2 July 2013
Regarding the European Council issues, the question that was directed to me was about what the European Union has been doing regarding the implementation of the Growth compact. Before the European Council, I sent to all Heads of State and Government, and also to the European Parliament through its President, a very clear and transparent report on the implementation of the Growth Compact, where I signalled in very clear terms what has been done, what has not been done and what is in the process of being completed. I invite all of you, those who have not yet seen that report, to look at it attentively because I think it is a very important exercise of transparency about what is the real implementation of the compact for growth and jobs.
As I have said in my introductory remarks, the "bilan" is rather mixed. There are, it is fair to say, important points of progress, but there are still matters where we need to do more, namely in terms of implementation. Most of the bottlenecks if you look at this report are mainly in terms of national implementation. This is the fair, objective assessment we can give you. And the Commission, apart from many other initiatives that the Commission has taken, from the initial proposal to the increase of the EIB lending capacity, to the project bonds, to the Youth Guarantee scheme and to many, many other initiatives, the Commission has committed to redirect, redeploy the structural funds for growth.
And then I want to report to you more concretely. I am pleased to confirm that 55 billion euros representing the last tranche of the European Union budget to complete current programs, the 2013 tranche, has been allocated now to all programs. In other words, the full budget of cohesion policy for the period 2007-2013, 346 billion euros, has been made available to Member States. The Commission is now working with the Members States to ensure that these resources are mobilised rapidly and efficiently to support growth enhancing investments in growth and jobs. Several Member States; Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Sweden have reported frontloading their programs and have already allocated all the 2013 funds or will do so soon. Other Member States have indicated that selection processes are well under way, for instance Germany, France, Poland and the UK. I urge those Member States who have not yet done so to accelerate selection processes for prompt implementation.
Concerning Structural Funds reprogramming today, I would like to remind the Members of this House that since 2009 more than 39 billion euros has been reprogrammed to support the most pressing needs and reinforce effective measures. (European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and cohesion funds - 32.7 billion, European Social Fund (ESF) - 6.5 billion euros). These measures have been accompanied by exceptional increases in the European Union co-financing rate for 9 Members States, reducing national financing by 19 billion euros by May 2013 and to add a further co-financing top-up for the program countries, which means 1.7 billion euros pay. These measures have reduced national co-financing requirements by 20.7 billion euros. This is taking pressure away from national budgets in the most vulnerable countries at the time of crisis. And I could go on, explaining some of the measures namely the action teams for tackling youth unemployment and many other concrete measures, but I invite you to look at this report on the Compact for Growth and Jobs, where you will see in fact afterwards in a very graphic way as well, all the measures that were announced where we put in green, yellow and red, the colours of the level of implementation.
Because, I believe when we speak about transparency and accountability, this should not be only words but we should really practice that and I think this is clearly important. And if I may now make a more general political remark, I hope Members of the European Parliament, namely those coming from the pro-European families resist the temptation that is unfortunately very common in some national politicians when there is a problem in the economy to put the blame on Brussels or the European Union instead of doing their own homework, instead of making what they should do at home to reform their economies, to promote investment and, in fact, to make our economies more competitive. I think this point is very, very important, namely having in mind the European Parliament elections we are going to have next year. Because, if the main political forces, those with the great tradition of supporting the European project, start criticising the European Union, if they think they will score points with that, they are completely wrong. Because in the business of attacking the European Union, there are others that are much better than the mainstream political forces and in the end, they are going to be the ones who will benefit from this kind of populist attacks.
That is why I want to conclude, and since I cannot mention all the statements, praising one statement that I particularly liked during today's meeting which was Mrs McGuinness remark. Although brief, she touched a very important point. We have to deal with these matters with a great sense of responsibility. We should not ask the European level what the European level cannot deliver now. I can ensure you that at European level together, with this institution, the European Parliament, we are using to the full all the instruments we have to promote growth and stability in Europe, but we have to do it in a spirit of responsibility on a step-by-step approach. What has been achieved, being honest also about what has not yet been achieved, because it is true that there are many matters where we need to do more and hopefully in a more determined and quicker manner, but I think this is the language of truth, this is the only way to reconnect Europe to citizens, to talk with them responsibly, to tell them the truth and not to create illusions that we are not able to fulfil and to avoid, let's say, the narrow vision of some nationalism or some chauvinism that can only do harm to our European Union. A European Union that, in spite of all the difficulties, is indeed showing its resilience and its very strong power of attraction - not only joining Croatia to the European Union, but also giving the green light for Latvia to become the next Member of the euro family. And my dear friends of the European Parliament, when I remember that more or less one year ago people were speaking about the implosion of the euro, and I see now new Members for the euro, new Members of the European Union, in spite of all the difficulties, I see this Europe has a great future, if we do it in a responsible, constructive way.
I thank you for your attention.