President Herman van Rompuy presents the report "The European Council in 2010" to the press
It is good to see you here all back after the Christmas break. Even if it seems a while ago: I should like to wish you all a Happy New Year! And I wish you a lot of inspiration and energy for good reporting on the events ahead. You will not be surprised if I tell you that last year was dominated by the public debt crisis. The Eurozone's financial stability required the full attention of the European Council -- and to some extent, it may well continue to do so. We also worked on long-term economic reforms and we improved the way the EU deals with strategic partners in the world.
All this made 2010 exciting both on the decision making side and on the reporting side. And it was not always exactly clear who was at which side! When I was chosen by my fellow prime ministers as the European Council's first long term president, more than a year ago now, some people were wondering what a full time President would have to do. That is, in between the minimal four meetings a year which the Treaty requires. Well, now we know...
Today I would like to present to you our publication "The European Council in 2010". It is the first time we produce it. You will notice, I hope, that it is not a bureaucratic summing up of EU decisions. Instead, I preferred to give a political narrative, to link the main events and challenges of 2010 to the major decisions by the Heads of State or Government. Why are we doing what we are doing, in what direction are we going? In writing it, I almost felt like a reporter. Of course that feeling came only after the decisions were taken!
Let's be honest. We were all sometimes overwhelmed by events, and by unexpected results.
Nobody realised that a problem in one small country could become so quickly a problem for the Eurozone as a whole and even for the world economy;
Nobody has predicted the strength of the economic recovery in Western Europe, so soon after the biggest financial crisis of the last 70 years;
Nobody expected that we would be able to decide on a safety net of 750 Billion euro in May. Nor that a few months later we'd have a public discussion about its size.
Nobody could imagine that we would be able to decide on such strict rules and sanctions on fiscal consolidation and competitiveness.
We were surprised by events. You were from time to time surprised by our decisions. I know that some of you find all this "too little, too late". I call it rather a step-by-step approach...! The least we can say is that there was a lively debate in Europe, on Europe. Now let's look at the year ahead. Let me give you some of the directions where we are going.
In the February European Council, we will work on innovation and energy policy. The European Council can really create a commitment at the highest levels to bring things forward. We will for instance talk about gas and electricity networks and market integration. We don't forget the long- term, even in a crisis situation.
In the March European Council, we will start the discussion about the European semester. It may not be a bureaucratic process. In the first decade of the euro we let problems rot. Now we have to draw the lessons.
And in June, we may well work on issues of Justice and Home Affairs, including asylum and migration. And what about the debt crisis? As I mentioned this morning at the European Parliament in Strasbourg -- in the presence of some your colleagues --, we will continue to do whatever is necessary to safeguard the stability of the Eurozone. People should not underestimate our determination. If more needs to be done, we will do it. You will see it in the coming weeks and months. And you will be at the first row, as privileged witnesses of these fundamental changes for Europe.
You will no doubt wonder WHAT needs to be done, and WHEN. Timing is key in politics.
Impatience is not a part of my character. We will be judged later by our results, not by our intentions. To you I say: Affaire à suivre!
FOR FURTHER DETAILS:
Dirk De Backer - Spokesperson of the President - +32 (0)2 281 9768 - +32 (0)497 59 99 19 Jesús Carmona - Deputy Spokesperson of the President +32 (0)2 281 9548 / 6319 - +32 (0)475 65 32 15 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org - internet: http://www.consilium.europa.eu