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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Valedictory speech by President Barroso
European Parliament plenary session
Strasbourg, 21 October 2014
Mr President, Honourable Members,
First of all, I would like to thank you for the invitation to address this Parliament in what would be the last time I have this opportunity. In fact, we are coming to the end of my second mandate as the President of the European Commission and I am very happy to be here with you and my colleagues to present to you our bilan, since this is my second Commission, I think I can also refer to the last ten years.
I want to share with you my feelings, my emotions, what I think about the way the European Union has responded to these very challenging times and what I think are the most important challenges for the future.
I think you can agree with me that these have been exceptional and challenging times. Ten years of crisis, and response of the European Union to this crisis. Not only the financial and sovereignty debt crisis – let’s not forget at the beginning of my first mandate we had a constitutional crisis, when two founding members of the European Union rejected, in referenda, the Constitutional Treaty. So we had a constitutional crisis, we had a sovereign debt and financial crisis, and in the most acute terms we now have a geopolitical crisis, as a result of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
The constitutional crisis that we had was in fact solved through the Lisbon Constitutional Treaty. The reality is that at that time, many people were saying that it would be impossible for the European Union to find a new institutional setting. And in fact there were moments of ambiguity and doubt. But basically, we could keep most of the acquis of the European Union, including most of the new elements of the Lisbon Constitutional Treaty, which was ratified by all Member States including those that today seem to have forgotten that they have ratified the Lisbon Treaty.
More recently – because I learned to leave to the end the economic issues because they are still with us – we had this very serious challenge and threat to our stability, in Europe, coming from the unacceptable behaviour of Russia regarding Ukraine. And we took a principled position. We offered Ukraine an association agreement and a free trade agreement and I am happy that, in spite of all the difficulties, Ukraine was there, signing and ratifying the association agreement, and I want to congratulate this Parliament, because the same day at the same hour the Parliament in Ukraine was ratifying this agreement, you were also ratifying the agreement showing you can offer hope to Ukraine as part of the European family of nations.
At the moment I am speaking to you, this crisis is not yet solved – we know that. But I think we can be proud that we have kept a position of principle, that we have condemned in the most unequivocal terms the actions of Russia and that in fact an association agreement was ratified, not only with Ukraine, but also with Georgia and Moldova because I believe we have a duty to those countries that are looking to Europe with their spirit and their hope to share with us the same future and because they want to share with us the same values.
At this moment we are still mediating and, today, there is a meeting mediated by the Commission on energy with the Russian government and the Ukrainian government, so a political negotiated solution is possible, we are working for that. It is in the interest of all the parties to have a political agreement, but a political agreement that respects the principles of international law, a political agreement that respects the right of country that is our neighbour to decide its own future and a political agreement that respects the sovereignty, the independence of that country. So, we should be proud of what we have been doing in this very challenging geopolitical crisis.
And we also had the financial and sovereign debt crisis. The reality is that the crisis was not born in Europe, but the fact is that because we were not prepared, because the Euro-area had not yet the instruments, we were very much affected by it – not only in financial terms, in economic terms, in social terms and in political terms. I think this crisis was probably the biggest since the beginning of the European integration process in the 50s of the last century. Let’s now put things into perspective.
Dear Members of Parliament,
Let’s remind ourselves what was the main opinion of most analysts in the economic and financial media, or even many of our countries or outside of Europe, about what could happen: everybody was predicting Greek exit, Greece exiting the Euro, and, of course, Greece exiting Euro would certainly, immediately have had a cascading effect in other countries, a domino effect that was indeed already felt in countries such as Ireland or Portugal. But let’s not forget, Spain was also under very heavy pressure, and Italy. We were staring into the abyss. I remember well what happened in discussions in the margins of G20 in Cannes in 2011, I remember well when analysts were predicting with almost unanimity a Greek exit and at least 50% of them were predicting the implosion of the Euro. And what happened? Not only was there no exit of the Euro, now we are to welcome the 19th member of the Euro, Lithuania will join us in the 1st of January 2015. And not only did Greece not leave the Euro area, it has enlarged and the European Union has been enlarging as well. This is a point that has been very much underestimated in our analysis.
2004, the year I had the pleasure and the honour to assume the leadership of the European Commission, do you remember that we were 15? Today, we have 28 countries. So we have almost doubled the membership of the European Union during this crisis. Is there a better proof of the resilience and the capacity of adaptation of our Union? The fact that we were able to remain united and open during the crisis I think confirms the extraordinary resilience and the strength of the European Union and this should not be underestimated.
I know that, for some, these things do not count for much. They are in a way making an idealisation of the past; they dream probably of a closed Europe; they think Europe was better when half of Europe was under totalitarian communism. I don’t think that. I think Europe today is better than when half of Europe was under communism. The fact that the European Union was able, during all this crisis, to open, to consolidate and to unite on a continental scale almost all of Europe around the values of peace, of freedom and of justice, I think it is a great thing we should commemorate and not to be ashamed of, as some seem to be.
So, this is I think also a reason to commemorate. Many people were predicting, as you probably remember, those of you following these issues at that time, that the European Commission would not be able to function with 25 or 27 or 28 Members, that the European Union would be blocked. The reality is that the European Union was not blocked by the enlargement; the reality that I can share with you now is that sometimes it was more difficult to put together some of the founding Members of the Union than all the 28 countries of Europe.
So I think we should be proud of that as well, collectively, because the European Union was able to remain united and open during the crisis. And when I say open, I mean it in all senses of the word, including with an open attitude towards the world. For instance, when we have promoted a proactive climate agenda after the failure of the Doha Development Round and the Doha trade talks. And we are now leading in that sense, because I believe that trade can be one of the best ways to support growth globally and in the European Union. Or when we, because it was an initiative of the European Union, went to the former President of the United States of America, inviting him and convincing him to organise the first G20 meeting at Heads of State or Government level, because that was a way of having a global cooperative approach and to avoid the return to ugly, nasty protectionism. That could be a temptation in times of crisis. So we were able to keep Europe not only united and, in fact, enlarging its membership, but also open to the rest of the world.
But now, are we stronger or are we weaker? I know that the most critical people today will say that we are weaker. But are we really?
