State of the Union 2012 – Speach delivered by Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, in European Parliament

The challenge – a new thinking for Europe

A crisis of confidence is a political crisis. Europe needs a new direction. That direction can not be based on old ideas. Europe needs a new thinking. Since the start of the crisis, we have seen time and again that interconnected global markets are quicker and therefore more powerful than fragmented national political systems. This undermines the trust of citizens in political decision making. And it is fuelling populism and extremism in Europe and elsewhere. Yes, globalisation demands more European unity. More unity demands more integration. More integration demands more democracy, European democracy. It is time to learn the lessons from history and write a better future for our Europe.

Analysis of the situation

The European Union continues to be in crisis. A financial and economic crisis. A social crisis. But also a political crisis, a crisis of confidence. Why? Because time and again, we have allowed doubts to spread. Doubts over whether some countries are really ready to reform and regain competitiveness. Doubts over whether other countries are really willing to stand by each other so that the Euro and the European project are irreversible. This reveals the essence of Europe’s political crisis of confidence. If Europe’s political actors do not abide by the rules and the decisions they have set themselves, how can they possibly convince others that they are determined to solve this crisis together?

Response to the situation – the ‘decisive deal for Europe’

A decisive deal to project our values, our freedom and our prosperity into the future of a globalized world. A deal that combines the need to keep our social market economies on one hand and the need to reform them on the other. A deal that will stabilise the EMU, boost sustainable growth, and restore competitiveness. A deal that will establish a contract of confidence between our countries, between Member States and the European institutions, between social partners, and between the citizens and the European Union. We must all leave no doubts that we are determined to reform. To REFORM TOGETHER.

This decisive deal requires the completion of a deep and genuine economic union, based on a political union.

Economic union

Let me start with Europe’s economy. Firstly, we need growth. Sustainable growth Growth is the lifeblood of our European social market model: it creates jobs and supports our standard of living. But we can only maintain growth if we are more competitive. At the national level it means undertaking structural reforms that have been postponed for decades. Modernising public administration. Reducing wasteful expenditure. Tackling vested interests and privileges. Reforming the labour market to balance security with flexibility. And ensuring the sustainability of social systems. We need to complete the single market. We need to reduce our energy dependence and tap the renewable energy potential. Promoting competitiveness in sectors such as energy, transport or telecoms could open up fresh competition, promote innovation and drive down prices for consumers and businesses. We need to create a European labour market, and make it as easy for people to work in another country as it is as home. We need to explore green growth and be much more efficient in our use of resources. We have to be much more ambitious about education, research, innovation and science. And we could go further, with a realistic but yet ambitious European Union budget dedicated to investment, growth and reform. It is a budget for growth, for economic, social and territorial cohesion between Member States and within Member States. It is a budget that will help complete the single market by bridging gaps in our energy, transport and telecoms infrastructure through the Connecting Europe Facility. It is a budget for a modern, growth-oriented agriculture capable of combining food security with sustainable rural development. It is a budget that will promote a research intensive and innovative Europe through Horizon 2020. Because we need this European scale for research The budget is also the tool to support investment in our growth agenda, Europe 2020, which we need now more than ever before.

The Commission is very aware that in the Member States implementing the most intense reforms, there is hardship and there are – sometimes very painful – difficult adjustments. But it is only through these reforms that we can come to a better future. They were long overdue. Going back to the status quo ante is simply impossible. The Commission will continue to do all it can to support these Member States and to help them boost growth and employment, for instance through the re-programming of structural funds.

So economic reform coupled with a genuine economic and monetary union: these are the engines to get our boat moving forward.

Our blueprint will identify the tools and instruments, and present options for legal drafting that would give effect to them, from policy coordination to fiscal capacity to debt redemption. And, where necessary – as in the case of jointly and severally guaranteed public debt – it would identify the treaty changes necessary, because some of these changes require modifications to the Treaty. It will present a blue-print for what we need to accomplish not only in the next few weeks and months, but in the next years.

Political union

Ultimately, the credibility and sustainability of the Economic and Monetary Union depends on the institutions and the political construct behind it. I would like to see the development of a European public space, where European issues are discussed and debated from a European standpoint. We cannot continue trying to solve European problems just with national solutions. This debate has to take place in our societies and among our citizens. But, today, I would like to make an appeal also to European thinkers. To men and women of culture, to join this debate on the future of Europe. And I make this appeal to you. This is the house of European democracy. We must strengthen the role of the European Parliament at the European level.

A political union also means that we must strengthen the foundations on which our Union is built: the respect for our fundamental values, for the rule of law and democracy.

In recent months we have seen threats to the legal and democratic fabric in some of our European states. The European Parliament and the Commission were the first to raise the alarm and played the decisive role in seeing these worrying developments brought into check.

That is why Europe’s message must be one of freedom, democracy, rule of law and of solidarity. In short, our values European values.

More than ever our citizens and the new world order need an active and influential Europe. This is not just for us, for the rest of the world it is important that we succeed. A Europe that stands by its values. And a Europe that stands up for its belief that human rights are not a luxury for the developed world, they should be seen as universal values. We should be proud to be Europeans. Proud of our rich and diverse culture. In spite of our current problems, our societies are among the most human and free in the world. These European societies, with all its problems, are among the most decent societies in human history and I think we should be proud of that. In many of our countries, namely the most recent Member States, there is a recent memory of what was dictatorship and totalitarianism. Now is the moment for all pro-Europeans to leave business as usual behind and to embrace the business of the future. That is why we need a new thinking for Europe, a decisive deal for Europe. That is why we need to guide ourselves by the values that are at the heart of the European Union. Europe I believe has a soul. This soul can give us the strength and the determination to do what we must do. You can count on the European Commission. I count on you, the European Parliament. Together, as Community institutions we will build a better, stronger and a more united Europe, a citizens’ Union for the future of Europe but also the future of the world.

This entry was posted in European Policies, Mag 7, November 2012 - 1st Annual Forum of the EUSDR. Bookmark the permalink.