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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Remarks by President Barroso following his meeting with Donald Tusk, Prime Minister of Poland
Brussels, 30 January 2014
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to welcome Prime Minister Tusk here today. The Prime Minister and I had a very good working meeting, which was at the Prime Minister's request mainly dedicated to the situation in Ukraine. We also discussed some economic issues, looking to the next European Council in March.
We agreed on the need to continue de-escalating the current tension in Ukraine. Violence and intimidation must stop as they are clearly not the answer to the crisis. The European Union is doing its utmost to encourage and facilitate a political dialogue between government, opposition leaders and civil society.
I assured Prime Minister Tusk that the European Union is determined to keep its full political involvement in the settlement of the crisis in Ukraine. We remain engaged in helping our Ukrainian partners, under the "more for more" principle, to find a democratic and peaceful way out of the current political crisis, as I told President Yanukovych on the phone conversation I had with him last week. This is why Commissioner Štefan Füle and High Representative and Vice-President Catherine Ashton again travelled to Ukraine.
Prime Minister Tusk and I both welcome the recent repeal by the Ukrainian Parliament of the so-called anti-protest laws. This was an anti-democratic package of legislation which curtailed individual freedoms. We hope that the decision of the Parliament will now be enforced.
We expect these steps will lead to further reforms and be conducive to a truly inclusive and national dialogue that can lead to a political solution of the current stalemate, respecting the rule of law, human rights and the will of the Ukrainian people.
The Prime Minister and I discussed the European Union-Ukraine Association Agreement and its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. We both continue to believe that the Association Agreement is the best way to assist the political and economic modernisation of the country.
Poland itself is a good example of the transformational power that Association Agreements between the European Union and Central and Eastern European countries had, back in the 90ies, well before these countries' accession to the European Union.
And in fact we believe the European past of Ukraine would bring progress of the kind that Europe has been able to support in countries like Poland.
Just one fact: In 1990 Polish GDP per capita was above the Ukrainian one by 100 US dollars. Today the Polish GDP per capita is above the Ukrainian about 9000 dollars. This shows, in fact, what a closer relation with the European Union can bring. And this also shows that these arguments suggesting that the association agreements are detrimental to the economy of the countries that signed them are completely false.
We equally remain engaged in continuing our bilateral assistance for Ukraine. This assistance has to serve the real needs of the country and the objectives of political association and economic integration with the European Union. We are ready to look at all the possibilities with the relevant instruments from the neighbourhood instruments to cooperation with the EIB, to technical assistance and also to implementing our offer already made of macro financial assistance.
During this meeting, Prime Minister Tusk and I also discussed the economic situation in Europe. We have made massive efforts to beat the crisis. Signs of recovery are multiplying but many challenges remain and we cannot say the crisis is over when unemployment is still so high.
To firm up the recovery we must keep up our reform efforts focusing on ways to make our economies more competitive. In the context of the European Semester we will take stock of progress on these reforms at the upcoming European Council.
The Prime Minister and I agree that investing smartly in Europe's future is essential. The EU budget is a major source of public investments for many of our member states, including Poland.
The structural funds have a central role to play. As I conclude, let me say I am very pleased that Poland was the first country to officially submit its partnership agreement. Poland has done it exactly January 10. This sets out the strategy for deployment of more than 82 billion euros under the European Union Cohesion Policy in Poland for 2014-2020 to leverage growth and jobs.
Prime Minister, dear friend, thank you very much for a very useful meeting, and thank you once again for coming to Brussels to discuss these issues that are of utmost importance for Poland and for the European Union.