Inaugural Speech by Jerzy Buzek to the European Economic Congress
I would like to welcome to Katowice, Silesia and Poland - the heads of governments of Central European countries ranging from the Baltic to the Adriatic. I welcome also the Vice President of the European Commission. I welcome all of you - entrepreneurs, scientists, managers and politicians to the European Economic Congress. We meet for the third time to discuss the economy of our continent.
We meet in the heart of Europe's coal industry, which also beats harder and harder, as the heart of Polish innovative industries.
The European Union last year produced over €12 trillion of Gross Domestic Product. We are the world's largest economy. But are we the most competitive one? Economic growth has reached less than 2% and public debt exceeded 80%.
For nearly two decades, we have a single market, but it is not yet complete - at least not in the energy sphere. We have a common currency, but 10 member states remain outside the euro zone. We have a budget but its amount in relation to GDP is many times smaller than the size of national budgets. These are the obstacles to increased competitiveness. Step by step, we are removing these obstacles. Also, through strategies such as the one adopted last year, the "EU 2020."
Every year the competitiveness of our economy will depend increasingly on its innovation. Today in the EU we invest in innovation only 1.8% of GDP. The world is not waiting for us: in the U.S. it is 2.6%, in Japan - 3.4%. If we achieve the expected 3% within the next 5 years approximately 4 million jobs will be created.
We, European politicians, can and must foster innovation. Currently the main tool is the seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development, of which I was parliamentary rapporteur. Now we begin to work on another program - for the years 2014 and further. We can overcome the crisis permanently only by being innovative.
The time of crisis, is also a time of reforms. It is best to take difficult decisions in crisis situations. European leaders must have the courage to tell the citizens: "We have lived on credit for far too long." The bailiff is not knocking on our door yet, but he already knows our address. We must begin to repay the loans. It means that from now on we need to work longer, be more economic and certainly retire later. We also need to apply in practice the principle of solidarity - the foundation on which the Founding Fathers built the European Community.
Solidarity and responsibility
Three decades ago we began to cry out in Central Europe - "There is no freedom without Solidarity." The strength of our voice broke the Iron Curtain and toppled the Berlin Wall. Solidarity with a capital 'S' re-united Europe. But today let us be clear with ourselves: there is no solidarity without responsibility. There is no aid without reform; loans without sacrifice. This is the only way we can defend the single market and common currency.
The permanent mechanism for aid for the Euro-zone countries, which we have created, is to be a fishing rod - not the fish itself. The fact that some people borrow to others, does not mean that they will not want their money back. Countries that still need help are like cars, which ran out of fuel half way through. We provide them with a full canister, but we expect two things. First, that they will reach a gas station built on the foundation of reforms and would give the full canister back. Second, equally important - that the next time once on the road, they would reflect looking at the fuel gauge.
European Energy Community
When speaking of fuel, it is worth remembering that the European market is not energetically single.
Therefore, a year ago I presented - together with Jacques Delors - the idea of creating the European Energy Community. We want it to be a new brand for current and future initiatives within which the EU will introduce a truly single market for gas and electricity supply. We need such a community. Already today the EU economy is 55% dependent on imported raw materials when it comes to energy. Only 2 of the 27 member countries are exporters of natural gas. Our needs will grow. Better serve them together. It is better to share the surplus within the Union and negotiate the price of gas together with external suppliers. Especially when these are our neighbours whose token stability was set above true democratization for far too long.
We have been acting quickly. At the end of 2010 the European Parliament urged the Member States and the European Commission to give a specific framework of the Energy Community. According to recent Eurobarometer survey, the idea of creating such a new Community is supported by 78% of EU citizens.
New Financial Framework
Stable growth and strong economy will help us build a good European budget. We have here in Katowice Janusz Lewandowski with us, the budget Commissioner. Next month he will announce a proposal for the new Multi-annual Financial Framework after 2013. For nearly a quarter-century financial frameworks have been the guarantor of the implementation of Community policies. Those which on the basis of the subsidiarity principle, work best at the European level.
For years, the EU budget amounts to 1% of GDP. The budgets of member countries reach tens of percent of GDP. We have a task oriented budget where some 95% is earmarked for investment in jobs and economic growth.
Therefore, those who are talking today about reducing the EU budget, because they make savings in national budgets, are wrong. The European Commission's analysis shows that the absolute majority of member states increased their national budgets, despite the crisis.
If we talk about modern cohesion policy for all Member States, if we talk about strengthening the second pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy; that is rural development, and if we are talking about major expenditures on research and innovation; if we are talking at last about the new role the Union is supposed to play in the world, we can not cut its budget. You can not have more Europe for less money.
And yet we have ambitions of being a partner not only for the world powers, but also for our closest neighbors in Europe. Two weeks ago, we inaugurated Euronest - The Parliamentary Assembly of the Eastern Partnership countries and the European Parliament. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine can and want to cooperate with the EU economically and bring closer their peoples to us. Among them, Belarus is missing. We leave a free seat for it. The seat waits for Belarus, one that is democratic, respects human rights and freedom of expression; for Belarus truly respectful of its own citizens.
From Katowice I'm going directly to the South Caucasus. I will repeat to the Armenians, Georgians and the Azerbaijani people that the Union is open to the close cooperation with them. The future of this cooperation is in their hands. Countries wanting to be our partners have to implement norms and standards common to us all.
Hungarian and Polish Presidencies
In a month and a half the Hungarian presidency of the EU Council will come to an end. You have set for yourself Mr. Prime Minister Orban, four ambitious goals: strengthening the EU economy, the development of EU internal policy, supporting enlargement and bringing citizens closer to the EU. You are accomplishing the goals well. It is equally important that you direct the daily work of the Council of the European Union efficiently.
On July 1, Poland will take the baton from you. Poland has been preparing for this moment for 7 years of its EU membership. The government of Prime Minister Tusk identified six priority areas: relationship with the East, the internal market, to strengthening energy policy, common security and defense policy, the negotiation of the MFF and full use of the intellectual capacity of Europe.
This is an extremely ambitious program. I believe and I know that we are able to achieve it. I also believe that the key to success is a common European approach, which was well-recognized by the Nobel Prize winner in physics, - Maria Goepperd Mayer from Katowice. Accepting the award, she said: "receiving this prize is only half as satisfying as the work that led to it." Let this be our motto!
Thank you very much!
Press Team Leader
Mobile: +32 498 981 550