President. – The next item is the statement by the President of the Commission on the Commission work programme for 2012.
As you know, this is a very important item. It is also connected with our Framework Agreement with the European Commission. This means we have to work together to prepare a suitable work programme for the European institutions for the next year. The European Parliament is going to discuss this matter. We are also going to express our opinion on this matter in December. I would like to ask Mr Barroso to take the floor.
José Manuel Barroso, President of the Commission. – Mr President, honourable Members, the past few weeks have again shown how much is at stake for the European Union today. We must react quickly and decisively to events that affect every citizen and every household in Europe. Against this background, it is more essential than ever that our institutions strengthen our cooperation and show common resolve to deliver rapid and effective responses to the crisis.
The basis for a successful response is to have a clear consensus about where Europe is heading. I believe that the Commission and this Parliament share this consensus – this ambition for a European Union that is stable and strong, that is open and really united.
The Commission work programme is a key building block to achieving this vision. It is therefore particularly important that it rests on a series of intensive exchanges between our two institutions. This intensive dialogue has been decisive in determining the focus of the programme for 2012. Through the Conference of Committee Chairs, the Committee of Presidents, and the structured dialogue between Commissioners and Committees – and I would also add, Mr President, the political dialogue which we had with you when you were invited several times to the College of Commissioners – through all these occasions, we have been able to explore key measures across the full range of our work.
The State of the Union debate was at the core of this work. It set the tone. We were right to be ambitious for Europe. Our common messages were heard. Many of them are indeed reflected in the recent European Council conclusions, and they provide the backbone of the programme.
The events of the last weeks only confirm that we are at a key moment in the history of our Union. To secure the reforms that Europe needs to transform itself, we have to win the confidence of our citizens and also of investors. We need a European renewal, and regaining confidence requires swift and decisive action. We are constantly being called upon to take swift decisions.
Last week, we reshaped the Commission’s rules to give a special role to the new task of Vice-President for Economic and Monetary Affairs. This was done as a matter of urgency to allow Vice-President Rehn to appear before this Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs on 23 November also as Vice-President for the Euro.
For next week, we have accelerated the annual growth survey. We will also present new proposals on further deepening European Union and euro area economic governance to provide further stability, discipline and convergence, and to complement the reforms agreed through the so-called ‘six-pack’. Since we are going to have the opportunity tomorrow to discuss these matters in more detail, I will not go into this part now, but I know that we have the support of this Parliament for such decisive action.
The political consensus that we are shaping together to tackle the crisis is the springboard for this action. I can now say the same should be true for next year’s programme. By the end of 2012, we should see the ambitious measures we are putting forward today being passed into national law. We should see implementation starting to bite and have a real impact, and we will have further measures proposed by the Commission.
We know well what our common priorities are: we must achieve sustainable and job-creating growth; we must bring public finances back on track; we must restore confidence in our European Union’s ability to get out of the economic crisis.
Over the next year, we can show that the European Union has what we need to overcome the crisis and restore growth. It has the vision we need in the shape of our political consensus for action on this renewal. It should have the tools we need, with the transparent and democratic approach enshrined in the Community method, and it has the collective determination we need to carry through ideas into action.
Our joint determination has also managed to move opposition in Council to the programme of aid to the most deprived persons. Following our insistence, Council finally approved this scheme for the most deprived persons yesterday. The Commission has already tabled a new proposal for after 2013. It is now up to this Parliament and the Council to decide on it. One thing should be clear: the Commission does not give up on having this kind of programme after 2013.
The Commission has focused its work programme for 2012 on reinforcing stability and responsibility, while at the same time stimulating growth, doing everything we can to counter the very negative outlook we have today for the economic situation in Europe.
With the Europe 2020 strategy, we have the blueprint for achieving sustainable and job-creating growth. We now have to keep up the momentum and agree and implement changes that bring real benefit. We have to be coherent and consistent in implementation. We cannot just approve measures and then afterwards forget about their implementation. It is extremely important to follow on.
Europe 2020 can be the spark to a virtuous circle of growth, and I can count on your support to help give this process the political momentum it needs.
The work of the European Semester will be critical over the next year, to drill down action into Member States and ensure that all parts of Europe help each other to recover.
Part and parcel of this work is, of course, to ensure sound public finances. We cannot do this by turning our backs on ways to improve revenues. That is why we need to keep up the pressure for a financial transaction tax, and why we will be looking at new measures to tackle tax havens and counter VAT fraud. We will also make a focused proposal on protecting the financial interests of the European Union, including by criminal law.
We will also press on with financial sector reform. Key proposals will be on the table by the end of this year, including ones on bank resolution. Next year, we will press on with measures on investor protection, critical to deepening confidence in the sector. Institutions for occupational retirement provision are also a sector to work on next year.
The backbone of our strength, as we have said so often, is the single market. It has made us what we are today, the world’s largest economy. We need to further develop it and bring it into the 21st century so that it can continue to generate growth.
Twenty years on from its inception, we can show that the single market remains a key motor for sustainable growth in Europe. This is why we have proposed fast-tracking the priority proposals set out in the Single Market Act. We have accelerated our work on these proposals and we are asking the legislators to work to see these in law by the end of next year.
There is a wide range of proposals now on the table. If we want to have a real impact on growth, and quickly, we need to adopt them and see them implemented. The European patent, roaming charges, the Energy Savings Directive – these are all examples where early adoption would also show a European Union determined to do everything possible to boost growth.
The modern European economy also rests heavily on the digital single market. We will address the risks of electronic services being hampered by incompatible national copyright regimes, with a proposal on rules for the cross-border licensing of online music. A pan-European framework for electronic identification and signatures will give the confidence needed to boost electronic transactions across the European Union.
Growth is also generated by consumers. Their confidence is key to boosting demand. A comprehensive consumer agenda will provide a secure foundation for consumer transactions in the single market, while revised rules on general product safety will offer a clear framework both for consumers and manufacturers.
The growth we need to achieve in the European Union has to go hand in hand with the creation of sustainable jobs. We need to give a new momentum to flexicurity to drive a jobs-rich recovery, closely involving the social partners. More than ever, social dialogue is necessary both at European and at national level.
We will help young people to move around Europe with a Youth on the Move card. We also want to look again at the handling of supplementary pension rights of people who change jobs: this must not be allowed to remain an obstacle. I am also determined that we do not lose sight of our longer-term need to build an economic recovery that is sustainable. Next year will be a key moment of transition to the revised Emissions Trading System.
The Rio+ Summit will remind us of our global obligations for sustainability and green growth, looking in particular at a new water strategy. New proposals on emissions for passenger cars and vans will spur innovation and give manufacturers the necessary regulatory certainty. We will also draw the conclusions for legislation from the stress tests following the Fukushima accident.
I believe that next year, we will see important initiatives in the field of green growth. I know that now, in the face of the difficult situation in economic and budgetary terms of many of our Member States, speaking about this agenda is not so popular, but I believe that we need these kinds of initiatives more than ever and we are working precisely on linking some of our initiatives in terms of climate action and protection of the environment with the e-economy, the digital economy, so that we can indeed have important breakthroughs in terms of our action for green growth.
Providing security and justice in a borderless Europe continues to be a big challenge. For an open Europe to work, we need to make sure that its border regime is up to date. Modernisation and the use of new technology will ensure that the system encourages cross-border activity while providing the necessary safeguards.
I also believe this is a time of real opportunity for the European Union on the global stage. This is key to recovery. We will be taking forward a wide range of bilateral trade negotiations, as well as continuing to make the case for a European approach in fora such as the WTO, the G20 and the G8. At the same time, we must continue to respond to the dramatic changes in the southern Mediterranean. I believe we have a responsibility to do everything we can to help the post-transition societies there to develop successfully, and the Commission is determined to support that process. I believe that longer-term stability and prosperity in our close neighbours is also – apart from our commitment to important values – in our very urgent interest.
