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". Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Commissioner, I am very happy to be able to speak to you before the next meeting of the European Council, even though the role of the presidency-in-office is defined by the Treaty of Lisbon in such a way that the preparation of meetings of the European Council is primarily the responsibility of the permanent President. However, the presidency-in-office has cooperated very closely with the permanent President in preparing the meeting of the European Commission, for example in the case of the General Affairs Council held on Monday during the Hungarian Presidency. Furthermore, we are naturally monitoring the implementation of the European Council’s conclusions, both in the General Affairs Council and in other Council configurations. Allow me to first give an outline of the major issues on the agenda of the February meeting, which primarily focus on energy and innovation. While determining the Europe 2020 strategy, the European Council decided in March 2010 to hold a thematic debate on the issue of energy and innovation. I believe I do not need to point out how extremely important these two sectors are for European economic growth and employment. That is because the task of the European Council is not only to respond to direct crisis situations, but also to formulate strategic guidelines for the future. Let us begin with the matter of energy. Energy security is a priority for all of us. This requires a greater degree of integration and interconnection of the energy market. We must increase research and development expenditure, make the economy more competitive and sustainable, and tighten cooperation between major transit, energy producer and energy consumer countries. The first element is therefore an integrated and interconnected energy market. The establishment of a complete internal energy market is a necessity. To this end, the European Council must decide on several important steps. First of all, it must implement legislation on the internal energy market. We also still have regulatory tasks ahead of us. We must, for example, simplify authorisation procedures for building new infrastructure. Additionally, we must make serious efforts in order to modernise and expand European energy infrastructure, and also to connect the markets through cross-border cooperation. We must not allow any country or region of the EU to remain isolated. All this must be funded primarily by the private sector. Furthermore, appropriate cost sharing principles must be laid down for cross-border investments. Thirdly, there will be projects which, despite being of exceptional importance to energy security, will still not be attractive enough to private capital for it to finance them fully. In such cases it could be justified to provide limited public financing for the projects from Member State or EU resources. The aim of the current discussions, however, is not to prejudge the debate to be launched at the end of June on the multiannual financial framework. The second major topic in the field of energy is energy efficiency and renewable energy. Needless to say, these increase competitiveness and promote the security of energy supply, and also serve sustainability at lower costs. In 2011 the Council will examine the proposal that will be submitted by the Commission concerning the new energy efficiency plan. The proposal will take account of what has been achieved so far regarding the EU energy efficiency targets set until 2013, and will also envision additional measures. Foreign relations are also of exceptional importance in energy policy. EU and Member State activities related to key producer, transit and consumer countries must be coordinated more systematically. It would, for example, be expedient if Member States would not only share information with each other about treaties concluded with regard to natural gas, as they do today, but also those concerning other types of energy. Concrete work must begin in order to establish partnerships with key actors with regard to regulatory approaches in all matters of common interest. This of course applies to Russia, but also to all partners and neighbours of the EU. Let us move on to the topic of innovation. Innovation is what might help solve the most critical social challenges of our age, such as the challenges of health, food security, energy security, sustainable development, climate change and an aging population, while also providing opportunities for new markets. Innovation could also help resolve the dilemma between budgetary rigour and pro-growth policy. From where can we obtain funding for growth before it becomes self-sustaining? Not from credit, since that is not something we want. We want to stop debt, after all. It is therefore innovation through which reserves of creativity can be uncovered, which can help us give the appropriate answers. Within the topic of innovation we must therefore focus on responding to significant social challenges, and make progress towards a European Research Area. We must ensure the free mobility of researchers, improve framework conditions applicable to innovative enterprises, and the European Council must also address the matter of ranking state aid. Energy and innovation: investments pointing towards the future. The European Council, however, must also deal with current economic and financial issues, as we all know that the crisis is not completely behind us yet. We are in a delicate situation. We must do everything in our power to protect the common currency, the euro, and calm the markets. The European Financial Stability Facility must therefore be strengthened, and bank stress tests must also be discussed. The Hungarian Presidency is particularly committed to the package of six economic governance laws. We wish to report on this, about how the consultations are coming along both in the Council and in Parliament, to the heads of state and government. And finally, we must address what further common measures are needed to ensure competitiveness, and, of course, in the current, acute situation, the heads of state and government will also speak about Tunisia and Egypt. Ladies and gentlemen, I trust that we will have a European Council dealing with very difficult issues, where specific questions can be formulated, which will also determine the work of the Council for the coming months, and President Herman Van Rompuy will report to you about this after the meeting."@en1

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