In fact, when the crisis erupted, we had almost no instruments to respond to it. We were facing, as it was said at that time, an unprecedented crisis. Yet we had no mechanisms, for instance to support the countries that were facing the immediate threat of default. A lot has been done. We have collectively, the Commission and the Member States and always with the strong support of the Parliament, we have created a new system of governance. We have today a much more reinforced governance system than before, including with unprecedented powers for the community institutions, and we have done everything to keep the community method at the centre of our integration. For instance, the Commission today has more powers in terms of governance of the Eurozone than before the crisis. The European Central Bank has today the possibility to make direct supervision of the banks in Europe, something that would have been considered impossible earlier; it would have been almost unimaginable before the crisis. And I remember when we spoke about the banking union, when I gave an interview saying that we need a banking union, I received some phone calls from capitals saying ‘Why are you speaking about the banking union? This is not in the Treaties’. And I responded, ‘Yes it is not in the Treaties, but we need it if we want to fulfil the objective of the Treaties, namely the objective of stability and growth’. And today we have a banking union.
If we look at things in perspective and we think where we were ten years ago and where we are now, we can say with full rigour and in complete observance of the truth that today the European Union, at least in the euro area, is more integrated and with reinforced competences, and we have now, through the community method, more ways to tackle crisis, namely in the euro zone. Not only in the system of governance in the banking union, but also in the legislation of financial stability, financial regulation, financial supervision.
We have presented around 40 new pieces of legislation that were all of them approved by the European Parliament. And once again I want to thank you, because in almost all those debates the European Parliament and the European Commission were on the same side of the debate and were for more ambition, not less ambition for Europe. And so today, I can say that we are stronger, because we have a more integrated system of governance, because we have legislation to tackle abuses in the financial markets, because we have much clearer system of supervision and regulation. So, I think we are now better prepared than we were before to face a crisis, if a crisis like the ones we have seen before should come in the future.
Of course, you can say that there are many difficulties still. Yes, and I am going to say a word about this in a moment regarding the prospects for growth, but please do not forget where we were. We were very close to default, or, to use a less polite word, to a bankruptcy of some of our Member States. And look at where we are now. From the countries that had to ask for adjustment programmes, Portugal and Ireland exited the programme successfully. Ireland is now one of the fastest growing countries in Europe. And in fact all the others that were under the imminent threat of collapsing, are now in a much more stable mood. Spain, that asked for a programme for the banks, also has improved successfully. So in fact only two countries of all those, because we should not also forget the Central and Eastern European countries that also had adjustment programmes, even if they were not yet in the euro area, only two countries are still completing their adjustment programmes.
The deficits now on average in the Eurozone are 2.5%. This is much less than in the United States or in Japan. So, in terms of stability, we are much better now than before. By the way, the Eurozone has a trade surplus. The European Union in general now will have a surplus in goods, in services and, for the first time in many years, in agriculture.
I am saying that because very often the opinion in some of the political sectors is that we are losing with globalisation. This is not the case. Some countries of our Union in fact are not winning that battle, but on average we can say that Europe is gaining the global battle in terms of competition, namely in terms of trade and investment.
But of course, growth is still timid. I think that basically we cannot say that the crisis is completely over, because threats remain, but we have won the battle of stability. Today nobody in the world will honestly bet on the end of the euro. The euro has shown that it is a very strong, credible and indeed stable currency. The reality is that our growth is still timid and clearly below expectations.
So what can we do for growth? This is the important question. And for that I need to make a reminder once again. I know very well that very often the European Union policy and namely the European Commission policy has been presented as completely focused on austerity. I think this is a caricature.
We have constantly asked at least for three important lines – fiscal consolidation certainly, for the countries that are feeling the pressure of the markets. It would be completely irresponsible if they could not frontload a programme of rigour to correct their public finances, but we have always said with equal vigour, probably some would not like to listen, the need for structural reforms, for competitiveness, because the reality is that even before the crisis we were growing under our potential, that is the reality, and with serious problem of lack of competitiveness in some of our countries and so that is why we needed more ambitious structural reforms.
But we have also argued in favour of investment. I have always said that we need more investment, public and private investment. Private investment will come the more we show that we have competitive economies that we can attract private investment. Indeed I am now happy to see that most of our countries, certainly at a different pace, but they are pursuing ambitious structural reforms that would have been considered completely impossible before the crisis.
And the reality is, if we want to be honest in terms of the analysis that the countries that have suffered the most during the financial crisis were precisely those that have lost in terms of cost competitiveness before the crisis. And now, for instance the reforms that have been made by Spain, by Ireland, by Portugal, by Greece, are impressive.
Now, apart from the political consolidation and the structural reforms, we have always seen the need for more investment. Private investment, but public investment as well. You will remember the debate about the MFF. President Schultz remembers certainly. We were together in many meetings asking the Member States to do more in terms of investment and the most important instrument we have at European level for investment is the Multiannual Financial Framework, that is around one trillion euros.
So if there is not more ambitious investment it was not because of a lack of ambition of this Commission, or a lack of ambition of this Parliament. It was because of the opposition of some capitals. This is the reality. We are for solid investment, targeted investment for growth. Not only with the MFF. Remember the proposals that for instance here in the State of the Union speeches with you I have put forward. The increase of the capital for the EIB that finally was agreed. The project bonds that the Member States have accepted, but only as pilot project bonds. The facility that we have created for SMEs with loans from the EIB and funds from the structural funds, from our budget. Unfortunately only two countries wanted to pursue that line.
Or, for instance, the programme for youth, the Youth Guarantee that we have proposed and that the Member States have agreed. But now with the Youth Employment Initiative, only two countries have accepted to have a dedicated programme for youth employment.
So, my dear colleagues, let’s be clear: we are for investment. I wish all the best to the new Commission and to my friend and colleague Jean-Claude Juncker, to have the support of the Member States for a more ambitious investment programme for the next years. I believe this is possible now, I believe the awareness is much bigger on this matter. But once again this is part of a comprehensive strategy that combines fiscal consolidation with structural reforms and investment, and, of course, all the measures taken by us in terms of the banking union and in terms of financial regulation for stability.
