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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Speech by President Barroso on the June European Council
European Parliament plenary session
Strasbourg, 2 July 2014
President of the European Council,
Let me first of all congratulate you, President Schulz, on your re-election as President of the European Parliament. We all know about your very strong and sincere commitment to the European Union and I would like to underline the excellent institutional, political, and personal cooperation that we have had together over the last two and a half years.
I wish you well.
I believe, more than ever, that the European Parliament, the European Commission, as well as the Council, must do everything in their capacity to work together to deliver concrete results for our European citizens.
I would also like to congratulate you all, each and every one of you, on your election to this Parliament. I wish you success for this legislature; and I believe that it is very important that, alongside our national parliaments, which have a strong legitimacy, and of course great experience representing our democratic States, that, we continue to build our European democracy.
To believe that it is possible in the 21st century to progress on our European path without democracy is a fundamental mistake.
This is a House of European democracy; fundamental to the democratic nature of the European Union; a unique institution, directly elected from across an entire continent.
You are members of an institution that illustrates perfectly the very special nature of the European Union, as a community of values for peace, democracy, freedom, justice, and solidarity.
As we have seen over the past mandate, with your election comes a responsibility to listen, to cooperate and ultimately to take the necessary decisions to the benefit of the citizens of our continent.
Representing citizens from 28 different countries, with 24 official languages, coming from 186 national parties reunited in seven European groups; a mix of nearly 50% new members and 50% returning members; with 65 years separating the oldest and youngest member of this House, and with more women than ever as part of this Parliament, I believe you are in a great position to give a concrete expression to what European is: United in Diversity.
I want to underline what President van Rompuy just said about the special character of last week’s European Council and to thank him for this initiative to start this European Council in Ypres. Because when I was standing at the ceremony in Ypres, I could not resist thinking that whereas one hundred years ago our young soldiers from our countries and many other countries all over the World were killing each other in the Flemish fields, this week leaders, north, south, east and west, were discussing our collective future together.
The ceremony, very moving and very well organized, was a potent reminder of why the EU was created and that peace on our continent is our first and greatest common achievement.
Regrettably, peace is not happening in all parts of the world or even in all parts of Europe. Peace cannot be taken for granted.
This brings me to the issue of Ukraine.
At the European Council, President Poroshenko shared with us an assessment of the situation in Ukraine. We praised his determination and commitment to de-escalate the crisis with his 15-point peace plan.
But this ambition should be shared by all sides, and that is the reason why in the European Council we welcomed the positive first step made by Russia in repealing the law on the use of force in Ukraine. But we have said that this commitment should be backed up with action:
action that will stop arms and more fighters into the region;
action that withdraws troops from the border and returns the three checkpoints to Ukrainian authorities;
action that ceases all separatist activity.
In the meantime, President Poroshenko has terminated the unilateral ceasefire.
We, of course, have some understanding for his decision given the special circumstances in Ukraine and the right of the legitimate authorities of that country to defend integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.
That said, we continue to call for a permanent halt of any violence on all sides. For this, we expect Russia to exercise fully its influence on the separatists, to lay down the weapons.
But we discussed not only the political security questions but also our political and economic support for Ukraine.
And that is why we are going to host next week in Brussels, on the 8th July, a high-level meeting to coordinate international assistance to the country. And I am happy that now we can also build on a consensus that was achieved in the G7 meeting that European Union hosted in Brussels where it was clearly decided to go with this double track approach. On one side, to show Russia that this behaviour is not acceptable and we are ready to take if necessary additional measures; and on the other side our determination to do everything that is in our capacity to support an independent sovereign, democratic and prosperous Ukraine.
So far we have disbursed 750m EUR towards Ukraine; we also completed last week the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with Ukraine, and we have signed similar agreements with Georgia and the Republic of Moldova.
Quite significantly, President Poroshenko, in this ceremony of signature said he was signing the agreement with the same pen that was used at the Vilnius Summit with our eastern partners. That was a way of showing that History cannot be stopped. Ukrainian people have the right to decide with whom they want to be in future.
These were indeed historic agreements, the most ambitious negotiated so far by the European Union, offering a long-term political and economic commitment to our eastern neighbours.
It is also recognition of the significant progress these countries have made since they became independent sovereign states over twenty years ago; recognition that they want to share the same vision for a prosperous, democratic model, and want to live by the European spirit and values, namely the sacred principle of freedom
They are an integral part of the Eastern Partnership that we have launched five years ago.
Because the usual critics, the prophets of doom, had questioned our determination. Now they have seen our and our partners' determination . After the Vilnius Summit last year, our resolve, and our partners’ resolve, is there, to move closer together in terms of our joint agenda on prosperity, peace and shared values.