I know that we already have a wide agenda on the table. The measures on economic governance, on the single market, on financial services, not to mention the multiannual financial framework, will make huge demands on us all over the coming year, and we know that we are also going to deal with these very important initiatives against a backdrop of economic financial instability, where the news coming from Europe and also from other parts of the world is not always the best. That makes us need more than ever this spirit of responsibility and solidarity among the Member States and among the European institutions.
I believe that confidence comes through showing that the European Union has the determination to act. I believe that in the past, we have seen that, sometimes, it is under conditions of huge pressure and precisely when we are resisting or reacting to crises that the European Union is able to show how important it is for the prosperity of our citizens.
I hope the Commission can count on your support in joining us in delivering concrete, ambitious action.
József Szájer, on behalf of the PPE Group. – Mr President, on behalf of the EPP Group, I would like to share some thoughts about the new Commission work programme. My colleagues will go into detail, but I would just like to welcome the Commission’s proposals for 2012, especially as we cannot ignore that Europe is in deep crisis. The engines of the European recovery should be the European Parliament and the Commission together, in cooperation with the other institutions.
I notice with confidence and with satisfaction that the test which the Commission applied in the past towards different legislation is basically about better and new measures and whether new legislation is really contributing to growth and job creation. This will also be the test from my group’s point of view; whether any kind of measure we discuss in Parliament or the different forums of the European Union in the framework of legislation really contributes to this kind of general goal and whether it creates jobs. This is the general test we are applying to everything. I hope the Commission will agree with us on this.
I would like to make another point on the procedure itself. We have been having this general discussion on the Commission work programme year by year. Now we are in a new procedure, but we do not see very much difference. Very often, we see that a part which we adopted the previous year does not show up in the programme for the following year. We have to improve this process, because it is Parliament’s very important prerogative to influence what is going on at legislation level because we do not have the right of initiative. This is why it is of special importance for us to see the results. In my specific area, comitology, we are still awaiting the application from last year’s work programme to the acquis according to the new comitology procedure. We did not see much this year except in the international trade issues, but we would like to see the programme reflected in the daily work of the different institutions. We asked the Commission to move closer to this general goal. We, in the PPE Group, will support you as you apply this test on how to create a better economic environment and on how to create jobs and growth in the European Union.
Hannes Swoboda, on behalf of the S&D Group. – (DE) Mr President, Mr Barroso, we must not beat around the bush. We are in a difficult situation and it is the responsibility of the Commission and the European Parliament to work very closely together, particularly next year, in order to ward off the attacks currently being made on Europe.
The initial attacks are coming from the financial markets. They do not like us and they are very fond of themselves and their own profits. Mr Barroso, I think it is essential for us to make rapid progress with all our plans for introducing regulations, in particular Mr Barnier’s. It is important for us to move ahead with the financial transaction tax, because this will transform financial investments into real investments, which is crucial for growth.
Secondly, Mr Barroso, we are focusing on budget deficits and on sanctions against them. This is an important consideration, but it is not the only one. If we want to encourage growth, as you have said, we need an overall concept behind all of this which is based on growth. We need investment and we also need the surplus funding from the budget. We are very well aware that much of the money available in our common budget is not spent. I would like to see a proposal from the Commission showing how this money can be used, in particular for investment in Greece, for example, or in other countries.
Thirdly, there are the institutional issues. Mr Joschka Fischer, the former member of the Green Party – or he may still be a member, I do not know – has written a famous essay in which he tells us to forget the current Europe. I do not want to forget the Europe which we have now, despite all its shortcomings and problems. The alternative, which involves dividing Europe in two or breaking it down into the euro area with a euro government and a euro parliament, together with our Parliament and our Commission, is not acceptable. We are opposed to this concept. It will not allow us to make progress. In addition, the economic and political links are too strong. I am not ruling out special regulations for the euro area. However, we have had enough of separating, splitting and dividing Europe. We need to move forward. There is only one common Europe and it is the job of the European Commission and the European Parliament in particular to make this clear.
Some people also say that we should forget the social question. That is not our position, particularly with regard to the social elements. The pay gap and the divide between rich and poor are widening – with regard to consumers that is also an important growth issue – because the salaries of the people at the top of the tree, who tend to consume relatively little, are increasing and the people at the bottom are earning less and less.
Therefore, it is very important for us to focus on the issue of distribution. It is not only a question of the Occupy movement. In many countries, it is giving rise to genuine anti-European feeling and I believe that we need to be aware of this.
Mr Barroso, a Treaty change is imminent. Many of us are very, very sceptical that this is the right route to take. However, we need to make one thing clear. Firstly, in the case of Treaty change, the focus must be on the Community method. We must stand up together and support the Community method.
Secondly, we must not consider only the budget issues. There are other economic and social problems in Europe. In the case of any Treaty changes, we must stick together and make it clear that we need the Community method and joint resolution of Europe’s economic and social problems, within a united and not a divided Europe.
Andrew Duff, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, this work programme brings the Commission and Parliament back to centre stage. We have had too much recently of panicky and chaotic summitry from our Prime Ministers that have destroyed not only market confidence, but also democratic confidence in the integration process. It is crucial to show that, despite this turmoil, we are able to proceed with a serious legislative programme crafted in the common interests of all the Member States.
This must be the year of fiscal solidarity. It must also be the year where we see the clear first fruits from the Treaty of Lisbon in terms of a common foreign and security policy. It will be the year when we have to change direction from seeking multilateral agreements on trade to a series of bilateral agreements with our principal trading partners.
There is also some important business from previous years which is far from complete. If I could just mention one, it is the European Union’s accession to the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights), which is essential to provide a uniform standard of protection of fundamental rights across the continent. This accession process has now stalled and I hope that President Barroso will do all he can to see that it is brought to a successful conclusion.
Rebecca Harms, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Mr Barroso, I have taken part in these debates about the Commission work programme too often to be able to say that I am impressed. On the contrary, it seems to me that this proposal for the work programme is very much about business as usual and that you are failing to cope with the situation that the European Union finds itself in barely 14 days after the last crisis summit, which was supposed to have resulted in a breakthrough.
The fact that we now have two old European countries being run by technical governments is an indication of the decline of democracy within the European Union, which we simply must acknowledge in a self-critical way. In my opinion, the blame also lies with the Union. The laissez-faire approach to the markets and the laissez-fair attitude in Brussels to the countries with deficits and those with surpluses is also your responsibility. In order to be credible, the work programme should include a statement on this situation.
I do not believe that the Papandreou government failed only as a result of Mr Papandreou. I think it was partly due to the fact that the crisis programmes adopted in Brussels were too one-sided and that we need to recognise – and it must finally sink in, damn it – that programmes which focus only on austerity and which do not seriously come to grips with economic growth in the deficit countries at the same time are doomed to disaster. The situation will be just the same for the technical governments, both in Italy and in Greece, as it has been hitherto in the problem countries.
We are all very pleased to hear your remarks about the Community method. However, should I believe them? I think it is a good thing that Mr Rehn has been given a more prominent role and will have more to say in future. What does it mean, however, when Mr Van Rompuy’s role is also upgraded at the same time? We take a step towards the Community method and, at the summits, we simultaneously take two steps back from it. If all the crisis instruments are operating outside the Treaties, how will the Community method work? We need to discuss this as well while you are promoting your ideas concerning the Community method in this House.
On the subject of the programmes that you are proposing, I would like to say that green growth is something that I have heard you talking about over a long period with regard to energy and the climate. I do not want to repeat mantra-like something that I have often said before. We are in a very poor position in the run-up to Durban. We have not put in place any firm measures which could help us to reach the two degree-goal that you have so often committed to. As I said recently in the context of a smaller group, green growth, for example, in the agriculture industry does not mean what Mr Cioloş wants. Instead, for you, it means more concentration, more large businesses, fewer farms, fewer jobs, more intensive farming, more monocultures, less added value for the individual business, a greater impact on the environment and an increased dependency on imports. That is not what I understand by green growth. I believe that green growth in this work programme is a genuine example of greenwashing, because it is not consistent with the individual regulations that you are drawing up.
On the subject of Joschka Fischer, Mr Swoboda, as a member of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, I completely share your view. I also cannot take seriously anyone who does an arbitrary about-face of this kind, talking one day about the United States of Europe and then only a week later coming up with this half-hearted proposal.