And I’m saying this with this vigour because I think it would be now a mistake, after everything we have done, to give up, to show less determination, to abandon the road of structural reform. I think we have done a part of the job, stability is broadly there, growth, even if it is slower than what we would like to have, but now we need determination to complete the reforms so that sustainable growth, not growth fuelled by debt, excessive public or private debt – because such growth is artificial, it’s a fictional growth, and afterwards, sooner or later, we would pay the price – but sustainable growth – that I believe it is possible if we continue the courageous path of reforms and a stronger governance for the European Union.
I don’t have the time now to go over all the other policies we have been developing over the years. But let me just highlight one or two, because I think they are very much at the moment of decision, and I think they are important.
I’m extremely proud that is was my Commission in my first mandate, in 2007, that put forward the most ambitious programme for climate protection in the world. And we are still leading in the world in terms of the climate agenda.
In fact, we were able to join the climate agenda with the energy security agenda, and I’m saying that because this week we are going to have an important discussion in Brussels at Heads of State and Government level, and I hope that the European Union will keep its leadership role – of course not to be isolated but to have others, because we have a responsibility towards our planet. And this is was certainly one of the great advances of these years, that the European Union was able to make the most important and bold steps in terms of fighting climate change.
Another area where I think we could very proud is – in spite of all the restrictions because of our financial situation – that it was possible in the MFF to get 30% more for Horizon 2020, for research and technology. I think there is a great opportunity now for us to do more in that area, as also in the culture side, with our Creative Europe programme.
The reality is that in some areas it was possible, in spite of the economic and financial crisis, to increase investment at European level.
But I’m also very proud that in spite of the pressures of our budgets, we could always be there in terms of development aid and neighbourhood policy.
Whenever there was a big tragedy in the world, from the tsunami in Indonesia to the recent Ebola crisis, from the Syrian refugee crisis to Darfur, we were there, we were among the first. And I think we, Europeans, should also be proud of that, because we are still, together with our Member States, the most important donor for development aid in the world. That is something that corresponds very much to our values and I’m happy that in spite of all the crises we did not abandon our obligations in terms of development cooperation.
I have already said a word about trade. I think it is very important to keep an ambitious trade agenda, an open Europe but for free and fair trade. And the Commission has concluded a record number of agreements, not only with South Korea, Singapore, Central America – the first region to reach an agreement -, Peru, Ecuador, recently with Canada, with Western Africa, Eastern Africa and Southern Africa. And I could also mention some others that are now progressing, like Japan, the United States and also an investment agreement with China.
So we are the most important trade bloc in the world. We are the biggest economy in the world.
And I’m saying that because today I know it’s very fashionable the pessimism, the defeatism about Europe, what I call the intellectual glamour of pessimism. But I believe that we have a good record to show and I believe that together, collectively, we are much stronger and we can better defend our interests and protect our values.
Dear colleagues – I call you colleagues because I believe we have been sometimes in discussions but we have been colleagues in this great enterprise that is the European project -, I think politically we have some lessons to draw.
One is that we have shown great resilience. I think we can say that the forces of integration are stronger than the forces of disintegration. And I believed that day and night, sometimes in very dramatic moments, sometimes when I had to make dramatic appeals to some capitals: to the richer countries, asking them to show more solidarity; and to the poorer countries asking them to show more responsibility.
Sometimes we have done it very discretely, it’s true. The European Commission is probably more discreet than others. I did not want the Commission to be part of the cacophony of different voices during the most acute moments of the crisis. It was extremely market sensitive that situation. But I can tell you, in my full conscience, that we have done everything we could with existing instruments to avoid the fragmentation of the euro or to avoid a division in the European Union. And I very often had to call on my colleagues in the European Council, Heads of State and Government, to show the ethics of European responsibility.
But one of the lessons I draw from this is that if eventually it was possible to come to decisions, it is true that it was sometimes extremely painful and difficult. And took time. We have said also, and I think it is something that we can all agree: democracy is slower than the markets are.
The Commission would have preferred, and I’m sure this Parliament as well, decisions to be bolder, more comprehensive, faster. But we are a Union of democratic states, we are not a super state. And we have to respect different sensitivities.
One of the conclusions I draw from these ten years of experiences is the need to cooperate between institutions. I know sometimes it is more popular to put forward impossible ideas and to criticise others. But I firmly believe that we need to engage with different institutions, that it is not a solution to oppose the countries to the European Union. On the contrary, we have to show to our countries that they are stronger if they are part of the European Union. That we are not diluting their national identity but, on the contrary, we are asking them to share their sovereignty so they can project better their interests globally. I’m firmly convinced of this.
And I’m saying this to you now, as I am leaving in a few days: my only interest is that these lessons are learned so that we do not repeat some mistakes in the future. At the same time, I think we can say that it is not through confrontation but through cooperation that we can attain our objectives.
At the moment I prepare to hand over this very challenging and interesting job to my good friend Jean-Claude Juncker, I want to say here, on my behalf and on behalf of all my colleagues of the Commission, that we wish the new Commission all the best, that they have a great challenge ahead of them but that they could count also on our support. And I’m sure of the support that this Parliament is going to give to them.
Because, Mr President, the relations were not always perfect. But I think you can agree that we were able to establish a fruitful relationship between the Parliament and the Commission.
I’ve been in this Parliament more than 100 times. There was never a Commission that was so often represented in the Parliament as my two Commissions. We have established this cooperation and I’m so grateful because this Parliament, sometimes with very strong demands, was always supportive of the community method, was always supporting the community institutions. And I believe this is very important for the future of Europe.
My dear colleagues of the European project,
The way to solve the problems we have in Europe is not through revolution and even less through counter-revolution. It’s by compromise, it’s by reform. Evolution and reform. We have to reform to adapt to the new challenges but not with new clashes between the institutions, not with clashes against our countries. And I believe that if this idea of strong cooperation putting the European common good above all else, I think my colleague and friend Jean-Claude Juncker and his new Commission will have success, of course based on the support I’m sure you are going to give them.
Because the European Union is a union of values. In these last days I had to face many journalists and they asked me ‘what was your most emotional moment? Which moment did you prefer?’ And I have many, and I also had very difficult ones, to be honest. But one of my most emotional moment was when, on behalf of the European Union, together with Martin Schulz and the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, we received the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the European Union.
