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European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Remarks by President Barroso following his meeting with Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka

Press point

Brussels, 20 February 2014

Good morning ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to welcome Prime Minister Sobotka here today. I personally congratulated him for the victory in the election and for his appointment as Prime Minister. It is a very important signal that he visits the European Commission two days after the vote of confidence for the new government in the Czech Parliament.

I believe Prime Minister Sobotka's taking up office marks a new start. He and his government are pushing the reset button on many fronts, and of course in relation to the European Union. The Czech Republic is taking back its role as an active and constructive member of our European family.

In this context, let me commend the Prime Minister and his government about yesterday's decision to start the process of preparing the ratification of the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance, the so-called "Fiscal Compact".

It is clear that in times of crisis, many citizens are disillusioned about institutions and politics in general. Europe is often the victim of this – even if problems originate somewhere else. The new government in the Czech Republic appears to be ready to stand up for Europe and show to citizens that Europe can be part of the solution. I had a very good conversation just now with Prime Minister Sobotka and I appreciate, Prime Minister, your sincere commitment to our common project. The Prime Minister and I agree that the values of peace, democracy and freedom as well as our relevance at global scale can only be preserved if we are working together through a strong and democratic European Union.

I think that at this moment, where in Europe we are discussing more and more our future as European Union - we will have the European Parliament elections with different parties, of course, I am not going to interfere in the partisan discussions - but it is important that leaders from the different political families have the courage to say that Europe was not the cause of the problem we are living, but that indeed Europe is a very important part of the solution. And that working together we can be more effective.

In our meeting today, Prime Minister Sobotka and I also exchanged views on the situation in Ukraine that we are following with great concern.

As you know, the situation is very difficult and remains extremely volatile. The immediate and urgent priority is to avoid further bloodshed and save human lives. This is also the message I conveyed yesterday to President Yanukovych. The authorities have a special responsibility in ensuring it and demonstrators also need to keep the peaceful nature of the protests. An immediate end to the violence and a meaningful dialogue, responding to democratic aspirations of the people of Ukraine is the only way to solve the political and institutional crisis. As you know, the European Union has been offering its sincere assistance to facilitate dialogue and de-escalate the situation. We have also reiterated our offer of political association and economic integration. But what we have to do now, the most immediate thing is to put an end to violence, violence to stop as soon as possible. We cannot forget the images of the last days and the tragic deaths and injuries of so many people. This is why the Foreign Affairs Council will meet today to discuss the adoption of targeted measures against those responsible for violence and use of excessive force. We will continue engaged and committed to a political, democratic and peaceful solution of the situation in Ukraine together with our international partners.

And I am happy to see that there is now a broad consensus among our Member States in the way to deal with this issue. Just yesterday, because you were meeting an important delegation of business leaders, I spoke about these matters with President Hollande of France and Chancellor Merkel of Germany and, in fact, I have understood how deep is also their commitment to find a peaceful solution and today in the meeting with Prime Minister Sobotka, I have seen the same concerns and determination.

We have also discussed the upcoming European Council in March.

As you know, this summit is an important step in co-ordinating our economic policies. We will look at overall progress of Member States in implementing the Country Specific Recommendations

Newest economic data indicate that thanks to our joint efforts, the recovery is taking root in the European Union. We need to continue on all fronts to firm up the recovery and tackle unemployment. We must pursue growth-friendly fiscal consolidation and structural reforms. This way we can make our economies more competitive and create the right conditions for new jobs.

The fresh money available from the European Union budget for the next 7 years will help in this endeavour. The Czech Republic will benefit of an allocation of almost EUR 22 billion from the European Structural and Investment Funds. It is now finalising its Partnership Agreement in which the spending priorities will be set out. In this context I understand that the Czech government intends to make significant progress with regard to ensuring effective, accountable public administration and I appreciate the information that the Prime Minister wanted to give me on this regard.

We are also going to discuss in the March summit the industrial competitiveness and the European Union's energy and climate framework 2030. The Prime Minister and I agree that it is important to take action, there will be an important discussion there. I think it is important to have action on climate and energy policies, which help and not hinder our competitiveness. We believe in the European Commission that our approach strikes the right balance, we have done this also keeping in mind the need of respecting the energy mixes that the Member States have in their own jurisdiction.

To conclude: the Czech Republic is turning a page and I sincerely believe that it will play a more active and more constructive part in our common European project. Prime Minister, I thank you very much for your visit and also for our very constructive and useful discussion. We need a strong and committed Czech Republic at the heart of the European Union. You can count on the Commission's support and assistance.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I thank you for your attention!

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