Malcolm Harbour, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, unlike some of my colleagues, I welcome this proposal because I see that it is much more focused than we have seen before on the real priorities that we have to tackle, which are to support economic growth and job creation. This is absolutely the most critical thing we have to do.
Mr Duff referred a bit earlier to us coming back to centre stage after all the summitry. I just want to remind him that, on 23 October, at the first summit of that week, the communiqué had as its two top priorities the priorities of this Commission work programme – to complete the 12 levers of growth in the Single Market Act. My group certainly supports that very strongly and, as Chair of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, I clearly support that as well. But the second priority for the Council – and indeed we see this in this Commission work programme – is to create the digital single market at the same time and keep that investment going. The third priority in the 23 October summit was to tackle the problem of regulatory burden and to go for smart regulation, which I also see is in here. I want to thank the Commission President for putting that in here, because those targets have been largely invisible up to now. As I have said to him, we want a higher profile for those policies to help business move forward. He is quite right to point out that we have made progress there.
What we do not want in this proposal are actions that would actively undermine economic growth. By his own impact assessment, the one proposal in here that will do more damage to economic growth than anything else – in his impact assessment, a minimum of cutting economic growth by half a percent of GDP across Europe – is the financial transaction tax. What are we doing now if the priority is about economic growth in putting this in your work programme?
I just conclude by what it said in the Council conclusions. The European Union needs to support all actions on economic growth and job creation. The single market underpins that, and that is a policy all of us must share and all of us must move forward. We absolutely cannot have divisions in the way that we plan to move forward in developing the single market.
Patrick Le Hyaric, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (FR) Mr President, Mr Barroso, you presented a programme which, to my mind, does not take into account the extreme seriousness of the crisis, the loss of popular sovereignty that we have been witnessing in recent days, and the rejection by the people of the European idea itself, because Europe, in truth, is neither united, nor social, nor ecological.
Admittedly, you are continually talking about growth and employment, but threats of recession and unemployment are all that lie ahead. Hyper-austerity and the destruction of social rights are leading us straight towards bankruptcy. That is why, Mr President, I suggest that you consider – simply consider – another approach. If there is any need to change the Treaties at all, this would have to entail changing the missions of the European Central Bank to enable it, by way of monetary creation, to take on or guarantee the debts of Member States and to promote new credit that would support an economic and social recovery. In connection with a new human, social and ecological development fund, paid for by a tax on financial transactions that you just mentioned, and by cracking down on tax evasion, which you also mentioned, and in connection with the European Central Bank, it would be possible to kick-start public services in the areas of transport, education, housing, health and social security for those in work and in training, which are vital investments for creating jobs in Europe. These tools should provide incentives for social progress everywhere, with the introduction of a European minimum income and minimum wage in order to put an end to the deadly competition between employees.
There you have it, Mr President. That is another way of looking at things. I am simply asking you to consider it.
Mario Borghezio, on behalf of the EFD Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I have listened to talk of the usual programme of cuts to financial revenue and the fight against speculation, but I hear little of anything concrete. Instead, one should speak clearly about separating banks that are collection oriented from those that are speculation oriented, such as Goldman Sachs, which, in fact, seems to have become the calling card with which you present us the saviours of Greece and the saviours of Italy.
I do not believe in a European Union which imposes these characters as a diktat, these characters who are all authoritative members of those estimable consortia such as the Trilateral Commission or the Bilderberg Club, which also bring together the protagonists, the heads of the European Union, without admitting any outsiders, because these protagonists are from a place where secret decisions are made – decisions which then have an impact on the people.
You always talk about cuts – cuts on the real economy and cuts on salaries and pensions, but never about cuts on the profits made by banks, and never about cuts on finance chiefs. What a great epilogue for our country’s celebrations for 150 years of national unity – the total sell-out of Italian sovereignty to the mighty powers of the lords of the world! Congratulations!
Nicole Sinclaire (NI). – Mr President, the Lisbon strategy’s aim in 2000 was to make the EU the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion. As we know, it failed. And now, looking at this proposal for a work programme in the EU, it will continue to be a failure. According to Eurostat, industrial output in the EU fell by 19% during the economic crisis, in comparison to 17% in the US. Downturn in industrial output in the eurozone has been worse than the EU 27 as a whole, suggesting that the euro is a burden to recovery. Even the EU’s own figures show that more job growth is created outside the eurozone than in, and yet unelected President Barroso says the UK is obliged to join the euro. No thank you very much.
The UK needs to divorce itself from this coven of failure and despair, and to instigate a free trade agreement with Europe and the world. Let us be gone and plague you no more. For the sake of my country, be gone with your damaging regulations. Be gone with your harmful harmonisation. Be gone with your destructive laws. Be gone with your affronts to our democracy. Be gone with your begging bowls. Plague us no more.
Daniel Caspary (PPE). – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I must honestly say that I am increasingly disappointed by the work of the Commission and the Commission President, because I feel that, in the light of the difficult situation we currently find ourselves in, there is a complete lack of European conviction and of the initiative to come up with new ideas.
I am a member of the third generation since the Second World War. My children, who are two and four years old, are the fourth generation. We have learned that the worst disasters in the world are quickly forgotten. I became aware of this during the time I spent in Japan with the Committee on International Trade. All along the coast, there are warning stones which indicate where major catastrophes involving tsunamis occurred in the past. Everyone knows that tsunamis can hit anywhere and that they penetrate far into the interior of the country. Nevertheless, nuclear power stations and other facilities have been built in these areas. Tens of thousands of people died in the earthquake and tsunami, because although everyone knew about all the dreadful things that had happened in the past, they did not take them seriously or act accordingly. I am concerned that we are doing the same thing here in Europe three or four generations after the Second World War.
Mr Barroso, we are in the midst of a serious crisis and you are presenting us with a Commission work programme which is almost identical to that of last year. I am convinced that you are paying no attention to major changes. When will we finally get around to enforcing European law? When will we force countries to comply with European regulations, for example? During our discussions on the euro, why has no one called on Sweden finally to join the euro? In this area, we could also start enforcing the European Treaties. We should be launching initiatives which focus on new subjects, which present the European Union in such a way that the citizens of Europe are brought on board, which give rise to new ideas, and which do not simply continue as if nothing had happened.
I have to say frankly that I am very disappointed. The work programme for next year is also a disappointment. I would be very grateful if we could introduce some improvements in this area.
Patrizia Toia (S&D). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this year and the next are crucial to the future and unity of Europe. The work programme should therefore be included more fully in this framework of exceptionality, which certainly means focusing on key objectives, giving more concrete efficacy to our actions, concentrating investments towards those bodies which can, in turn, put into action other private resources, but also, as my colleague has said, seeing the Commission – President Barroso, if I could just have your attention for a moment – playing a more active role, which is better directed towards the reality of certain countries and of the entire euro area and of the whole of Europe.
We hope that the Commission will take on this role, and I say this even as a representative of a country which, at this moment, is changing its government; which is not a technocratic government but rather a technical government that demonstrates not the rejection of political forces and politics but, if anything, the generosity – and I say this as a force that was in opposition in my country – of parties that are ready to do what is useful for the country even without direct representation.
I believe that the theme of stable and equal growth should regard the theme of supporting businesses in two ways: access to credit and innovation. The Commission and Europe are capable of achieving this in a concrete way. When we recapitalise and help to recapitalise banks, even, perhaps, with public support, we should demand that this credit go to the real economy – first and foremost to the real economy. When Horizon 2020 becomes one of the main dossiers, we should initiate wide-scale research on innovation for enterprises, whether these be large or small. The chapter on the digital agenda is also very important because the creation of this unique market will be of great help to society.
Marian Harkin (ALDE). – Mr President, earlier this week, Angela Merkel said that the challenge facing Europe is the toughest since the Second World War. She is probably right.