I think this was a powerful reminder sent to us from the global community that we count in this world and that what we do is very important. That the values that were at the origin of the creation of our Union, namely the value of peace, are still at our essence today. And that we have to fight for them.
And I think is the moment I really said I want to share with all those in the different institutions, including this Parliament, that have been working for a united, open and stronger Europe. And when I leave this office, with all my colleagues at the Commission, I can tell you that we have not achieved everything we could, or everything we would have liked to have achieved, but I think we have worked with the right conscience, putting the global interest of the European Union above specific interests. And I believe that now there are conditions to continue to do work for a united, open and stronger Europe.
I thank you for your attention.
Auf wiedersehen, goodbye, au revoir, adeus.
Muito obrigado, thank you very much.
Following the statements of the Members of the Parliament, President Barroso made the following closing remarks:
I should like to take up a number of the points raised by the previous speakers. Firstly, I believe that proof that we – and by “we” I mean the Commission of which I have had the honour of being President – are on the right track lies in the fact that the criticisms have come from the opposite ends of the spectrum, though often couched in the same terms, resolutely ignoring the difficulties and extraordinary challenges that we have had to face and failing to put forward any coherent response.
The truth is that we have been through possibly the worst economic and financial crisis we have seen since the countries of Europe began to come together and that it was not the European Union or Europe that spawned the crisis. This is what some defenders of national sovereignty, as they like to call themselves, do not or will not understand. It was not Europe that created excessive private debt or caused the financial sector to behave irresponsibly. Quite the opposite – this all took place under national scrutiny, or rather lack thereof. Europe is the answer. We now have one of the most ambitious regulatory and supervisory systems in the world, if not the most ambitious. In other words, saying that Europe is worse off because of the European Union is simply not true. It shows a complete lack of respect and a lack of intellectual rigour. Europe is not responsible for the financial crisis, which had its roots in the United States. Europe had its weaknesses, but what the European Union did was to respond. The blame for this does not lie with the European Union, and I believe this is something that all those who share the European ideal – be they at the left, right or centre of the political spectrum – should have the courage to state, because by remaining silent we will be reinforcing the populist rhetoric of the extreme right and extreme left.
I listened carefully to those of you who said that populism was on the rise and who laid the blame for this at the door of the European Union. Ladies and gentlemen, this is not true. It is abundantly clear that populism and xenophobia exist outside the European Union. Look at the anti-immigrant incidents that have taken place in Switzerland. Look at what happened in Norway when that terrorist killed all those young people because he was opposed to a multicultural Europe. Look at the Tea Party movement in the United States. Is Europe to blame for America’s Tea Party movement?
We are currently seeing an aggressive form of populism around the world, which espouses arguments from both the left and the right. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference. So to say the European Union is responsible for this shows a lack of intellectual rigour and a lack of political integrity. What we have to do, as Europeans, is to demonstrate that it was not Europe that caused the crisis or the public debt in the Member States. There was little that Europe could do when, for example, one Member State falsified its accounts. This is something Europe had to face. The first initiative of my second Commission was to ask the Member States to give us more powers to supervise national statistics, because in my first Commission this was rejected. And not by Greece. It was rejected by the big Member States, which were reluctant to hand more powers over to the European Union. So if we really want to have a debate, let us be quite clear and strict in terms of intellectual integrity and political candour.
Ladies and gentlemen, there is one thing that I would like to say to you with the greatest of conviction. The team that I have had the honour of heading has worked with enormous commitment and diligence, whilst always putting Europe’s interests first. There is something that I want to say to you, since this is a political assembly with a wealth of political dynamics, but where the emphasis is always on the common European good. My Commission was not made up of colleagues from the EPP, socialists or liberals. It was made up of people who worked for Europe. My party is the EPP and I am proud of that, but, as President of the Commission, my party is Europe and that is the message I wish to convey, in particular to the major forces of the pro-European centre-left and centre-right. Differences must, of course, be aired, but they must not be allowed to weaken the pro-European camps. We cannot hand the extreme right or extreme left anything else on a plate. Pro-European forces must come together. They must have the courage to defend Europe. They must do so at national level, and not just here in Strasbourg. We need a major coalition of this nature for Europe because I believe that we have the strength to win the battles of the present and those of the future.
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[Check Against Delivery]
President-elect of the European Commission
Setting Europe in Motion: President-elect Juncker’s Main Messages from his speech before the European Parliament
Statement in the European Parliament plenary session ahead of the vote on the College
Strasbourg, 22 October 2014
Time for Action
“From Ukraine to Syria, to the Middle East and North Africa, our neighbourhood remains shaky and unstable. Scores of immigrants arriving at Europe’s external frontiers in search of a better future remind us of the need to reconcile the quest of solidarity with the demand for safe borders. And cross-border health threats like the Ebola epidemic have seized citizens with an understandable degree of fear.
We cannot and will not sweep these mounting problems under the carpet. We cannot and will not turn a blind eye. That is why I insist that the time for European action is now. That is why I state loud and clear in front of this House that Europe’s problems cannot be put on the back burner.”
Breaking out of Silo Mentalities
“When I presented my new team on 10 September, I wanted to show that I wish to deliver quickly and effectively. That is why my Commission will not only look different but will also work differently. Not as the sum of its parts, but as a team. Not through silo mentalities, clusters and portfolio frontiers, but as a collegiate, political body. I want a political, executive Commission at the service of the common good and of Europe’s citizens.”
“The hearings have revealed a broad consensus around the team that I have proposed. You have, however, also expressed some concerns – during the hearings and in your contacts with me. I am ready to swiftly address the issues that you identified as relevant to the functioning of the new Commission.
I listened to you carefully and will briefly explain how I want to address your concerns on a number of issues:
A new Slovenian Commissioner, Violeta Bulc, passed her hearing in record time. This was possible thanks to the portfolio changes completed without any delay. Violeta will be responsible for the Transport portfolio, while Maroš Šefčovič, an experienced member of the outgoing Commission, will be Vice-President in charge of Energy Union.
I have decided to enlarge Frans Timmermans’ remit to include the horizontal responsibility for sustainable development. As you know, sustainable development is a principle enshrined in the EU Treaties (Article 3 TEU) and should thus be taken into account by all institutions in all their actions and policies. It is also part of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights for which Frans is horizontally in charge. Sustainability and environmental concerns are important to our citizens. We have the tools to address them in the new Commission: with powerful green portfolios that have big budgets and regulatory teeth.
