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Press statement by the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, following the meeting with the Prime Minister of Mali, Oumar Tatam Ly

Met dank overgenomen van Raad van de Europese Unie (Raad), gepubliceerd op woensdag 5 februari 2014.

EUROPEAN COUNCIL THE PRESIDENT

Ljubljana, 3 February 2014 EUC

PRESSE 49 PR PCE 26

Remarks by President of the European Council

Herman Van Rompuy

following his meeting with Prime Minister of Slovenia

Before anything else, I want to express my sympathy to all those affected by the harsh winter you are going through these days. Prime Minister Bratušek updated me on the situation and the request for EU assistance. The European Union stands ready to help Slovenia upon its request with available means as soon as possible. The EU's Civil Protection Mechanism has been activated and is working. I understand and applaud that your neighbouring EU countries are already providing support

Let me thank Prime Minister Bratušek for her hospitality and the good meeting we just had. Allow me to highlight a few points

We discussed the economic situation in the European Union and in Slovenia. When we last met - Prime Minister Bratušek and I - in Brussels in April last year, the situation was tense and speculations were rife about a possible European assistance program. Back then the Prime Minister insisted that Slovenia would handle its problems on its own. And you are doing so

The reforms you are undertaking and have committed to undertake, for which I congratulate you, in the financial sector and beyond, are necessary, need to be continued and will pay off. All countries are different but the recent recovery in other crisis-struck countries like Spain and Ireland show the way and are a reason for keeping the course

Slovenia is not alone in its struggle to regain jobs and sustainable growth. The European Union will continue to support Slovenia, also when it comes to the most serious challenge -unemployment of young people. The debate with students this morning at the University of Ljubljana clearly showed young people's concerns and worries - both as regards the future of Europe as well as their own future. And the European Union is acting. Last year we agreed the Youth Employment Initiative with no less than 8 billion euro to help young people into jobs or training within four months after registering as unemployed. This assistance is of course also available for Slovenia - and should be used. I welcome the government's recent decision to make full use of it - something that the Prime Minister and I also discussed

In any case, we put the existential threat to the euro zone behind us. Now, the euro has again become a safe-haven for investors world-wide. Our efforts are working. The same will be the case in our fight for jobs and growth

We also discussed other issues, including topics that will be on the agenda of the next European Council meetings. One is the process of enlargement that maintains its vigour with Croatia becoming the 28th EU Member State last July and other countries advancing in their European aspirations. Last month we started accession negotiations with Serbia. In this context, I particularly welcome the role Slovenia plays in the Brdo process at the level of Head of State or Government and other levels to reconnect the countries of the Western Balkans. I commend the President and the Government for their efforts

We also discussed our collective neighbourhood, where people in Ukraine are demanding closer political and economic association with the European Union. We reject violence, brutality and violations of human rights. Dialogue and reforms can restore stability in the Ukrainian society. Our offer of an Association Agreement with the European Union is still there

Another question is that of migration, that I know is also an important issue in Slovenia -and an issue where I want leaders in June to discuss how to deal with migration and asylum in the longer term. The Slovenian contribution to help mitigate the negative and sometimes tragic consequences of migration, including through your support of the humanitarian Mare Nostrum operation, deserves to be recognised and applauded. The Union is increasingly active in its support to Member States in this field as well. Additional concrete actions have just been agreed by our justice and home ministers

Finally, let me say a few words about 2014. It is going to be an important year, not least because of the European elections in May. Political and opinion leaders have to stand up for our European convictions, for our policies and tell where the long-term interests of our citizens lie as they prepare to vote. We just cannot imagine any longer a return to the past with national customs borders and national currencies. The European Union brought peace, prosperity and democracy - even if we are now going through difficult times, also in Slovenia. Hvala lepa! Thank you

EUC


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