Her solution to this particular problem is to call for closer political ties and tougher budget rules. In purely economic terms, this may be a possible solution in that it will help to balance the books. Mr President, you yourself spoke of deepening integration, of an enhanced ‘six-pack’, of economic governance, and of completing the single market. However, Commissioner, for many citizens, that is simply not enough.
Balancing the books on its own is not an adequate response. It cannot be just about economics because, if it is, then it will not be possible to win the confidence of the citizens you spoke of. And we need to win that confidence. We need that support so that citizens can see that the EU is working for them, not just to satisfy the markets or recapitalise the banks.
As a member of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, I have real concerns that we are not addressing the social and employment areas adequately. This morning, we had a debate on the European platform against poverty and social exclusion, looking at how the Commission, the Parliament and the Member States can take concrete actions to assist the 80 million Europeans that are at risk of poverty. And Commissioner, those numbers are growing.
Our work programme must ensure that inclusive growth and employment-generating projects are at its core. That message needs to be delivered loud and clear to citizens. Europe will succeed if its citizens are confident that they are its real concern. It is not enough that that message is implicit. It must be explicit. We need to articulate a vision for Europe that citizens can believe in – balance the economic with the social, and I think then we might just get their attention.
Paweł Robert Kowal (ECR). – (PL) Mr President, Mr Barroso, I listened carefully to your speech. I respect you as a politician, and I very much liked many of the points you made. However, in a situation in which we are feeling the crisis, we are feeling the weakness of the Lisbon Treaty, and we are feeling, too, a weakening of your own authority. I expected you would say something more, and not speak as if you were only a bookkeeper. I expected you to talk about the causes of the crisis in Europe. I would also like to hear from you in subsequent statements about what lies at the root of the crisis.
You should be speaking about a return to traditional republican values – not going around the world with a collection hat, but going back to the traditional virtues of thrift and prudence, and talking about the demographic crisis and the crisis of the family. In Europe, there is a sense of prevailing crisis, and for this a bookkeeper will not be enough – what is needed is a politician who will define the fundamental problems which lay at the root of this crisis. They are not just bookkeeping problems, they are problems of a much more serious nature. They are problems of our attitude to our neighbours, with the fact that we shut ourselves off from others, with the fact that we do not know how to save, with the fact that austerity programmes and programmes for change are only programmes on paper. We are waiting for you to give a lead.
Helmut Scholz (GUE/NGL). – (DE) Mr President, Mr Barroso, like many of my fellow Members, I would also like to say that we need to be honest and admit that the central task for the Commission in 2012 is nothing less than holding together the European Union. We need to take a joint approach to developing it further.
We need more Europe. We must stick together in the interest of the citizens and we must not allow individual Member States to be exposed to attacks from financial capitalism. However, more Europe must not mean less democracy.
In 2012, we will undoubtedly have to lay the foundations for the future development of the European Union, which will perhaps come close to being a state. However, in this Europe which resembles a state, decisions must not be made by decree by the Council and the Commission. The groundwork carried out by the Commission for the convention in 2012 must not result in the citizens of Europe and their parliaments being disenfranchised. Instead, we need a more democratic Europe with a focus on peace, environmental change and social progress.
Do you not realise, Mr Barroso, that you and the Commission are increasingly being regarded by the people of Greece, Portugal and Italy as their enemy? The Council has succeeded in making you the scapegoat. Brussels is ordering the privatisation of state assets, cuts in wages and pensions, and the removal of protection against dismissal. This is all pure neoliberalism.
Stop, Mr Barroso! You must finally turn the Commission into the ally of the citizens. You must defend people against the effects of greed and join with us in 2012 in bringing an end to the business model that has driven entire states to the brink of ruin with extortionate interest rates. You must stop feeding the predators. Instead, you must channel the funds into urgently needed investments in the future and make the financial transaction tax your touchstone.
Gerard Batten (EFD). – Mr President, I would like to address Mr Barroso. You always tell the same story which is more of the same: more Europe, not less Europe. Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity was to keep on doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. You propose yet more swathes of legislation and yet more power to the EU. You have previously said that the EU must assume economic and financial fiscal governance of the Member States.
Where has all this centralisation of power actually got you? The EU underperforms economically with the rest of the world, mainly because of the burden of job-destroying and prosperity-restricting legislation. The crises in Greece and Italy have been, in part, caused by their membership of the European single currency. Instead of organising an orderly exit, they have had to sacrifice democratic government and have it replaced by rule by economists and technocrats. You propose yet more of the same thing and expect different results. One does not have to be Albert Einstein to predict the result.
Angelika Werthmann (NI). – (DE) Mr President, the 2012 work programme talks about commitment. I would like to look at some points that are very important to me. The negotiations on the new multiannual financial framework give us the opportunity to introduce own resources in order to remove the burden from the Member States and, therefore, from the citizens of Europe. The financial transaction tax should already be something that we take for granted. Furthermore, in the light of the ongoing economic crisis, unemployment, in particular among young people, is a cause of great concern. We must make a targeted attempt to counteract this problem by means of education, training and appropriate investments. We need investments in new and sustainable technologies, including in the field of energy, in order to create new jobs, generate economic growth and take a step towards the fulfilment of our climate goals.
Mr Barroso, there is a great deal to be done. Let us get started!
Csaba Őry (PPE). – (HU) Mr President, Mr Barroso, as coordinator of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, I naturally welcome the Commission work programme. There is not really anything else I could do, as the topics covered by it were already mentioned last year, and already then we welcomed them. I have to say that we agree that the focus should be on employment and growth. We also agree that faster and more efficient work is needed. However, my colleagues have entrusted me with delivering to you the message that we are very dissatisfied with the speed at which the Commission is working. Allow me to name a few examples. We were expecting the Posting of Workers Directive in January this year. You promised us the Working Time Directive for the third quarter of this year. Yes, I know, you are consulting with the social partners. However, if you cannot come to an agreement after all, we expect you to put forward a proposal immediately. The deadline for the third amendment of the White Paper on pensions expired last week; now it is supposedly by Christmas that we will be seeing something. Again, it is uncertain whether this will be realised. Similarly, there have been promises regarding economic services of general interest. These remain unfulfilled, and now we are once again in a situation where it is the end of the year and we have yet to begin discussing the employment directives, even though these should serve as guidelines for the next year. Perhaps we wish to repeat the situation of last year, where it was at the end of the year that we managed to adopt that which we were supposed to be already reporting on by that time. Mr President, the Members wish to do their work, but they cannot do so without you. It is not enough that we communicate our needs to you through own-initiative reports; we also need your cooperation and collaboration.
Alejandro Cercas (S&D). – (ES) Mr President, Mr Barroso, you have certainly made some important comments about governance, reforms and consolidating the internal market, and I have no problem with these. However, Mr Barroso, may I also say that your speech has left me perplexed. It is clearly not the best speech you have ever made, particularly given the enormity of the economic, social and political crisis that Europe is experiencing. It seems to me to be just another speech, and it is not good enough considering the challenges we face.
You have said you would like a partnership with Parliament and with public opinion, and that is what is needed. However, with such an unambitious work programme, I fear you will find it hard to build this partnership, a strong partnership that will rise to the challenge.
Today, we have adopted an important report in the fight against poverty. Read it, Mr Barroso! Not one of the measures in this report is in your work plan. The Anti-discrimination Directive is not in it. The directive on social services of general interest is not in it. The directive on minimum income is not in it.
Nothing in your work programme suggests any desire to build a social Europe, and I am not saying this because it does not mention social aspects, but because you in the Commission still believe you are going to overcome the economic crisis without meeting the needs of society or our citizens.
Do not talk only about flexibility, Mr Barroso. Let us talk about flexibility combined with security for workers, which is so badly needed in these times of crisis. Workers need security, because they are having such a tough time, and it is not acceptable to discuss only the market and the market’s requirements. We must also discuss people’s requirements.
Mr Barroso, there is probably a philosophy behind all this, that there is no room for a social Europe in a time of crisis and globalisation. We need a social Europe now more than ever in this crisis, Mr Barroso, and a social Europe in the midst of globalisation.