Responsibility for medicines and pharmaceutical products will stay with the Directorate-General for Health because I agree with you that medicines are not goods like any other. The relevant policy will be developed jointly by Vytenis Andriukaitis and by Elżbieta Bieńkowska, who showed her incredible talents in her hearing.
Space policy can make an important contribution to the further development of a strong industrial basis in Europe – one of the priorities of my Commission. It is for this reason that I have decided it will remain in the remit of the Directorate-General for the Internal Market and Industry, in the safe hands of Elżbieta Bieńkowska.
Last but not least, I have decided to place Citizenship under the responsibility of Dimitris Avramopoulos Commissioner in charge of Migration and Home Affairs – issues, very close to the heart of Europe’s citizens – who will work in close cooperation on this matter with Justice and Consumers Commissioner Vera Jourova. I wish at the same time to reiterate my confidence and trust in Tibor Navracsics who performed excellently in his hearing and demonstrated a strong European commitment – which is why you considered him qualified as Commissioner.”
I took note of the intense debates around investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations. Let me once again state my position clearly, that I had set out on 15 July in front of this House and that you will find in my Political Guidelines: My Commission will not accept that the jurisdiction of courts in the EU Member States be limited by special regimes for investor-to-state disputes. The rule of law and the principle of equality before the law must also apply in this context.
The negotiating mandate foresees a number of conditions that have to be respected by such a regime as well as an assessment of its relationship with domestic courts. There is thus no obligation in this regard: the mandate leaves it open and serves as a guide.
I had thought my commitment on this point was very clear but I am happy to clarify and reiterate it here today as a number of you have asked me do so: In the agreement that my Commission will eventually submit to this House for approval there will be nothing that limits for the parties the access to national courts or that will allow secret courts to have the final say in disputes between investors and States.
I have asked Frans Timmermans, in his role as First Vice-President in charge of the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, to advise me on the matter. There will be no investor-to-state dispute clause in TTIP if Frans does not agree with it too.
I am confident that – with your support – we can negotiate an ambitious trade agreement with the U.S. along these lines, with full respect of European interests and the rule of law.
Bridging the Investment Gap
“Let me be clear when I say that my Commission, like every Commission before it, will treat Member States equally. And we will be tough when we need to be tough. It is time we had a real ‘grand bargain’, a broad coalition of countries and the main political parties who will work together on a three pillar structure: structural reforms, fiscal credibility and investment.
The response to the current economic challenges cannot be top-down. I do not believe in miracles – there is no magic bullet or growth button to push in Brussels. Structural reforms, fiscal credibility and investment at national and EU level have to go hand in hand.”
“The level of investment in the EU dropped by just under €500 billion, or 20%, after its latest peak in 2007. We are facing an investment gap. We have to work to bridge that gap.
Europe can help make this happen. As you know, I intend to present an ambitious €300 billion Investment package for Jobs, Growth and Competitiveness.
I will not now tell you all the details of what this package will contain. How can I when my new Team has yet to even meet to discuss it?
You will just have to have a little faith. You have my word that my College will start working on this day and night from the moment we take office.
If you give us your support today, we will present the Package before Christmas. This is not a promise, it is an affirmation.”
The First legislative initiatives of the Juncker Commission
“Every day, Europe is losing out by not unlocking the great potential of our huge digital single market. Jobs that should be there are not being created. Ideas – the DNA of Europe’s economy! – do not materialise to the extent they should. Let us change this for the better.”
“In tomorrow’s increasingly competitive world, Europe will only be able to thrive if we get it right on Energy Union.
In view of the discussions that will take place in the coming days on this, I would plead with Member States to find an agreement in the European Council so that we can go to Paris with a clear mandate. We all have to be pulling in the same direction if progress is to be made.”
“Citizens are losing faith, extremists on the left and right are nipping at our heels, our competitors are taking liberties. It is time we breathed a new lease of life into the European project.
Huge challenges await us. It is up to us to shape these challenges. If we want a role to play in the future we have to play it now. It is up to us to ensure that the handwriting of the European Social Model is clearly visible in everything we do. Because Europe is the protective shield for all of us who can call this magnificent continent their home.
I stand here in front of you, in this House that is the beacon of European democracy, and call upon you to set Europe in motion again.”Read more
[Check Against Delivery]
Vice-President for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro
Introductory statement on the European Council debate at the European Parliament
Strasbourg, 21 October 2014
I am honoured to be here today to present to you the views of the European Commission on the European Council meeting this week. The summit will seek to agree on a 2030 Climate and Energy framework, discuss the economy and external developments including Ukraine, and will also address the Ebola epidemic.
Let me start with a few remarks on the economy. This week’s meeting is not one for decisions in this regard. It will be for the new European Commission to initiate the new European Semester in a few weeks from now.
Throughout the crises years, our comprehensive response was always built upon the three pillars of fiscal consolidation, structural reforms and targeted investments.
This is valid still today. While the economic recovery in the EU is fragile and uneven, we are seeing that efforts are paying off. Those countries, which have done the most, are now better than off than those who are lagging behind in addressing the root causes of the crisis.
The reformed European economic governance has been instrumental in making this progress possible. Together we have changed the way that Europe’s economies and financial sector are legislated, supervised and regulated. The framework for that has been created. Now we need to stick to it and to fully implement it. This is very important for restoring confidence.
Agreeing a new framework on energy and climate policies for the period up to 2030 at this European Council will show how credible we are in transforming our economies and societies towards a low-carbon future.
The proposals in our current 2020 framework have been of strategic importance. They have put our Union firmly into a position of global leadership and were widely recognised as a key contributor to the global fight against climate change.
Importantly, we came to these agreements by finding the right mix of ambition and realism. By combining two strands – environment and energy – consensus was possible. There are economic advantages of climate-friendly innovation and investment and the economic case for cost-effective de-carbonization is clearer than ever.
We also broadened the scope to include energy security. Recent challenges to our security and the geo-strategic dimension have given energy security concerns even more impetus. Energy security must therefore be a part of the climate agenda.
