EU Commission Leading the European Revival

Informal European Council 2012

 

President Barroso stated that the “contracting Member States agreed to respect the Commission’s central role in delivering the Agreement’s objectives in line with the Lisbon Treaty and the Community method. And they agreed to keep the Treaty open to all and compatible with the community method, respecting this European Parliament.

Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission

We are making a root and branch reform of our budgetary and economic policies. Today we had a very detailed discussion on how to boost our economy and this was part of delivering what we have set out to do right from the start: to create financial stability, at the same time to put in place a basis for sustainable growth,” said President Barroso. He underlined that “the Treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism is now ready for signature and the objective is that it enters into force in July 2012.” In his statement, the President explained that the meeting today concentrated on discussing growth and employment, namely the programme against youth unemployment, the problems of our SMEs and the problems of the Internal Market. He later on exhaustedly presented the National Job Plan to tackle youth unemployment and stressed that “to support the small businesses, which form the backbone of our economy, we also must do more internally, with the market access in our single market, but also abroad what they can gain in terms of market access also to reduce the red tape they face and also how to get easier access to finance, because this is one of the main problems SMEs in Europe now face.

The reality is that many of our member states are making impressive reforms, but of course some of those results take time to appear. I believe that if we keep this line we will gain back the confidence, not only of the markets, but mainly, and this is the most important of all, the confidence of our citizens.

Growth and smart fiscal consolidation: “Growth is and has always been at the centre of the Commission’s comprehensive response to the crisis. That is precisely what the structural reform agenda is about. I will propose to Member States to redeploy structural funds to boost growth and job creation even further.”

Youth unemployment: “We cannot accept that almost a quarter of Europe’s young people are unemployed! I will be proposing the creation of joint ‘action teams’ with the Commission, Member States and national social partners, to come up with targeted plans by April to help tackle youth unemployment.

Support for SMEs: “Small businesses are the backbone of the European economy – and they need our help. We must do more to help them through this crisis. The Commission has put proposals on the table to free up available funding, reduce the burden of red tape and address decisively the problem of late or non-payments of outstanding invoices, which are responsible for a quarter of all bankruptcies in Europe. These must be agreed and implemented swiftly.”

We need to do more in concrete terms to create better conditions for growth. And precisely since there is not so much fiscal space for stimulus, because there is no fiscal space in our member states, we should concentrate on the structural reforms that can unleash the growth potential of Europe.

To tackle youth unemployment, each member state will prepare a National Job Plan. I proposed that at its core will be a Youth Guarantee which ensures that all young people are either in a job, in training or in education within 4 months of leaving school. The Commission will establish Action Teams with Member States with above-average youth unemployment, namely the eight countries that are the most affected by this problem. They will agree how we can best use the €22bn of European Social Fund money not yet allocated, so that we can improve job opportunities for young people. We can re-deploy part of this funding. The key is to use the best practice across the Union to spark action at the Union level and at the national level too. We want our young people to study, train and work across our Union.

With Youth On The Move, we have the programmes to make that happen: Erasmus for studying, Leonardo for training and EURES for job vacancies, and now with these National Job Programmes, part of the National Reform Programmes. As President Van Rompuy said this is indeed part of our exercise in the European semester and the Spring European Council, so on 1 and 2 March we will give concrete guidance to all the European Union member states.

To exploit the full potential of the Single Market, we have agreed to fast-track the Single Market Act and complete the Digital Single Market by 2015. This is indeed important and there were very important contributions from the Heads of State or Government saying what we could do to implement and enforce better the rules of the single market.

To support the small businesses, which form the backbone of our economy, we also must do more internally, with the market access in our single market, but also abroad what they can gain in terms of market access also to reduce the red tape they face and also how to get easier access to finance, because this is one of the main problems SMEs in Europe now face.

Money from the EU budget must be focussed on growth. €82 billion is still to be allocated from the total of €347 billion for the period 2007-2013. I have today proposed that the Member States sit down with the Commission to look at how this money can be reprogrammed and accelerated towards growth related projects. For instance, SMEs can use money from the Structural funds as guarantee for loans they can get in the banks.

We have a strategy, and we are staying the course. In order to create financial stability and to put in place a basis for sustainable growth, we need discipline, but we also need growth. 

Danube Alliance Magazine No. 5 – February-March 2012

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