IN THE CHAIR: LIBOR ROUČEK Vice-President
Charles Goerens (ALDE). – (FR) Mr President, the big challenge for 2012 is not only how we respond to the sovereign debt crisis and how we manage to maintain sufficient budgetary margins to prepare the future; it is nothing less than the continuation of European integration itself.
It is true that the Commission’s budgetary means are inadequate with only 1% of European gross domestic product to make things happen. We would even be tempted to paraphrase Stalin here: the Commission, how many divisions? However, that would be the wrong way of putting the problem.
The central issue is this: does the Commission still have enough authority and coherence to wield influence? Or will the answers to the major problems be found in such a ludicrous context as the one that characterised the last meeting of Heads of State or Government in Brussels?
In this Chamber, many of us believe that the speech made by President Barroso during the debate on the state of the Union would have been salutary had it been made with the same vigour in 2008, for the abundance of the proposals will not, in itself, be enough to remove the threat of European integration unravelling. From now on, it is important to tackle the very causes of the crisis, which, meanwhile, is becoming social and political.
I am aware that I have mentioned this many times already and that the novelty has worn off, but what is important, first and foremost, is the method we use in the great European project, a method that must give new impetus on the one hand and must, if need be, put pressure on Member States that are found lacking in solidarity. I am not only thinking of countries that admittedly have played a part in worsening their budgetary situation, but also, and above all, countries such as Germany. Not to mention this would be tantamount to brushing part of the problem under the carpet.
Ashley Fox (ECR). – Mr President, if I could offer the Commission one piece of advice as it decides upon next year’s work programme, it would be to stop wasting time discussing a financial transaction tax and instead to concentrate on making the EU more competitive.
The United Kingdom has made clear that it will veto the FTT. If the Commission knows that it can get around the veto with a clever legal manoeuvre regarding the legal basis of such attacks, then let us hear about it. But if, as I suspect, the Commission knows that it cannot, why does it waste time with this posturing? Is it because attacking the City of London wins some cheap popularity on the benches opposite? Or, is it in fact because the Commission has so little else to offer?
Unemployment in Europe is high and rising. Instead of proposing new regulation, you should be repealing it. You should help our businesses create jobs. The Commission should start by scrapping the Working Time Directive. This bureaucratic law costs jobs. I urge you to repeal it, and let our citizens decide what hours they work.
João Ferreira (GUE/NGL). – (PT) Mr President, Commissioner, obviously, the President of the Commission did not think it would be worth turning up for this debate. I will direct the questions that I had for him to you, Commissioner.
There are plenty of reasons for criticising what the Commission has come here to present to us – in fact, there are so many that they would not fit into this one-minute speech – but all I have to do is tell you to look around you. Look at the economic and social disaster. Look at the results of the policies that you have come here to tell are to remain in place.
Questions need to be asked.
How does the Commission justify the rigidity of a Stability and Growth Pact that an ex-President of the Commission has called stupid and that prevented real convergence for the sake of nominal convergence?
How does the Commission justify the instruments enabling speculation on sovereign debt to remain essentially untouched?
How does the Commission justify the recession, the unemployment, the robbery of workers and pensioners, and the despoiling of national economies under the cover of the aggression of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund?
How does the Commission justify the destitution of an EU budget that makes a dead letter of any mention of cohesion in the Treaties?
What sort of democracy is this, when it is now the markets – that wonderful entity – that make or break governments?
I know all too well that asking you these questions will achieve little. I know all too well that the answers increasingly come not from Brussels but from Berlin.
Andreas Mölzer (NI). – (DE) Mr President, although Mr Barroso has rushed out of the House and left us alone here to continue the debate, it is hard to overlook the fact that the Commission work programme for 2012 is not designed to bring us hope in the midst of the crisis. This is a crisis which no longer affects just national budgets, but also the confidence of people in the European Union. It is threatening to become a crisis in European democracy.
Responding to the consequences of over-hasty monetary centralisation by making further moves towards centralisation in the form of economic governance is the equivalent of jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. In addition, the proposed Treaty change will have to be subject to democratic approval in Europe and in the individual Member States. I am curious to see how that will be managed in the Netherlands, in France and in Ireland, where referendums will have to be held on these modified Treaties.
Dividing off the euro area is perhaps the only real solution. This does not mean dividing Europe, because there are already some countries which are in the euro and some which are not. We need more Europe, but not more centralism.
Gay Mitchell (PPE). – Mr President, the IMF has said that if there were a global growth pact to increase consumer spending in Asia and infrastructure spending in the West, the world economy would grow much faster and 25 to 50 million jobs could be created. The former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, writing in the Irish Examiner today, says that even in the last two months of his G20 Presidency, French President Nicholas Sarkozy should push for coordinated action and no leaders should be pushing harder for such an agreement than those of Europe.
Could I ask the European Commission to indicate to this House exactly where this IMF proposal, this IMF argument, this IMF view stands? Do we not really need to think in these terms if we are to do what we really need to do, which is to get people back to work and to take on this recession head-on?
Zita Gurmai (S&D). – Mr President, 2012 is indeed going to be difficult, with many things to accomplish. Let me add three things.
First, let us not forget about gender mainstreaming, which also concerns pension system reform. For reasons such as the pay gap, care work and because of work in precarious and undervalued sectors, women often receive pensions barely above the minimum subsistence level. We were talking about poverty and social exclusion this morning. Women aged over 65 years are at a much higher risk of poverty than men. This needs to change.
Second, the regulation on the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) – and I am very pleased to see that my favourite Commissioner dealt with this issue – will be applicable from next April. I am sure that everything will be ready for the starting date on the logistical side. Our colleagues are working hard on it. When it comes to the political aspect, I hope that the Commission will prove to citizens that it is worth starting an ECI.
Third, the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality is very much looking forward to seeing the Commission’s report on the implementation of Council Directive 2004/113/EC. In this respect, I am even more curious to see the follow-up to the European Court of Justice judgment in the Test-Achats case.
Fiona Hall (ALDE). – Mr President, in cafés and bars across Europe, the talk is about jobs. If we do not create jobs, people will regard the European level of decision making as simply irrelevant – and they would be right. We have to deal with the deep, corrosive fear of unemployment and insecurity. Otherwise, democracy itself will be at risk.
So I welcome the emphasis from the Commission on growth in the single market, and I support the comments made by Malcolm Harbour, but I did want to hear more specific detail, especially for small businesses. In 2012, will we get concrete measures to free small businesses from the burden of regulation? Will there be a small business impact assessment for every piece of new legislation? Will the action plan on access to finance focus on the particular difficulties faced by SMEs, for example, in relation to venture capital and a second chance after bankruptcy?
I welcome the Commission’s determination to get an early agreement on the Energy Efficiency Directive. This will boost employment directly by stimulating the construction and services industries. It will also put money back into people’s pockets so that they can spend more of their cash in the local economy instead of simply burning it. The new innovative renewable technologies offer the greatest potential of all for creating jobs. I hope that in 2012, the Commission will give these industries the investment stability that they are looking for beyond 2020 targets.
Finally, on a separate point, please can somebody explain to the Eurosceptics that, if you are in a free trade agreement outside the EU, you simply accept European legislation as it is presented to you? Ask Norway.
Sajjad Karim (ECR). – Mr President, it is quite clear, as we go through this crucial period, that today we have had presented to us only a very bare sketch plan for 2012. Europe is deeply wounded and limping; the very social fabric is tearing apart. The pressures in our nation states are there for all to see, and our citizens are beginning to turn, increasingly, to the extremes. Germany provided us with a very stark reminder just yesterday.
Are we to follow suit, and follow a policy of pulling up the drawbridge between Europe and the world? President Barroso argues against doing so. He says there are opportunities globally, yet when he speaks about those opportunities and bilateral agreements, he makes no mention at all of the most advanced of those negotiations, on the EU-India Free Trade Agreement. Does he not mention it because he knows it is ‘locked’? It is an agreement which requires political pragmatism; it needs him to go forth and deliver that, yet there is no mention of it.