Yet, sadly, our European climate ambition is far from being matched by the two most important polluters globally, the United States and China. Public opinion in Europe accepted the targets of 20-20-20 by 2020, even if they were aware of the difficulties in implementing them. The EU felt let down when a comprehensive global deal didn’t happen, despite pressing others to follow suit. But developments afterwards have shown that the Union was – and remains – on the right side of the argument.
There is now a renewed momentum towards a global, binding climate treaty to be agreed in Paris next year. Agreeing on our own 2030 framework now will set the tone. It would provide our Union with key leverage in the crucial phase of the international negotiations.
The Commission’s “2030” proposal from January is the frame of reference for this EU debate. Our proposals are clear, ambitious and balanced, with a 40% emission reduction target at its heart. Now the ball is in the court of the European Council. Leaders must assume their responsibility. We expect difficult discussions but we are confident that a decisive deal is within reach now.
The third issue to be discussed at the European Council is the external situation – in particular the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
With the unsettled conflict in Ukraine we realise more than ever that, to defend our values and protect our interests, Europe needs to take the lead and be active. We need to continue contributing to a political solution. At the same time, we need to demonstrate that unlawful and uncooperative behaviour carries heavy consequences.
The situation in Ukraine is a clash of world views that touches the very heart of the European Union, its principles, its values and what it symbolises: freedom, democracy and rule of law. This is why the EU, from the start, took a principled position against Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of Ukraine’s eastern regions.
And since then, we have done all we could to make the most of a bad situation. A political and peaceful solution of the conflict always remained our first priority. Not any solution, but one that guaranteed the sovereignty, independence and unity of Ukraine. Our relations with our eastern neighbours are not detrimental to their relations with their other neighbours. We never sought exclusivity in our relations. In fact, the European Union has invested a lot in a strategic partnership with the Russian Federation, convinced that it is in our common interest to cooperate.
The developments are still unfolding. The European Union continues to work for a political, negotiated solution. The European Commission has made every effort in this regard by taking the lead in promoting trilateral talks in sensitive issues such as trade and energy. Just today, the Commission is mediating another round of talks on the gas issue.
On the security front, priority needs to be given to the full implementation of the Minsk agreements. This is the basis to restore and consolidate trust. The ceasefire needs to be respected and verified, elections in the Donbas need to be held in accordance with Ukrainian law and the border needs to be controlled and monitored.
We cannot give up on Ukraine. We cannot give up reaching a solution. If we don’t reach a solution, at risk would be both Ukraine’s independence and also the security, stability and unity of the European continent. We must defend the credibility of a multilateral order based on values, equality and the rule of law.
At the same time, we are greatly concerned by the humanitarian and security situation in Syria and Iraq. It is deteriorating dramatically day by day.
The rapid progression of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) is alarming. Military action in line with international law is necessary. But it is not enough. It needs to be part of a wider effort comprising measures in the political/diplomatic, counter-terrorism and terrorism funding, humanitarian and communication fields.
The Commission has been active on the humanitarian part. To date, around €2.9 billion has been mobilised to those in need in Syria and Iraq. But the security situation negatively impacts the delivery of aid. While military intervention will be the key to defeating ISIL, it is imperative not to link the delivery of humanitarian aid to military objectives. Humanitarian access should not be put at risk.
Unfortunately, there is yet another crisis which the European Council will address, and this is Ebola. The Ebola outbreak is not just a problem for West Africa. It is a challenge for the international community as a whole – and Europe has a responsibility to do its part.
The Commission and the Member States have provided assistance to the countries affected and to the humanitarian effort on the ground, already more than 600 million euros. And it is not just money: 12 Member States are providing medical and other equipment through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. But we need to do more to help the affected African countries and also protect our own citizens. The Commission discussed this issue at today’s College and will feed into the discussions at the European Council.
This week’s European Council will cover very telling issues as far as the need for European unity is concerned. What the European Union is for. What it should do. What challenges it faces.
I look forward to hearing your views here today on how we can work together in order to tackle these challenges.
It is with this spirit of cooperation and with the crucial support of this House that Europe must be successful in coping with today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.
Thank you very much.Read more
[Check Against Delivery]
José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Ten years at the helm of the European Commission: Some reflections on Europe
London, 19 October 2014
Ladies and gentlemen,
They say a week is a long time in politics. Well I can tell you that this decade has certainly been a long time in European politics.
In 2004, the year I started in this job, the world looked very different. We’d just recovered from the dot-com boom, but smartphones were still science fiction. The Iraq invasion had just finished, the question of post-Kyoto was only just coming onto the agenda. Diplomats were still reporting these developments back to our then 15 European Union capitals by telegram.
A lot has changed since then, not least the successful expansion of the EU to 28 member countries, almost doubling its membership. But there has been one constant after my first time here: for the past ten years Robin and his colleagues here at Chatham House have kindly extended me a standing invitation to speak here. You have had the patience of angels – and I am delighted to finally be able to be with you today.
The past years have brought unprecedented economic shocks and seismic shifts in global geopolitics. Europe has faced challenges no-one could have foreseen in 2004.
It has been my privilege to lead the European Commission, working so that the Union could weather the storm, and emerge more united, more open, and, I hope, stronger.
Europe has shown great resilience. It has shown its capacity to reform.
But there will be further challenges ahead. So today I would like to share with you three reflections on what we could learn from the last ten years, what that could mean for the future of our Union – and the part the UK could play in that.
My first observation is that unity is essential if we are to face the challenges of today.
The crisis dispelled any illusions about how interdependent European economies are, particularly – but not only – for the countries which share the common currency.
When the financial crisis turned into a sovereign crisis and then an economic crisis, the risk was that countries would pull back, and look to protect their own. The risk of fragmentation and disunity was a real and present danger. And that would have had a disastrous impact for all.
Had the European Commission not been so firm in upholding our common rules on state aids, we would have entered a costly subsidies race. A bad way to spend tax-payers money, but also bad news if – like the UK – over half of your trade is with other Europeans, and access to a free market of over 500 million people – the biggest intenal market in the world by value – is one of the big draws for your foreign inward investment.
Had Greece left the euro, the economic and financial damage would have spilled over throughout the single market. Politically, the euro and the European Union would have been shaken to their very foundations.
