Strasbourg, 2 July 2013 — Speech by President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy at the European Parliament
After the March European Council meeting, I reported to you on the broad agreement among all leaders on our strategy to bring the European Union to recovery:
– restoring and maintaining financial stability;
– making our economies more resilient and competitive, with structurally sound public finances (using the flexibilities in our common rules) and long-term reforms;
– fighting, directly and indirectly, unemployment, and I added explicitly, “especially for the young”;
– and the fourth element of our strategy was working towards a genuine Economic and Monetary Union – preparing for the future.
Looking back at the decisions taken at or just before the June European Council – because sometimes, the pressure created by having a European Council meeting can concentrate minds – it is striking to see that on each and every one of the four strands of this strategy, we are moving forward, we are making progress, gradually, but decisively. As is now the tradition every June, we discussed and endorsed the Country-Specific Recommendations, thus closing this year’s European Semester, the cornerstone of our new economic governance. Though only three years old, it is already the most advanced surveillance and policy coordination mechanism in the world. We welcomed the agreement reached by Finance Ministers the night before the European Council on the Directive on Recovery and Resolution. This is a crucial matter, which can now be taken forward with you, the Parliament, in the legislative process before the end of your term
Together with the Single Supervisory Mechanism and the Directive on Capital Requirements (where your efforts to finalise the legislative work has been of vital importance), this Directive on Resolution and Recovery is essential for the completion of the Banking Union, a key element of the work on a genuine Economic and Monetary Union. The Banking Union remains an immediate priority – and the European Council stressed this again forcefully – as it will help ensure financial stability, reduce financial fragmentation and restore normal lending to the economy
On the latter point – restoring normal lending to the economy – European leaders also took action. We agreed on an Investment Plan for Europe, based on a joint report of the Commission and the European Investment Bank. The aim is to address the credit crunch that is holding back the very companies that should be driving the recovery – the local SMEs, the start-ups of today, perhaps the success stories of tomorrow. We need to bring oxygen deep into the system, across the whole Union, and especially in the most vulnerable countries.
We also agreed on concrete measures with an immediate impact to fight youth unemployment, a most urgent concern for our societies – a concern we also discussed in the presence of the European social partners: a prime example of the social dialogue at work at the EU level:
We decided to scale up and speed up the Youth Employment Initiative, so that the money starts flowing as of the first of January 2014. Most of the money will now be spent in 2014-2015, the years when it is most needed; moreover, the flexibility offered by the MFF means, in effect, that there will be substantially more available for the Youth Employment Initiative than the €6bn we’d initially foreseen for it: according to projections, at least 8 billion euro in total.
We made a clear link between this Youth Employment Initiative and the Youth Guarantees – to ensure that within 4 months of leaving school or becoming unemployed, every young person gets a good offer for a job, education or training. And we called for other important actions – for instance promoting cross-border mobility, through the EURES and ERASMUS+ programmes, including for vocational training, as well as high-quality apprenticeships.
These measures will undoubtedly boost the efforts taken by national governments, with which the bulk of the responsibility lies. During the European Council, it was clear that leaders are eager to exchange experiences and best practices, just as they will again at tomorrow’s meeting in Berlin. The decisions that the European Council took just a couple of days ago on the financing of the economy and the fight against youth unemployment would not have been possible
without the agreement reached on the Multiannual Financial Framework by the Presidents of the Parliament, Council and Commission, just a couple of hours before the start of the European Council.
Last Thursday, the European Council unanimously and firmly gave its political backing to the MFF agreement. Based on that, Member State representatives have, in the meantime, formally approved it. I hope that you will equally approve the MFF later this week. It will be a catalyst for investment and growth and jobs across Europe – particularly urgent and necessary at a time of crisis, a time of high unemployment and doubts about the European project.
Indeed, some have doubts about the European project. Our European project. The best way to restore confidence and prove these doubts wrong is by showing that Europe is delivering, that we are leaving a difficult situation behind us and can jointly cope with the challenges of the future.
Of course, there is still a lot of work ahead of us, on many fronts – for instance on the deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union, on which I gave heads of government a detailed state of play last Friday. But this should not prevent us from reaffirming loud and clear that, even if the road is still long, we are on the right track. That when our institutions work together for the common European good – and the MFF is an example – Europe is capable of producing concrete and tangible results. As I just said: we are producing results, and last week proved it.
The June European Council also proved that our European project remains attractive for those who are not yet part of it. On Friday morning, we agreed to move forward towards opening accession talks with Serbia, and to take an important step in our relations with Kosovo. We welcomed Croatia as a member of the European Union and Latvia as a member of the eurozone. So, we are welcoming new members, not, as some had predicted, losing them!
To sum up, the June European Council reached some important agreements, and I should add one more of special interest to you, namely the formal adoption of the decision establishing the future composition of Parliament, on the basis of the consent you gave. And at the same time we prepared the way for other decisions still to come. Not, perhaps, to the taste of those who want either spectacular revolutions or confrontations, but none the less an important and useful meeting, taking, together, our common strategy forward. Gradually, but decisively, and in good cooperation with all other institutions of our European Union.
Allow me to mention another matter which I know is of great concern here, as elsewhere, and on which my spokesperson released a statement on my behalf yesterday. I am very concerned by the press reports with allegations of U.S. surveillance of EU premises abroad and in Brussels. The European Union, via its External Action Service, is examining the allegations and in contact with U.S. authorities. The European Union has demanded and expects full and urgent clarification by the U.S. regarding the allegations. I take note of the remarks today by U.S. President Barack Obama and his commitment to provide all the information that U.S. allies want and what exactly the facts have been. At this stage, I cannot provide any further comments. I will continue to follow this matter with the attention it deserves.