Today, that agreement has become a test case to demonstrate the future way in which we are to progress. Jobs, growth and confidence are not going to be delivered by the financial transaction tax or criminal law proposals, but by going ahead and being brave on behalf of Europe and reaching out to the world. I do not see that in this action plan.
Georgios Toussas (GUE/NGL). – (EL) Mr President, developments in Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, in the EU in general and in Greece, where they culminated in the three-party black-front coalition government of social democrats, neoliberals and the far right, are the ‘will’ of the EU and of capital and mark an even more savage and barbaric attack by capital on the rights and lives of the working classes, the grassroots classes and young people.
As was to be expected, the three-party government of capital in Greece has unleashed a storm of anti-grassroots measures in its programming statements and anti-grassroots budget which are making the people’s lives hell: there have been thousands of redundancies in the private and public sectors, with 30 000 civil servants due to be dismissed by the end of 2011 alone, followed by a further 200 000 over the next three years, new sweeping wage and pension cuts, new taxes on the workers and even bigger social spending cuts.
Greece is a perfect example of the fact that the policy of capitalist restructurings adopted by the EU and capital and the policy of the bourgeois governments is the strategic choice of the monopolies and is being applied uniformly to all EU Member States, irrespective of whether or not they have a memorandum, irrespective of whether or not they are in the support mechanism, whether or not they have deficits and debts and whether they are lenders or borrowers. Despite their serious differences, the bourgeois governments of the EU Member States are united when it comes to striking at the rights of the working and grassroots classes, in order to shift the burden of the capitalist crisis on to them.
For the workers, the only popular solution is to re-establish the working and grassroots movement, to organise in the workplace and in grassroots neighbourhoods, to build up the grassroots alliance and to overturn the power of the monopolies, in order to break free from the EU and write off their debt, with power to the people and a grassroots economy.
(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))
Nikolaos Salavrakos (EFD). – (EL) Mr President, my friend, Mr Toussas, knows what my question will be. The party I belong to has four ministers in the new government in Greece. You called it far right. Everyone present here knows that this party is represented by me and by Ms Tzavela and I suppose that you have formed an opinion about us.
As I do not know anyone from the far right in the party I belong to, just as I assume that you do not know any of the hoodies and people with crowbars who are smashing up Greece and I absolutely believe that you do not know them, even though they say that they belong to your party, please name one far right-winger in my party.
Georgios Toussas (GUE/NGL). – (EL) Mr President, I should like to add that there was nothing personal about my political intervention; however, individuals play their part in shaping their parties and policies. Let us not exaggerate; the planet and Europe are not that big that we do not know that the president of LAOS, Mr Karatzaferis, who also served as an MEP, has nothing but praise for the military junta which ruled Greece between 1967 and 1974, one of the darkest periods in our country’s history.
Richard Seeber (PPE). – (DE) Mr President, Europe will definitely be different after the crisis. The question is simply: what will it be like? The other important question which we need to answer is: what sort of role should we and the Commission be playing? I believe that if we have enough courage, we can bring about more Europe and, as has been said, this is what is expected of us. Therefore, I am also calling on the Commission to be braver about tackling the problems, but, unfortunately, I think there is very little of this kind of approach to be found in the work programme for 2012.
Let us look once again at the area of implementation. We are constantly adopting new regulations. If we had correctly implemented the regulations which we have jointly produced, we would not be in the position that we are today. We have the Treaty of Maastricht, which sets clear limits for public debt and net borrowing. If the Commission had ensured over the last 10 years that these requirements were met, we would not be seeing the loss of confidence which all the Member States are now struggling with. It is not the case that the Member States have suddenly plunged themselves deeply into debt. In fact it is the markets that have lost confidence. Unfortunately, we and the Commission are also responsible for this loss of confidence. Therefore, we simply need to do the things that we are doing well and to call on the Commission to put in place a zero-tolerance policy with regard to implementation. The Commission is not brave enough to point the finger at those who are really causing the problems.
One of my main concerns is the environment, where there are similar problems. We have excellent regulations, but many Member States are completely failing to comply with them. We have fixed collection rates for electrical equipment. Now we are being presented with a new proposal for new collection rates. If we had implemented the old regulations correctly, we would not need this. Therefore, I feel obliged to call on the European Commission to nail its colours more firmly to the mast, otherwise I foresee a difficult future for Europe as it stands.
Thijs Berman (S&D). – Mr President, of course the financial crisis is at the heart of the Commission work programme for 2012. The ambitions in it are both welcome and late. It takes time to realise the need to tackle financial markets and to limit our risks if you have ideological spectacles that prevent you from seeing the obvious.
As the S&D spokesperson on development, I am much more positive about the Commission proposals for the external action by the EU in our relations with the rest of the world. I am glad to see the Commission making a case for a common European approach at the WTO, G20, G8 – this should be a key part of our external relations next year. Europe is only 5% of the world’s population: if we want to be heard on the world stage, we have to join forces.
I appreciate that we must respond quickly and flexibly to changing situations outside Europe, as we did in the case of the Arab Spring – slowly in the case of Tunisia, but increasingly effective afterwards. However, it is unacceptable that we betray long-term development programmes in one part of the world in order to fund short-term foreign policy gains in another. We should do both. I am extremely pleased to see that the Commission has promised to keep up pressure for a financial transaction tax. An FTT will prove vital in providing a fair share of the finance we need to help developing countries escape the devastating cycle of poverty.
Closer to home, I believe that the forthcoming signing of the accession treaty with Croatia is proof of the credibility of the EU’s enlargement policy. Europe is a magnet that attracts countries towards democracy and an open society.
Finally, the upcoming review of the many different financial envelopes in external relations should be seen as an opportunity to strengthen the European external policy. This is where the political weight of the EU has to be most effective in working at a world order based on the rights of citizens, on the rule of law, on democracy, social rights and sustainable development.
Olle Schmidt (ALDE). – (SV) Mr President, as always, the Commission’s work programme is ambitious. May you succeed in your important work, but be sure to prioritise. Let me go straight to the most important issue from my point of view, namely, how we are dealing with Europe’s ongoing debt crisis. This year, Europe has taken some very important steps towards a stronger, more closely united cooperation with regard to financial supervision and genuine rules that will form a solid foundation on which to enable a new and more stable Europe to rise from the ashes of the crisis.
This will be the biggest challenge that we will face in the future. It concerns all of us, Commissioner Šefčovič; that is to say, the Commission, Parliament and the EU Member States. Indeed, it concerns all of the Member States, not just those belonging to the euro area.
Mr Barroso, the other day in Berlin, Mr Šefčovič said the following:
‘Europe is our destiny ... That is why we must stand together and forge a stable union, a deeper union and a stronger union’.
(SV) Europe’s strength, Mr Šefčovič, has been in our cohesion, despite all of our differences. The European Commission’s role, and yours too, is to guarantee that this same cohesion can continue and be strengthened. I hope, Mr Šefčovič, that this will be your top priority for 2012. The splitting apart of Europe – into those Member States in the north, south, east and west, the richer Member States and those that are not so rich – that is currently taking place, could end in disaster for Europe if we do not act, and this action needs to involve all of the EU Member States.
Ivo Strejček (ECR). – (CS) Mr President, I listened very carefully to Commission President Barroso, and made a few notes. He said that he wanted his programme to bring about sustainable and massive growth, a recovery of confidence in the EU as an instrument of growth, a common sense of resolve, a renewal of growth and an employment strategy. It would be relatively easy to attack Mr Barroso’s statements. It is nevertheless necessary to think differently, and it is necessary to be aware of the deepening loss of competitiveness of the EU, of businesses in the EU and of European economies. It is necessary to bear in mind that the European Commission is actively repealing many nonsensical regulations which hamper business. We must signal a withdrawal from the policy of extensive harmonisations and we must move towards liberalisation of employment law, so that as many people as possible can find employment, and so that as many people as possible can work. Debts are not the cause of the current sorry situation – debts are the result of this situation, and we must therefore do something about it.