That is why I fought so hard for a united response: a balance of fiscal responsibility and deep structural reform in the countries concerned, and solidarity and a credible backstop from more prosperous countries.
GREXIT did not happen. Countries like Ireland and Portugal have successfully exited their programmes and are on the path to sustainable growth. And in January Lithuania will become the 19th country to adopt the euro.
My second reflection is that if we stand together, openness to the world is a unique asset.
Because we resisted the pressure to think national at the height of the crisis, Europe was able to speak with authority globally.
The G20 was a European initiative. Through it we obtained a global commitment against protectionism, but also coordinated frameworks for sustainable growth and tough action on financial market irresponsibility and on tax evasion.
And despite the adverse economic conditions, the Commission has promoted open markets and tapped into the growth potential of global trade. We have concluded deals to bring down trade barriers with South Korea, the first of what we call a new generation of trade agreements, and Singapore in Asia, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Central America and with West, East and South African regional groupings. We have just finalised a landmark agreement with Canada. We have also launched negotiations with major partners such as Japan and the United States. Together with the agreement we hope to reach with China on investment, these could add 2.2% to EU GDP.
This is not just about our economic wealth, but about our political relevance on the world stage. If the EU engages as a whole, we can be a shaper in international fora such as the UN, the WTO, and the G7 or the G20.
Exporting our values: peace, security, fairness and the fight against poverty. Standing together to support the democratic right of the people of Ukraine to choose their own destiny. Leading the international debate on climate change.
My third point is that because Europe is much larger and because of the reforms we are making, Europe today is stronger than it was ten years ago. I have no doubts about that. I know for some it’s counterintuitive, but I’m sure that the Europe of 28 counts much more in the world than the Europe of 12 – and I remember that well, when I was foreign minister. The way that the Americans, the Chinese or the Russians look at us today is completely different. Now we count much more in the global decisions than 20 or even ten years ago.
The reality is that in the last decade the European Union’s inherent power of attraction has brought in 13 new countries, almost doubling its membership, increasing its political influence and economic potential and guaranteeing that half a billion people can live in freedom.
It is no secret that some believed that wider and deeper were not mutually compatible, and perhaps even shaped their policies accordingly.
But the consolidation of enlargement to the central and eastern European countries has been successful. The Lisbon Treaty has given us a solid basis for our Union to work effectively with 28 Member States and to stay united in our diversity.
We have laid the ground for more robust economies and better employment prospects for the future. The Commission has used the tools we have to build consensus around three fundamentals.
First, serious structural reforms for jobs and growth that are – unlike the Lisbon Strategy – actually implemented by everyone, big Member States as well as small.
Targeted investment for growth in things like research and training for the jobs of the future, interconnection and energy capacity, by focusing the EU budget on investments that matter, and pressing those who have surpluses to encourage demand.
Dealing with the deficits, planning for macro-economic risk and promoting responsible spending, via the strong economic governance rules the European Commission proposed and is now enforcing.
In short, the same formula of consolidation, structural reform and sensible investment that has got the British economy back in shape these last years.
And we have overhauled financial services regulation and supervision. When I proposed banking union with a single supervisor for euro area banks in an interview with the Financial Times in June 2012 it was met with scepticism and, in some quarters, outright opposition. But today it is a reality. And I remember well when some European Council colleagues, Heads of government, asked me why I was speaking about a banking union if the banking union is not in the treaties. I replied, politely but firmly, that yes, a banking union is not in the treaties but without it we will not be able to fulfil the goals that are set in the treaties, namely stability.
These reforms created the conditions without which it would have been much more difficult for the European Central Bank to reach its independent decision to be ready to use all means to uphold the euro.
The countries which share the euro will need to honour their commitments to structural reform and deepen their cooperation further in the coming years. I believe this should be done through the existing Treaties and avoiding parallel institutions, because that is also the best guarantee of equal treatment for those who have not yet, or will not, join the single currency.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The European Union has reformed fundamentally over the past ten years, and will need to continue on that path. Making Europe stronger – institutionally, politically and economically – is a process of constant improvement. I would say constant reform, not revolution and certainly not counterrevolution.
So where does the UK and its existentialist European debate fit into all of this?
In 2006 I gave the third annual lecture in memory of the observant and incisive journalist Hugo Young. I took as my starting point what he called ‘the hallucinations… that have driven the British debate for so long’. I argued that if our proud nations are to maintain their place and prosperity in a new, complicated globalised world, Europe simply cannot be an add-on.
I still believe that as passionately today.
Just as nearly 70 years ago peace could not be built by one country alone, today even the largest, proudest European nation cannot hope to shape globalisation – or even retain marginal relevance – by itself. It is only together that we have the weight to influence the big picture.
Does that mean a relentless march to one single super-state as some would have us fear? For me the answer is a resolute no. I may prefer a glass or two of good red wine than a pint of beer when I am out on the election trail. But I too come from a country with a long history, a trading nation, proud of its culture and tradition. And it may be a revelation to some, but the vast majority of people living in Europe are also rather attached to their national identity – however they may choose to define it.
I believe that our future is as an ever closer union of the peoples of Europe – acting as sovereign nations to freely pool their effort and power where that can deliver results that are in their own self-interest. My experience is that those countries which use European leverage to project their interests globally matter more. Just look at the evolution of power inside the European Union and in the last ten years. The point is not, as some people suggest, an issue of the trend to a superstate. The point is in terms of power of each country. How can a country better maximise its power and influence in the world, is it in or outside of the European Union? I think that those who are reluctant to use that European leverage to project their interests globally are missing an opportunity to maximise their influence.
My vision of the Europe is as a union of citizens who share the same basic values of peace, freedom, democracy, and a just and decent society.
A union which is stronger because we cherish our diverse histories, cultures and traditions.
That is why I have never challenged the UK’s preferences on the euro – and indeed have personally ensured that every proposal we have made to reform financial services legislation has guaranteed the integrity of our internal market and fairness for everyone, whether in or out of the euro.
I have never argued you should join Schengen and open your borders, nor did I criticise your decision to exercise your opt-out rights under the Treaties. But I have worked to ensure that the UK can re-join the 35 police and criminal law measures identified by the government as key for bringing security to the British people. And that is even more important given the very real and direct threats our societies face today.
