Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2008-03-26-Speech-3-010"

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"Mr President, over the past few years, we have had many opportunities to discuss together the importance of partnership. That the European Union’s ambitions are such that Europeans at every level have to be engaged. That we need a common vision about where we are heading. That the European Union institutions need to work together to deliver on our citizens’ expectations. The European Council also reaffirmed its commitment to sustained reform efforts through the full implementation of the revised Lisbon strategy. The consensus at the European Council around this priority was indeed impressive. And we gave Lisbon a fresh impetus with the launch of an ambitious new cycle. I was pleased that the European Council followed our suggestion to give particular emphasis to investing in people and, notably, to reducing the number of young people who cannot read properly and the number of early school leavers. Flexicurity is also key. We must build on the recent, very positive agreement between social partners and see those principles translated into results across the European Union Member States. Another example is the goal of a ‘fifth freedom’: the freedom of circulation of knowledge. The European Council set out key measures required to make it a reality. For example, high-speed internet is to be made available to all schools by 2010, and ambitious targets will also be set for household access. We should now press ahead to ensure that the fruits of reforms are felt at every level. The objectives – like investing in people, unlocking business potential, making the internal market work, investing in research and innovation – must be backed up with improvements felt by people and businesses on the ground. This was also a point many of you emphasised in the debate we had in Parliament before the European Council. I count on the continued support of this House to ensure that action at European and national level delivers on the objectives we have set ourselves. The European Council also set out a clear road map and gave new impetus to ongoing legislative work. I particularly want to mention, as Prime Minister Janša just did, the two key deadlines set by the European Council, on the internal market in energy and on the climate change and renewable energy package. These deadlines are not just about ‘tidying up the desk’ before the institutional changes of next year. They are about bringing in essential changes as quickly as possible, so that the European Union can lead the world in this very important dossier. On the energy internal market package, we need to reach an agreement to show that institutions are able to deliver in the interests of citizens, consumers and businesses, and here we committed to trying to reach political agreement by June 2008. The Commission remains of the view that full ownership unbundling is the best way forward, but we have continued to make clear that we are ready to consider alternatives that are the functional equivalent of that. And we will continue close cooperation with this House and with the Council in order to help bridge the remaining gaps. On the climate and renewables package, political agreement by the end of this year will be the clearest possible sign to our international partners – a sign that Europe is serious about its commitments. This would enable adoption of the proposals within Parliament’s legislative term early in 2009. This is vital as we enter the final straight towards an international agreement on climate change in Copenhagen next year. This international agreement is our top priority, and is the single best way of both cutting global emissions and ensuring that our energy-intensive industries will have the level playing field they need. After the Spring European Council, we can see clearly the tasks before us, for the rest of the year and beyond. I would like to congratulate the Slovenian Presidency and Prime Minister Janša for the very competent way in which he chaired this European Council. I believe now we can better see how partnership will make us progress, namely in terms of concrete delivery. In the mean time, we should spell out, in the revised emission trading scheme, the steps we will take in the event that there are problems for certain sectors or subsectors that face the risk of carbon leakage because they are unable to pass through costs. The Commission, together with all stakeholders and, in particular, with the social partners, will step up work to gather data and identify the necessary solution to apply in the future in such cases. I know that the European Parliament is devoting particular attention to these two dossiers. I hope that you will be able to join the Council in the deadlines so that we can give credibility to our negotiating position at global level. In a number of areas, the European Council looked forward to specific proposals from the Commission in the coming months. I would like to give you a flavour of three areas on which we will be working to come forward with proposals before the summer. First, the renewal of our social agenda. Our objective is to pave the way towards a European wide consensus on a social vision for the 21st century: a social vision which responds to new challenges, such as globalisation and demographic change; a vision which is based on the principle of providing ‘life chances’ to everyone through opportunities, access and solidarity; a vision looking at social challenges for society as a whole, addressing issues such