Speech: Main messages from the Citizens' Dialogue in Barcelona
European Commission - SPEECH/14/153 23/02/2014
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European Commission Vice-President, EU Justice Commissioner
Main messages from the Citizens' Dialogue in Barcelona
45th Citizens' Dialogue
Barcelona, 23 February 2014
1/ Europe is overcoming the crisis - Europe's strategy of "solidarity for solidity" is delivering
Solidarity for solidity: Eurozone countries putting money in a common pot to help countries in trouble is starting to work in Spain.
Spain successfully exited the financial assistance programme on 23 January 2014 – after it received €41,3 billion from the European Stability Mechanism in autumn 2012 and after the Spanish state also injected €21 billion into the financial sector.
Member States' far-reaching and sometime painful reforms are starting to pay off. Recovery is in sight.
Member States that were shut out of the capital markets for years can now borrow again from private investors at sustainable interest rates.
Spain for example can now borrow from private investors for the lowest rates in years: in 2010: 3.93%, in July 2012: 7.51% and today 3.7%.
Europe has made sure past mistakes will not be repeated: The euro-area has created the European Stability Mechanism with firepower of €500 bn to help members in financial difficulties. The countries inside the euro-zone are also coordinating economic and fiscal policies much more strongly now. That's how we will be able to spot problems early and prevent them from spreading.
Europe must stop accumulating debts that will be a burden on the next generation. Debt-servicing in Spain accounts for EUR 36 billion, or 8.2% of total state expenditure. This means that Spain is currently spending more public money on debt repayments than on investment in education or research and innovation. This is not just a question of cost. It is also a question of the country's long-term competitiveness.
2/ Europe is fostering employment
Economic recovery prospects are good but they will not translate into jobs overnight. We still need to fight for employment.
The EU is not letting you down: fighting youth unemployment is our top priority.
The Commission is modernising the Eures system to help Europeans find a job or an apprenticeship everywhere in the EU and help fill the 2 million open jobs vacancies
The new Youth Employment Initiative provides 6 billion EUR in the next two years: 1,8 billion EUR have been allocated to Spain which would benefit more than 800 000 people in Spain.
Under the EU structural funds for 2014-2020 Spain will receive some 29 billion EUR which will contribute to jobs creation. This is the best source of foreign direct investment!
3/ Establishing a responsible financial sector in Europe so that taxpayers do not foot the bill for the mistakes of the banks
The Banking Union is not for banks. It is for the citizens: we are ensuring that in future, banks themselves will have to pay for their mistakes, not citizens. Thanks to the Banking Union, big banks in Europe will have to put money in a common pot that will be used when a bank is in distress.
The financial sector needs to support the real economy. Banks need to focus on their core business: ensuring financial liquidity for SMEs and households.
The never again motto: banks weakening the whole economy, taxpayers having to pay for banks’ failures.
4/ European law protects EU citizens: no double pain in case of eviction thanks to the EU
There have been about 350 000 Spanish foreclosures since 2008 and at least a dozen of suicides and many attempts. This is shocking.
No one applying for a mortgage would even imagine that they could be evicted. In many instances people had to keep on paying the bank for their debt even though they had already lost their home: a double pain.
EU law is a safety net. It protects the weak and vulnerable: the European Court of Justice ruled on 13 March 2013 that the Spanish law on Consumer Protection did not meet the standards required by EU law, and did not sufficiently protect the consumers. European law has protected the vulnerable consumer against the inhumane, casino mentality of banks.
The Commission has also proposed legislation to improve consumer protection in financial services so that consumers are not ripped off by signing papers which they do not understand – lured by the promise they could make money. Not the banks' profits, but consumer choice must come first: based on clear and sound information and professional advice.
5/ 2014: Time to make a choice.
Huge changes lie ahead for our Union. We will need to get a broad, truly European debate going before we make these changes and set up new structures. And this year's European Parliament elections are the decisive moment for citizens to have their say in this debate.
2014 will be the year that people across our continent – including all of you here today – choose what kind of Europe they want to live in.
Your elected Members of the European Parliament have a huge influence. 70% of EU laws are co-decided by the European Parliament
The future is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. Elections are determined by the people who turn up.
I want to see turnout at the next elections surpass 50%. Here in Spain and across the European Union.