My recent visits to Georgia, Moldova and Azerbaijan served to underline to us and to our partners our commitment to this shared vision. But of course, the task ahead is essential.
The success of the Agreements first of all relies on our partners’ willingness to carry out reforms. Reforms they need, namely to fight corruption and establish a true rule of law; reforms that need to be endorsed not just by the governments, but also by parliaments, civil society, the media, and social partners in those countries.
I believe these Agreements represent the beginning of a new journey on which the European Union and these partner countries are embarking together.
Our relationship with Ukraine and the Eastern Partnership in general is also showing how important energy policy is. It is now time for all the governments of Europe to agree what the European Commission has been proposing for some years. It is to have a truly European energy policy. If it is not now, then when?
In this field, the European Council endorsed the Commission's proposal for an ambitious Energy Security Strategy and has asked for more work to be done on both energy security and the climate agenda ahead of the October European Council.
Because both issues are the two sides of the same coin.
They need to be agreed together, because it will not be possible to have a sustainable economy, with more jobs, if we have an unsustainable environment, remain vulnerable to external shocks, like the current crisis in Ukraine, and if we continue to suffer from energy insecurity.
With our energy dependence estimated to increase to 27% by 2030, importing 53% of the energy we consume, the solution is to create a low-carbon, competitive and energy secure economy; one that moves away from our dependence on imports of crude oil and natural gas, to:
one that diversifies our energy supply;
one that includes renewables;
one that improves the efficiency of our energy consumption; and
one that improves our energy infrastructure, our interconnectivity, and establishes a genuine energy single market hopefully by the end of the year.
Our international partners are making progress in that area. So must we.
That is why the European Council has welcomed the review of our Energy Efficiency Directive on which the Commission will make further proposals this month of July. It is good that the European Council has reaffirmed its desire to see ambitious European leadership, with our agreed 2030 climate targets, at the September United Nations High Level meeting, with a view to next year’s Paris international conference.
Leaders of national governments nominated Jean-Claude Juncker as President-designate of the Commission.
I have congratulated Jean-Claude on my own behalf and on behalf of the entire Commission. We have been working together in different capacities at a national and European level for around 25 years. His European credentials and experience, his commitment to our Union and its values are beyond doubt.
As the nomination process moves into its final stage, the European Commission and I are committed to ensuring the best possible transition to the new College, so that the European Commission can, together with the European Parliament, continue to deliver a European Union that is united, open and stronger.
The European Council last week also agreed conclusions of the European Semester, showing that we have more enforced economic governance and co-operation at an EU level; and I would like to refer here to the REFIT programme for better regulation, as well as the programme on freedom, security and justice. Since I'll have the pleasure to speak with you two other times today, on the outgoing Hellenic Presidency and the incoming Italian Presidency, I will not go into details on those priorities.
It was important that the European Council also set out its own strategic priorities for the coming years.
I very much welcomed this step both on the substance but also on the process. It allowed the European Council to focus on where the European Union adds real value and to work on the priorities in the coming years. I am happy to see the idea I've been expressing to this European Parliament is now well accepted, that the European Union needs to be big on big things and small on smaller things.
The European Council's priorities also demonstrate an evolutionary process. They are clearly based on important work and results achieved during the past mandate. In the past mandate we were able to avoid together an existential crisis of the European Union. When many people were predicting the end of the euro, even the disintegration of the European Union, it was possible, in very special circumstances, to avoid that; and I believe we now have a basis to go forward during this legislature, to make Europe stronger, namely to focus with more attention on growth and jobs.
Last but not least, the priorities show the respect for the division of labour as laid down in the Treaty, with the European Council setting a strategic agenda, with the European Commission assuming its right of initiative, and, of course, with the Parliament having the basic democratic responsibility, preserving the possibility to reach an inter-institutional agreement, which I believe should be possible on our planning and programming for the next mandate.
The European Union is working hard to draw the lessons from the economic crisis as shown by the European Council strong support for the country-specific recommendations and the so-called European Semester process, our collective exercise in partnership in economic governance. We are as a Union playing a crucial role in addressing the Ukraine crisis. We are leading the global debate on climate and energy. And we are developing its vision for freedom, security and justice.
All of this together shows we are in touch with citizens’ concerns, that now we need to implement with ever more determination what we have set out to achieve these last few years. In the past five years there was no lack of decision, but sometimes there was lack of implementation. That's why I believe that together we should do everything in our capacity to make our European Union more united, open and stronger.
Thank you for your attention.