Andreas Schwab (PPE). – (DE) Mr President, Mr Barroso, the Commission work programme clearly addresses the challenges that are facing us, at least in its headings. However, the decisive challenge today is to keep the Europe of 27 Member States together. Here, I believe that we must go beyond what the Commission is proposing. I agree with what Mr Seeber has just said in this respect. I would like to make a few concrete suggestions, in order to prevent the whole thing from being quite so vague.
I believe that the Commission needs to improve its horizontal coordination before it submits proposals. There was a great deal of applause earlier when Mr Barroso mentioned the General Product Safety Directive. However, no decision has yet been made about which Directorate-General will ultimately be responsible for monitoring products on the internal market. Should it be the Enterprise and Industry Directorate-General or the Health and Consumers Directorate-General? A decision of this kind would be extremely helpful. With the internal market acts, you have given examples of how coordination within the European Commission can work effectively.
Secondly, I would like to say that the proposals you are making will only have an impact if they happen quickly and if they are imposed and implemented effectively. For this reason, the Members of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) would like to see at least half the proposals taking the form of regulations, so that the Member States cannot make any mistakes during the implementation process.
Thirdly, Mr Barroso, we want the programme that reduces the administrative burden on small and medium-sized businesses to be continued. The Commission has done a good job and 25% of the red tape has gone. However, we can definitely take this process further, even if we do have to focus on higher-hanging fruit.
Finally, Mr Barroso, I believe that we need to continue to follow up on Treaty infringement cases where the Member States have not fulfilled their obligations under the terms of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Enrique Guerrero Salom (S&D). – (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, we have spoken in today’s session about the Commission work programme for 2012, but part of this work has not yet been defined, and could well take up a fair part of the Commission’s work. It relates to the institutional implications of economic governance, including a potential revision of the Treaties.
I would like to encourage the Commission to continue to maintain its stated position on these issues, which it has defended here in Parliament. This position will help to prevent separation between the members of the euro area and other countries; moreover, it will stop them from splitting into two groups, which could advance at different speeds within the euro area. It will also help to go beyond mere restriction and the stability policy, including growth measures and solidarity measures; and it will help to boost democracy through the involvement of Parliament and respect for the European Union method.
However, returning to the work programme, I would also like to encourage the Commission to be part of an effective communication policy around the European Year of Citizens, in 2013, and similarly to get involved in finalising the negotiation work on the European Union’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights.
Mathieu Grosch (PPE). – (DE) Mr President, Mr Barroso, even though he is absent, ladies and gentlemen, the subjects which the Commission presented were acceptable, but the tone was not right. We had the feeling that in its programme for 2012, the Commission was doing what it had already announced in 2011 and was taking less account of what is actually happening.
We are talking about growth, stability and credibility. As the coordinator of the Committee on Transport and Tourism, I would say that this is a key area for taking concrete action on these projects. Transport plays a central role for every citizen, so it is highly relevant to the people of Europe. It is also a key issue in the context of the environment and sustainability. In addition, it is crucial for growth, with 10 million jobs in Europe and around 7% of GDP. I would now like to refer to what my fellow Members have already said to you, which is that credibility depends on how we make our decisions. There are many examples in the field of transport. We have been waiting for nine years for directives to be implemented and this still has not happened.
Secondly, we are not speaking with one voice in some areas. One example is the Single European Sky. It would be helpful for everybody, it would save energy and it would also be safer, but the Member States are doing nothing. We have 27 different opinions instead of one.
My last point concerns taking new paths. The Trans-European Networks project is now under way. This represents an excellent opportunity to invest in sustainable products. What is happening once again? Every country wants its own little project and every country wants to take a different approach.
We hope that the Commission will work with the Council to implement what it has decided on and that both institutions, in order to remain credible to the outside world, will implement in this form the things for which we are jointly responsible.
Catherine Trautmann (S&D). – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, our colleague who has just spoken is right. We need networks, we need an economic development model which gives us a future in every sector.
Let us take the case of youth employment. There is no way we can believe in the future and trust policies when youth unemployment is over 15% or 20% and when young people are even denied a first job.
I was disappointed by what Mr Barroso had to say. I would have liked practical solutions, for instance, priority access to public procurement for companies that hire young people for their first job. I would have also liked the Commission to present a tailored strategy for development. Yes, we have regions in Europe that are worse off than others. Yes, we have pockets of poverty and, with that in mind, we found out that one Head of State was calling into question the sustainability of the funding for the scheme for food distribution to the most deprived persons in the Union (PEAD).
If there is no future for young people, if there is no solution for the most deprived, if there is no development strategy, you have enough resources to carry out social impact assessments, sector by sector, to determine where jobs can be created in companies, industry and services. It is not enough to say or claim that we could guarantee job security; we must ensure that the young and unemployed can access qualified jobs that enable them to find a solution, since without a job, there is no social dignity. How much progress has the Commission made on the Posting of Workers Directive, Commissioner? We have been waiting a long time for the divide between our countries concerning human resources and employees to be removed.
I would like and hope to receive specific answers from you and I shall conclude by saying that I am disappointed that Mr Barroso only devoted one hour to a year-long programme that is meant to bring about a sustainable recovery and a permanent resolution to our Member States’ sovereign debt.
Pilar del Castillo Vera (PPE). – (ES) Mr President, I would also like to address Mr Barroso, even though he is not here right now, via the Commissioner.
I believe that a reasonable work programme has been set, as in previous years. However, what I feel is missing is the sense of urgency, and this worries me. In many countries, of course including Spain, my own Member State, people get up every morning driven by the urgency of the reforms that must be carried out: in the job market, in budgetary stability, public debt, and so on. What we have here is a programme that, to my way of thinking, lacks that sense of urgency. The main thing it lacks is, essentially, the power of the European Union project to help develop growth and employment, which is the internal market, and the digital internal market as a variant of this.
We urgently need to address everything that continues to hinder the development of the internal market today – and there is still a lot – in terms of the transposition and development of directives (such as the Services Directive), and many other aspects that prevent us from unifying and integrating the extraordinary legislative fragmentation currently hampering the development of that market. My main message is that you need to regain the sense of urgency, because if you do not, there is not much that the European Union can do.
Frédéric Daerden (S&D). – (FR) Mr President, having heard the President of the Commission, I would like to say that I am disappointed, when compared with other speeches made by the Commission.
Indeed, several months ago already, Commissioner Andor presented to the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs several guidelines for the work programme for 2012 in relation to employment and social affairs. This morning, in the context of the debate on the platform for combating poverty, these proposals and others were reiterated by the Commissioner, particularly with regard to employment, young people, social services, the minimum income and child poverty.
I also welcome Mr Andor’s proposal for an increased budget for these areas, especially the European Social Fund (ESF). We must make sure we have the necessary resources for more solidarity and, above all, turn these declarations of intent into reality.
I hope that 2012 will see real progress in combating poverty and that social protection and employment will not suffer from increased economic governance, something that failed to be reiterated this afternoon.
Lambert van Nistelrooij (PPE). – Mr President, let me start in a positive way because there are a lot of critics in this House.
The European Commission came up with a general regulation on all the EU’s shared management funds for the regions, for fisheries and also for rural development. This is a positive step because we can make much more synergy between these different funds. We can throw out a lot of bureaucracy and we can be much clearer for all those partners and regions and states.
But there is reason for criticism, because in this whole framework on the regulations for next year, we are missing a common strategic framework. In this framework, the European Commission will regulate all those practical things for the beneficiaries, and this is outside the legal package. This is a delegated act and this is something we cannot accept. So, take this in the whole legal package and you have Parliament on your side.
My second remark is about the Solidarity Fund. Since 2006, Parliament has expressed a wish to make it more flexible and also to use more money for prevention. We talked about natural disasters, but nothing came out of it. The European Court blocked it. I say to the Commission: this is your chance. Parliament is on your side.
Sergio Gaetano Cofferati (S&D). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, President Barroso’s presentation had a negative impact on me, striking me as a long list of arguments without any one priority.
I believe that a key factor for next year should be to concentrate every effort on avoiding a process of uniform growth in all the Member States. Therefore, it is firstly necessary to find resources, and an important instrument such as the tax on financial transactions cannot be debased by reference values which render it more symbolic than concrete.