as youth, education, migration, ageing as well as intercultural dialogue; a vision that, of course, takes more specifically into consideration the problems of poverty that we are still facing in our Europe. We will build on the ongoing consultation following our social stock-taking, and make concrete proposals – exactly as we did with the Internal Market Review last November. The Social Agenda Forum that we are organising in May is a good opportunity for us to test this approach. Secondly, the forthcoming proposal on the Small Business Act. The key to our thinking is the need to look at the whole life cycle of an SME. There is little value in helping start-ups if SMEs are then blocked from growth. This must be a truly decisive year for our ambition concerning a ‘Europe of results’ – concrete results for our citizens. We must prove that Europe has the strength and the focus to withstand global pressures and to face up to global challenges. And we must demonstrate that the European Union is the right way to bring in the changes that are needed. The business world has made it very clear that what small businesses need is not another political declaration but some real action. That means removing obstacles to growth, simplifying regulation, promoting e-government, helping access to public procurement and cutting unnecessary delays: generally speaking, cutting red tape. I look forward to discussing with Parliament how to take these ideas forward. The third area where we will swiftly bring forward proposals is the Mediterranean Union. The Commission strongly supports the commitment to give fresh impetus to our Mediterranean policy. I am glad that there is now a consensus that the project will move ahead with all 27 Member States, taking the Barcelona Process one step further. And I am very proud of the confidence that the European Council expressed in the Commission by asking us to come forward with the necessary proposals to define the modalities for this Union for the Mediterranean. The European Council recognised that the Commission is best placed to devise an institutional architecture compatible with the Treaty and with the range of activities and forums which already exist. We will be working quickly to find the right institutional architecture to deliver a new level of ambition, one which helps us to move ahead swiftly on tangible projects with our partners across the Mediterranean Sea. But, let us make no mistake: institutions and instruments will not deliver on their own. What we need most to turn ambition into action is political will – on both sides of the Mediterranean. We can come with proposals for new institutional arrangements, but if there is no political will on both sides, we will not produce concrete results. I know that this is a concern that many honourable Members share, and we will of course keep you fully involved in further work. Indeed, I will have the opportunity to address the Euro-Med Parliamentary Assembly in Athens later this week. I believe the European Council was indeed an important step forward. Now the EU partnership needs to deliver, and make 2008 a landmark year for Europe. The Spring European Council was a moment of truth. Would the ambitions, namely regarding the new Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs, but also the ambitions in terms of our policy against climate change and for energy policy, would those ambitions that had been set when the economic climate was more favourable, still hold when we got into rougher waters? Before the European Council, many had doubts about it. I myself spoke about the need for Europe to keep its commitments so that we could be credible. After the European Council, I am happy to say that we had a very good, substantive debate in which the European Council not only confirmed that it remained fully committed to the targets it had set for energy and climate change, but also backed them up with agreement on precise deadlines. Also, the European Council confirmed the goals regarding the renewed Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs. Let me highlight some of the issues discussed in more detail, focusing in particular on how the Commission intends to take work forward. As has become the tradition at the Spring meeting, the European Council reviewed the economic situation in Europe. The emerging picture is a mixed one: while the economic fundamentals in Europe remain sound, the global economic outlook is deteriorating as a result of the slowdown of economic activity in the US. Confidence in our capacity to tackle the future therefore needs to be coupled with vigilance. Confidence and vigilance. This is also true against the backdrop of the continuing turmoil on the international financial markets. The message from the European Council has been clear: all authorities in the European Union stand ready to take regulatory and supervisory action if necessary. Now it will be up to the ECOFIN Council to implement swiftly and vigorously the road map agreed last autumn, strengthening the transparency and functioning of financial markets. The European Union must be vigilant – and be seen to be vigilant – as the situation evolves. I am also pleased that the European Council endorsed the Commission paper on sovereign wealth funds, subscribing to the need for a common European approach and the objective of agreeing at international level on a voluntary code of conduct for sovereign wealth funds and defining principles for recipient countries at international level."@en1
"President of the European Commission"1

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