Excellencies, colleagues and friends
It is a real pleasure to be at the Atlantic Council with its strong tradition of bringing together leaders from Europe and the United States. We always have plenty to talk about!
I’m particulary pleased to see Jose-Manuel here, who guided us through perhaps the most difficult period in Europe’s recent history.
I joined the Commission right at the end of his second mandate in the summer of 2014. We had already come a long way since the worse moments of the Crisis.
Prior to that I had the great privilege to lead my own country for three years. And before that I was Finance Minister so I used to come to Brussels regularly for long nights of Summits and Council meetings.
Some of these meetings were very, very difficult. But it became crystal clear to me that Europe can achieve so much more together than we can separately.
We need strong institutions such as the Commission to provide an anchor for European decision-making and set the long-term priorities our citizens expect.
The new Commission, under Jean-Claude Juncker, has set out ten priorities for this five year mandate. Number one of those ten is giving a new boost for jobs, growth and investment.
That is my job now and I am very excited about it. I want explain what we are already doing and why I have come here to the US to take things forward. I’m convinced our partnership is critical to shaping the kind of world we all want to live in the twenty-first century.
We’ll come back to the bigger picture in a moment but let’s start with something very concrete – in many cases literally concrete – as we are now building the essential infrastructure of Europe’s future.
Investment suffered badly during the crisis as people focussed on the immediate needs not the longer term. Both public and private sectors needed to rebuild their balance sheets. As in the US, we had to rewrite our financial rule-book.
But now we need to build for the future; to get capital moving again to our companies so they can grow, innovate and create new and better jobs. Our plan to do this has three pillars.
First up is our new European Fund for Strategic Investments. This has already financed projects and SMEs which are expected to trigger €60 billion of additional investments.
Our target is to mobilise at least 315 billion euros over three years and only last week President Juncker signalled his interest in extending this further.
But we need to go far beyond even that. There is only so much we can – or should – do with public money. So the other two pillars focus on the private sector.
I’ve just come from Wall Street and I was in the City of London right at the start of my mandate. There is money out there and it is looking for good investments. We have projects across Europe that need financing.
So the second pillar is about putting them together through an on-line portal that will go live in the coming weeks. It’s a kind of dating agency for investment.
The final pillar is about getting a better environment for investors. I’m not talking here about candle-light and soft music: what I mean is widening and deepening the world’s largest Single Market, cutting back on unnecessary regulation that hits the smaller businesses hardest and connecting ourselves to our most important economic partners.
We have specific strategies to create a Digital Single Market and Energy Union in Europe. Together these will transform our economies and societies, the way we live and work and ensure sustainable and secure futures for our citizens.
We are working towards a more resilient Economic and Monetary Union and building a genuine Capital Markets Union to finance the real economy. This will reduce our dependence on bank funding and offer more opportunities for investors wherever they may be.
This brings me to my final point about Europe’s place in the world. And it is the reason why I am here today.
I have always believed that Europe that can only succeed when we reach out beyond our frontiers. That is true of trade and even more so of investment.
The scale and interconnected nature of the transatlantic economic relationship is unparalleled anywhere in the world.
Together we account for nearly 30 percent of global merchandise trade, about 40 percent of world trade in services, and well over half of foreign direct investment. Approximately 15 million jobs are linked to the transatlantic economy.
TTIP will give us the chance to take that to whole new level and provide a further boost to our recovery. I am working closely with Cecilia Malmstrom to help make that happen and I look forward to seeing Mike Froman again tomorrow.
A fair and balanced TTIP will strengthen our economies without compromising on any of the high standards our citizens expect.
But it will also strengthen the Union on both sides of the Atlantic by showing what we can do when we work together. We can make deals that work for us both and help to write the rules of the global economy in the twenty-first century.
This have never been more important as the world is changing fast around us. Europe faces many challenges. We will have to make some tough choices. But we have come through difficult times in the past. Our societies are resilient because they are fair.
I still believe strongly in the European social model but for that to be sustainable we also need growth.
That is what I am focussing on and it is why I was very pleased to hear about the Euro-growth initiative that you are launching today, here at the Atlantic Council.
Under the leadership of Jose-Manuel and Ambassador Eizenstat I am sure it will make an important contribution to our shaping our work and I wish you every success in taking this forward.
Thank you for your attention.
Compliments of the European Commission