countries outside the euro-zone – and Britain too: The UK had to pump £130 billion into its banks during the crisis. And the UK's public finances are actually in a worse state than those of the euro-area as a whole.

Many countries in the EU – inside the euro-zone and out of it – have been facing a tough time. But our strategy to fight the crisis is working. Member States are putting their finances in order and implementing structural reforms to regain competitiveness. Ireland exited its bailout programme in December and can now borrow money from private investors at sustainable rates.

3. The UK can be part of the single market without being part of the euro.

There are those in the EU who want to share a currency. And there are those who do not want to be part of that single currency. The biggest question Europe will face in the next few years will be about how to accommodate these positions.

The UK for one has chosen to stay out of this new move towards more integration. It has every right to do so. The UK has understood that the euro-zone needs to integrate more deeply and has not stood in the way.

This means there will be decisions taken at tables the UK is not sitting at. I respect this decision. But I also want to be very clear: the door is open.

I truly hope that the UK will remain part of the European Union and its single market. And I would like to see the UK become part of the more strongly integrated group of countries one day.

4. The EU can do a lot for you: cheaper roaming fees or Erasmus grants.

Being a European citizen means you benefit from all the big things: a continent at peace, the world’s biggest economy, clean water — things we often take for granted. But it also means all the small, everyday things that make a real and daily difference.

Examples:

  • When you cross a border and don’t have to mortgage your house to pay your mobile phone roaming bill — that’s because of the EU.

  • When you buy a new laptop, TV, or other item from your local high street store and are automatically given a two-year warranty — that’s because of the EU.

  • When you or your child is given the opportunity to study abroad with your fees paid — that’s because of the EU.

5. We can only succeed and be a world power by working together

It was Winston Churchill who said "We must build a kind of United States of Europe. Small nations will count as much as large ones and gain their honour by their contribution to the common cause.’’ I borrowed his words for a reason: because I believe in a strong Europe where Member States remain self-governed, where sovereignty stays at home.

We can only succeed and be a world power by working together. This is true in economics, trade, defence, foreign policy and global challenges like climate change.

In a world where China and India will both have populations 20 times that of the UK, we need the EU to help pursue our national interests.

Special relationships aside, it is the EU that the U.S. is negotiating a free trade agreement with. An agreement that is set to benefit the EU economy to the tune of £100 billion (€120 billion) and every British household to the tune of over £400 a year (€500). It boils down to this: The European Union is the largest economy in the world. Together, EU and US make up 46% of the world economy. The UK alone: 3%.

6. You cannot have the single market without the free movement of people

This is the single market: Four fundamental freedoms. You cannot separate one from the other. You cannot have free movement of services and capital, but not of persons. You cannot have the right to establish your companies in Bucharest or Sofia but not accept workers from Romania and Bulgaria working in your country.

The debate has become emotional, too much so. We have to put it back into proportion. We are talking about 14 million Europeans out of 507 million, or 3% of the EU's population, the majority of which work and contribute to their host country. Evidence of individual criminal fraud cases has to be tacked rigorously at home. It cannot be used to suggest there is a widespread, systemic problem in Europe.

If not a problem on paper, there is still a problem in perception and this must be addressed. When we see a beggar in front of the local supermarket and even if he might be just one person, this is the image that stays in our heads.

Tomorrow I will meet with mayors of key EU cities – including the Vice-Mayor of London – to listen to them and work with them on how best to get EU funding for social integration purposes. Like the £950 million (€1,148,207,999) in funding available specifically to the UK for this very purpose (European Social Fund).

7. Britain plays an important part in making EU laws.

The Members of the European Parliament are powerful: they make laws for 507 million people.

Your 73 British MEPs make European laws. Your British Ministers make European laws.

At the European Parliament elections in May, you will be able to make a crucial choice on what course you want Europe to take in the next few years.

8. EU laws on victims' rights: putting victims first

Every year, an estimated 15% of Europeans or 75 million people in the European Union fall victim to crime - assaulted, robbed, or caught up in a terrorist attack.

The European Union is acting: a new EU law guarantees common basic rights for victims of crime, wherever they are in the EU

I like to call the Victims Rights' Directive the "Maggie Hughes Act" because of this brave woman.

We need a single area of justice where there are no differences in protection when citizens work, travel or live outside their home countries.


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