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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Remarks by President Barroso following the Tripartite Social Summit
Brussels, 20 March 2014
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
I am very glad to have met the European social partners ahead of today's European Council.
You know how highly I and the European Commission value social dialogue at the European level. I believe that only by working together can we strengthen the recovery, creating more growth and better jobs for our citizens.
Social issues are indeed a top priority for the Commission.
Our latest economic forecast confirms that the recovery is gaining ground across Europe. The reforms we have put in place are paying off: our economies are becoming more competitive, including in the most vulnerable countries.
However, unemployment is still a cause for concern, particularly among the young. That's why we cannot say that we are out of the crisis. How can we say it when we have this social drama for so many families across Europe?
This is why the Commission is actively supporting Member States in combatting the scourge of unemployment: Concrete support is now available through a new generation of structural and investment funds. We are organising a conference to discuss the Youth Guarantee and how to spend the €6 billion Youth Employment Initiative. This conference is going to be organised here on 8 April. And we are closely monitoring the social situation through a new scoreboard of social and employment indicators.
Later today, I will discuss with EU heads of state and government our priorities for reform under the European Semester, the EU's calendar for economic policy coordination. I will urge EU leaders to keep up the pace of reform, and to use EU funding to create jobs and increase skills, ease access to finance for companies and invest smartly in growth.
We will also discuss our long-term growth strategy, Europe 2020. The Commission has laid the groundwork for a review of that strategy and will soon launch an EU-wide public consultation. I was glad to hear, today, the social partners' thoughts on how to rebuild confidence and shape our post-crisis growth plan.
In that sense, today's agreement on the Single Resolution Mechanism is extremely good news. Today's political agreement on the Single Resolution Mechanism completes our banking union, something that – as you know – we have been fighting for already for some time. This will strengthen confidence and stability in the financial markets and will help restore lending to the economy. We promised to do this before the European Parliament elections. I'm delighted we have delivered. I would like, on this occasion, to congratulate the Greek Presidency. I'd like to offer a word of congratulations to the President of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem. And allow me also a word of gratitude to Commissioner Barnier because he has fought very hard for this compromise between the Council and the Parliament. We are proud that the main elements of the European Commission's proposal have now been accepted by the co-legislators. And this shows that with persistence we can overcome the traditional pessimism. Some time ago, many people were betting that we would not be able to conclude the banking union. Here we are, delivering.
Also important, from an economic point of view, is taxation. That's why, at this summit, I expect a final agreement on the Savings Tax Directive. It's time to close the book on this long-running saga and restore fairness for the families and the businesses that have suffered during the crisis.
The Commission has been consistently pushing for this. I hope that, by Monday, we will have final and formal sign-off from the Council. The Commission will do its utmost to convince key third countries in Europe to sign up to the global standard by the end of the year so that, in fact, this becomes a real global standard. And for that we should set the example in Europe.
I also welcome the social partners' insights on how industrial policy and the EU's 2030 climate and energy framework can help us become more competitive and support a steady and sustainable recovery.
The Commission has proposed a "European industrial renaissance", where the share of manufacturing in EU GDP should reach 20% by 2020. We are putting industry - and the competiveness of our industry - at the heart of all our policies to create the right environment for businesses to flourish, and this from the internet economy to better and cheaper access to energy and finance - particularly for SMEs - from investment in new technologies to skills development, from education to entrepreneurship, from better regulation to better access to markets.
The key now is implementation. Frankly, we cannot reinvent the wheel every time we meet. The most important issue now is implementation on the ground of the most important policies that have already been agreed by the European Council.
Our climate and energy policy, which we will also discuss during this European Council, goes hand in hand with industrial policy. The days are gone when you had to be either "green" or a "defender of industry". I believe we can have green growth in Europe provided we design it right.
We have proposed ambitious but feasible and cost-effective emission reduction and renewables targets that will help us play our part in the global fight against climate change, while reducing our dependence on costly energy imports, creating green jobs and supporting competitiveness.
A final word on Ukraine: As you know we are going to discuss this at the European Council.
The European Union does not recognise the annexation of Crimea. We will continue to dedicate all our efforts to the solution of the current crisis – a peaceful and negotiated solution that must respect Ukraine's sovereignty.
I am sure that the European Council will agree on a united European response to the evolving situation. Personally, I believe that the most urgent thing to do is to make all efforts to sustain a credible, stable, viable, democratic and a prosperous Ukraine. This is the best response we can give. At the same time, the Member States should see how far they are ready to go in making clear that the type of behaviour we have seen recently in Europe cannot be accepted and that some consequences have to be drawn from this kind of behaviour.
And I very much welcome the support that the social partners, in some statements they have made, are giving to the role of the European Union in the response to this crisis. We are very grateful for this constant commitment to the European Union by the social partners.
I thank you for your attention.