Our union is strong because it respects diversity; our Treaties guarantee that, for those who accept the fundamental rules of the club there is always a place, and there is always equality of treatment.
That is why I do not underestimate the very real concerns UK citizens are expressing about Europe. These merit a substantive response.
You don’t like the idea of a huge EU budget. I get that. By the way, it’s not – and with just 1% of Europe’s GDP we will need to fully use the agreed flexibility if we are pay our bills to those we are committed to invest in. Like Cambridge University for example, which consistently tops the tables for winning EU research funding.
But it’s a shame that the political debate here focuses only on absolute figures, when quality of spending is so much more important. This Commission has reformed the budget to focus on providing funding in countries and regions for the things that really matter – investment in research, in young people, in a more connected Europe.
You don’t want to be paying for armies of Eurocrats. I get that. We are cutting one in twenty staff across all EU institutions and agencies. The reforms we have introduced will save €2.7 billion by 2020 and €1.5 billion per year in the long run.
Personally I support the government’s aim to get more of Britain’s best and brightest to work in our institutions. The number of British officials is less than half of what it should be and falling quickly. Constant criticism and a pending existentialist debate do not make us the most attractive employer for young British graduates.
You don’t want Europe to meddle where it should not. I get that. Since 2004, the Commission has cut red tape worth €41 billion to European business. We have not interfered with the height of hairdressers’ heels, or the ergonomic design of office chairs.
We have scrapped legislation on bendy cucumbers – although the supermarkets were the first to complain. We have introduced evidence-based policy-making, consultation and impact assessment as the norm.
There are wide-spread concerns in the UK and elsewhere about abuse of free movement rights. I get that. Already in 2011, after constructive dialogue with the British Government, the Commission took forward changes to the way income support is dealt with under European social security rules. This benefit is now only due to those who have already worked and paid into the UK system. Since then we have undertaken concrete actions to support Member States as they apply the anti-abuse rules, for example on sham marriages.
I believe that any further changes to address some of the concerns raised should not put into question this basic right, which cannot be decoupled from other single market freedoms, the freedom of movement.
The Commission has always been ready to engage constructively in this discussion. But changes to these rules need all countries to agree.
And it is an illusion to believe that space for dialogue can be created if the tone and substance of the arguments you put forward question the very principle at stake and offend fellow Member States. It would be an historic mistake if on these issues Britain were to continue to alienate its natural allies in Central and Eastern Europe, when you were one of the strongest advocates for their accession.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In the years to come the UK could be facing a choice – to stay or leave the European Union. As I have just set out, there are clearly some issues which can – with the right spirit on both sides – be discussed and improved, without putting into question the fundamentals.
But what I do have difficulties with is the assumption – largely unchallenged by politicians here – that there is a permanent tension between the UK interest and the European interest. My experience is to the contrary.
When the UK engages, your voice carries weight, your arguments motivate and your pragmatism convinces.
Let’s take just a few current examples:
– firstly, energy and climate change, where successive British Governments have strongly supported our climate policy proposals. The current Government is fully behind the 40% emissions reduction target which I hope the European Council will agree this Friday;
– secondly, foreign fighters and radicalisation, where the action plan the UK brought to the last European Council meeting found strong endorsement;
– thirdly, Ukraine, where the UK has shown great solidarity and has been among the strongest supporters of a principled European response to unacceptable Russia’s actions.
Just three examples of where Britain is on the right side of the argument, backing the right solutions to the real problems and driving a common approach of the European Union.
But would the UK have been able to accept the costs of climate change mitigation without knowing that competitors would make the same commitment? Could the UK alone have imposed capital market sanctions on Russia without others making similar efforts in other sectors?
In short, could the UK get by without a little help from your friends? My answer is probably not.
It worries me that so few politicians on this side of the Channel are ready to tell the facts as they are. To acknowledge that in today’s world there are some things which we can only do effectively by acting together – as evidenced so well by the government’s Balance of Competences review.
My experience is that you can never win a debate from the defensive. We saw in Scotland that you actually need to go out and make the positive case. In the same way, if you support continued membership of the EU you need to say what Europe stands for and why it is in the British interest to be part of it.
In fact, even if I understand that emotionally the case for keeping the United Kingdom is different in nature, rationally many of the arguments used by the three main political parties in the Scottish debate are just as relevant for British membership of the EU.
And you need to start making that positive case well in advance, because if people read only negative and often false portrayals in their newspapers from Monday to Saturday, you cannot expect them to nail the European flag on their front door on Sunday just because the political establishment tells them it is the right thing to do.
And now I come back to Hugo Young and his hallucinations. Because you should not be under any illusion that it is only about Britain.
Every one of our European countries has its own wish list – and its own red lines. The way we make progress together – united, open and stronger, hopefully – is through pooling our interests. In this club, all members need to accommodate one another.
I created waves in February when asked about the possibility of regions leaving Member States, as I pointed out that negotiating an accession treaty is no easy feat.
Negotiating any major constitutional change is difficult and very risky. And the uncertainty it creates has a direct and immediate upstream impact on confidence, including the investment decisions of industry.
So it is legitimate that British business is expressing concern. Over three-quarters of CBI members want the UK to stay in, because they consider the single market is worth between 62 and 78 billion pounds to the economy. Five out of six City UK members say they do not want to see the UK leave, and the same is true for manufacturers. The Government’s own figures show that some 3 million UK jobs are linked in some way to the single market. And concern is also starting to be expressed by some of your closest international allies, including the US.
The big question that the UK needs to ask itself is this: are you sure you are better off outside than in? Only the British people can weigh up the pros and cons and decide that. From our side, the door has always been, and will always stay open.
As I see it, British membership of the EU is a double win. Being in the EU is good for the UK, and having you in the EU is good for a united, open and stronger Europe.
But maybe it matters little what an outgoing President of the European Commission thinks: this case is one which needs to be made nationally. I know that perfectly. It is now high time to get out there and dispel the illusions.
After ten years in this job, I will of course be a very keen observer of how your debate evolves. In the past years the EU has shown its resilience and its capacity to find creative democratic solutions to the toughest challenges.
By staying united and open, Europe faces the road ahead with a stronger stride. It is for you to decide, but I hope the UK will continue to walk that same path with us.
I thank you for your attention.Read more
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