European Jose Manuel Barroso. said in a major speech on Tuesday morning that the EU has survived the economic crisis. He also promised an ambitious Single Market Act to cut red tape for small businesses, liberalize the energy sector and boost green-collar jobs.,
“I believe that we have withstood the test. Those who predicted the demise of the European Union were proved wrong.”
Jose Manuel Barroso
“Over the last year, the economic and financial crisis has put our Union before one of its greatest challenges ever … As I look back at how we have reacted, I believe that we have withstood the test,” Mr Barroso told MEPs in his first ever so-called State of the Union address. “Those who predicted the demise of the European Union were proved wrong.”
His remarks come after a threat of sovereign default by eurozone countries such as Greece and Spain threatened to pull apart the single currency in a potentially deadly blow to the 50-year-old European project.
Noting that “our work is not finished,” the Portuguese politician put the EU’s economic future at the top of his five-point agenda.
He defended the commission‘s push to regulate EU countries’ debt levels despite rising social tension in countries such as Greece, which has seen an outbreak of violent street protests in reaction to EU-and-IMF-imposed cutbacks.
“Unsustainable budgets make us vulnerable. Debt and deficit lead to boom and bust. And they unravel the social safety net. Money that is spent on servicing debt is money that cannot be spent on the social good,” he said.
He spoke up for an “ambitious” future budget, saying: “The EU budget is not for Brussels – it is for the people that you represent … a euro spent at European level gets you more than a euro spent at national level.”
With the commission to shortly publish ideas on how to raise extra EU money by, for example, directly taxing financial transactions, the commission chief attacked the culture of “pessimism” and Brussels nay-saying in some EU capitals: “I find it extraordinary that some are already rejecting them [the new budget ideas], without even knowing what they will be.”
He set out a shopping list of upcoming economic initiatives.
He said Brussels will propose launching “EU project bonds” together with the European Investment Bank to help finance new infrastructure. He promised an “ambitious Single Market Act” to cut red tape for small businesses, liberalise the energy sector and boost “green collar” jobs.
He said the commission will attack risk-generating financial practices such as big bonuses, credit default swaps and naked short selling. He also promised to overhaul the “byzantine” complexity of the EU budget, in which countries give money with one hand and take it away with another, and to move to a 10-year budgeting period instead of the current seven.
- EU gets Barroso ‘state of union’ (bbc.co.uk)
- EU Commission President Barroso “hails economic improvement” across the EU (politics.ie)
- Barroso speech targets French anti-Gypsy campaign (guardian.co.uk)
- Barroso says EU economic recovery gathering pace (reuters.com)
- How many presidents does it take to run Europe? (economist.com)