The President of the European Commission, Mr. Barroso, has delivered today the annual speech on the State of the Union. This could be the last time Mr. Barroso is in charge of reporting the main successes and challenges of the Union, in sight of the elections to the Presidency of the European Commission which will take place in 2014.
On this occasion, Barroso has built upon his previous speech, in September 2012, maintaining the substance of his proposal. However, if last year Barroso spoke about the need of moving towards a “Federation of Nation States” (something that caused a great stir), today the president has preferred to avoid this denomination, and rather advocates for “deepening the community method” and constructing, in the long-term, a “true political union”.
Barroso emphasized his commitment with the defense of the subsidiarity principle. In this respect, he explained: “An ever closer Union among the citizens of Europe demand that decisions are taken as open and transparently as possible, and as closely to the people as possible. Not everything needs a solution at the European level.”
However, the president of the Commission remarked: “The European Union needs to be big on big things, and smaller on smaller things (…) There are areas of major importance where only a strong Union can deliver results.” Along these same lines, Barroso claimed: “This (political union) is not just a demand of a passionate European; this is an indispensable way forward to consolidate our progress.”
After all, Barroso refers to a “structural crisis” that connects with “geoeconomical and geopolitical tectonic changes”, in which it is important to preserve European objectives and values (e.g. the economic-social economy) in the globalized world while assuming that “there is no way back to business-as-usual”.
TOUGH WITH MEMBER STATES
During the course of his speech, Barroso announced an upcoming Commission proposal for making it possible to suspend certain Member States rights in the EU for cases of infringement when this infringement means a “serious systemic risk to the rule of law”.
This proposal has its basis in the Article 7. of the Treaty, which under set conditions contemplates, for instance, removing the voting rights of offender Member States.
This attempt to boost law compliance via punishment was garnished with a critique to those who “are always ready to nationalize success and Europeanize failure”.
In this respect, Barroso acknowledged that there are “people” who say that Europe is to be blamed for the crisis, when according to him; the real triggers were “the mismanagement of public finances by national governments and the irresponsible behavior of financial markets”.
Moreover, he claimed that, “public debt got out of control before the crisis, not for but despite Europe” and returned to his defense of further political integration by exposing that currently “Europe lacks the power to do what it has to do”.
BANKING UNION AS A ‘MUST’
The completion of a Banking Union would represent a step beyond the already completed Single Supervisory Mechanism. After the submission of the Commission proposal for a Banking Union in July, Barroso has referred to it as a priority among the ‘many things’ that still have to be done before the end of his, and the MEPs, mandate.
Barroso explained the ‘urgency’ to establish the Banking Union in order to deepen and consolidate the Economic and Monetary Union. Moreover, he pointed at this new example of integration as the way to “ensure that taxpayers are not in the frontline to pay bank failures”. In addition, it would help to reduce sovereign debt risks and to mitigate the fragmentation in European financial sectors as well as investment markets.
More importantly for citizens, the Banking Union would, according to Barroso, have a positive impact on the ‘real economy’ by enabling credit to flow to SMSE and ultimately, generating growth and employment.
THE MFF, NEARLY READY
Mr. Barroso has spoken about the upcoming 8 months as a period in which, it is crucial “not to throw the towel” but to “roll up the sleeves” and “conclude” as much as possible. In that sense, the Commissioner has repeatedly referred to the MFF.
He has acknowledged that this ceiling of expenditure for the upcoming seven years is ”critical for investment on out regions” as it often will represent the only public investment due to the lack of resources at national levels. In turn, these funds will be key for the “fight against unemployment, especially youth unemployment”.
Barroso has stated that by 1st of January 2014, all programmes dependent on MFF will be able to start whilst he also informed that the Commission’s second amending budget for the year 2014 will be presented later this month.
AN OVERVIEW OF ALL POLICY FIELDS WITH OPTIMISM
During the speech on the State of the Union, the head of the Commission dedicated some words to the most diverse topics in the European political spectrum. Thus, Mr. Barroso defended the possibility of establishing legally binding international climate agreements, or the diplomatic way for resolution of the Syrian conflict.
He also mentioned the Easter Partnership (which will be brought forward in Vilnius with occasion of the Lithuanian presidency of the Council), the steps towards the completion of a digital internal market, the benefits of the EU-USA Trade Agreement and the objective of committing further with the scientific and technological sectors.
All in all, Mr. Barroso addressed his speech to the Members of the European Parliament, concerned about the image of Europe they will project during the electoral campaign in 2014, and infusing them with optimism.
To this end, Mr. Barroso spoke about the survival of the Euro project and the EU in general, in spite of the apocalyptic omens of last year, but also about the successful process of integration rewarded by the Nobel Peace prize and about the green sprouts of the European economy.
The president admitted that the crisis has overshadowed aspects of the EU project other than the economic, encouraging the MEPs to retrieve the social dimension of the European project and to ensure that citizens are looking not for rhetoric, but for concrete achievements. He concluded: “We will be judged together about Europe”.