President Barroso then said that social dialogue is necessary. Action is therefore needed on all elements that determine social cohesion. It is necessary to approve a hypothesis on reorganising the social security system quickly, to give stability and certainty to millions of people who are working today, and I would also like to say that it is necessary to bring the horizontal society clause to a positive conclusion, given that this has already been a topic this year. If work changes and there is an increase in employment as we all hope, it is very important that the rights of those who work be guaranteed in every situation.
Inese Vaidere (PPE). – (LV) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, as President Barroso has already emphasised, it is essential to comply with European Union principles, including solidarity, in Commission policy and in its work programme. However, the proposals for Commission regulations envisage that during the next financial perspective, the budget for convergence objectives will decrease by 20%. A new absorption ceiling has been introduced, which provides for reduced funding, for example, for the Baltic States, whereas increased funding is envisaged for the so-called transition regions, even though the richer Member States are surely able to support their weaker regions themselves.
The decisions of the Commission are contrary to the objectives of cohesion and solidarity, because the differences between the Member States will increase. In 2012, significant work is necessary in order to amend and improve these proposals, which have little to do with solidarity. The same applies to direct payments. Latvians receive EUR 97 per hectare, whereas the Netherlands, for example, receives five times as much. The proposals envisage an increase to EUR 144 for Latvia, whereas the payments to the Netherlands will still be almost three times greater, although climatic and production conditions in Latvia can in no way be valued as three times more favourable and cheaper. This political approach distorts competition, whereas fair competition is a principle of the Single European Market. The Baltic States have completely opened their markets to foreign producers, but this kind of unfair competition is destroying our agriculture.
Finally, I should like to point out that the report of the High Representative on European Union human rights policy has been unacceptably belated. We shall have to work on that as well next year. Thank you.
Rui Tavares (Verts/ALE). – (PT) Mr President, Mr Barroso left this debate early – too early; it was getting very uncomfortable for him – just like he always arrives too late for crises; to previous ones and to this one.
What is Europe’s great crisis today? It is not the recapitalisation of the banks: that might be the immediate crisis, but the great crisis is of the young graduates who are unemployed; it is of the young people who have Masters degrees and are in precarious jobs.
Countries like Portugal, France, the United Kingdom, Slovakia, and so on, have 25% youth unemployment; it is 43% in Greece and 45% in Spain. That is the great crisis and Mr Barroso mentioned it zero times in his speech. Out of 127 measures for next year, Mr Barroso is tabling one that relates to education, culture and youth, which is neither a legislative measure nor – I must say – a comprehensible one.
Therefore, I am going to say how we could combat the crisis, by doing exactly the opposite of what is in this programme.
Firstly, we need to create universities in the Union. Our competitors in the emerging countries have them. Brazil has federal universities, India has federal universities, so let us create them in the European Union too.
Secondly, let us put these universities in the crisis countries: in other words, let us help the European Union by helping those countries.
Thirdly, let us prioritise these universities so that they can work on the things currently throttling the Member States’ budgets: for example, health care spending; the health care spending, for example, that the pharmaceutical companies force on us with their artificial monopolies. What is needed is not to break the backs of the trade unions because of what we pay a nurse in hospital: what is needed is to break the backs of the cartels currently demanding extraordinarily draconian prices from European countries.
These are three measures for combating the crisis. They require a European Union with a great vision, which the public can understand. A President of the Commission who has never been elected will probably never be able to provide that.
Mairead McGuinness (PPE). – Mr President, I think it should trouble this House that the only round of applause from our citizens – I think the group have left the Chamber – was when a UK colleague, who equally has left the House, belittled the European Union and the work it has done to date. Populist messages sell and I am afraid that I would echo the words of President Van Rompuy when he said that ‘time is the cement of politics’. But it seems that time is something that is in short supply.
On the specifics of the work programme, I think we do need to look at legislation and implementation. We have had failure to implement which has led us to this crisis because we have turned a blind eye in the past, particularly on the economic issues. But, for example, this morning, colleagues met with Commissioner Dalli on a small issue of electronic identification of sheep – legislation that we passed which we now believe to be defective and needs to be changed. In these matters, we need to react more swiftly.
Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D). – (SK) Mr President, I will also start on a positive note. I would like to thank the Commission for its determination in this difficult period, because planning a programme in such turbulent times really is difficult. On the other hand, this is the Parliament, and our job is to warn the Commission about any errors in this planning, and I would therefore like to mention two points I consider important.
First, the Commission must focus on adopting tough financial market regulation. It is absolutely vital for measures aimed at improving the resilience of the financial system to be supplemented in the future with measures aimed at limiting risk, such as measures for reducing costs in the event of failure.
The second point I would like to mention is something that we in Parliament recommended to the Commission a few months ago in similar circumstances. It will be necessary to subject to regulation businesses that are closely connected with banking systems and which provide similar services without being subject to the same legislation. It is necessary to bring under surveillance so-called shadow banking, which now genuinely competes against official banking in its volumes.
The final statement I would like to make also relates to this morning’s debate. It concerns the need to adopt measures for combating worsening poverty and social exclusion.
Kay Swinburne (ECR). – Mr President, global financial markets are in chaos, pensioners are worried about their financial security and companies are too nervous to invest in the EU. Commissioner Šemeta was therefore right when he said that growth prospects are slowing down and public finances, and Europe’s social economic models, are at risk. This is why we should have serious doubts about his proposal to introduce a policy which, it is estimated, could cost the EU 0.5% of GDP.
Now is not the time to put our fragile European economy at risk by introducing an EU financial transaction tax (FTT). It may be politically popular for the Commissioner to claim this move is punishing the banks, but in reality, the effects of an EU FTT would resonate through the entire economy. Taxing financial transactions does not just affect banks. It would have a material effect on pension funds, other long-term investors and businesses, all of whom we should be encouraging to invest in the EU; we should not be putting up barriers to make it even more difficult for them. Introducing knee-jerk legislation is one of the worst possible things we could do to the EU economy in these troubled times. Growth in a single market, not tax, needs to be our focus.
Jaroslav Paška (EFD). – (SK) Mr President, the European Commission work programme in this period of economic stagnation, and in a time of worsening poverty for families, when Member States can no longer lend for their survival, must be more creative and capable of reflecting the changes taking place in Europe and worldwide since the onset of the global crisis.
Those of us who experienced the way that incompetent communist regimes in Eastern Europe operated will remember how their leaders were unable to respond to change in a fast-moving world. Just like the President of the Commission, they shamelessly expounded their visions and objectives to the public while looking on powerlessly as their countries’ economic systems hopelessly disintegrated.
The Commission members must not take this path. They must consider whether it is not necessary to address other operational problems in Europe today, rather than just continuing to fulfil the visions of the 2020 strategy. I firmly believe that a greater emphasis on the adoption of rapid and effective measures to restore economic growth and employment would do us no harm.
Andrew Henry William Brons (NI). – Mr President, the resolution talks of restoring growth for jobs as though that might be a realisable aim with current policies. Are we really going to see economic growth, or an increase in the proportion of the working population that is employed, with current EU policies?
The infatuation with globalism, and with continued and ever greater access of emerging economies to the markets of Europe, will continue to destroy industries and jobs.
The EU’s porous external borders and open-door asylum policies, aggravated by the Schengen Agreement and, in the UK, Theresa May’s open-borders policies, have made our home-grown unskilled workers almost unemployable.
The common currency with its single external value and its common interest rate has condemned the countries for which that value is too high to stagnation and unemployment.
The resolution uses the EU’s climate change policies in the same sentence as competition, as though they were compatible. Since when has an imposition of greater costs on industry and commerce enhanced competition?
Ingeborg Gräßle (PPE). – (DE) Mr President, Mr Šefčovič, I am particularly looking forward to your dossier next year concerning the reform of the Staff Regulations. I am hoping that it will enable us to move towards a more efficient European civil service.
I would like to say that we members of the Committee on Budgetary Control have been used for years to questions of budget control and implementation deficits playing much too small a role in the Commission work programme. In 2010, the last year which the European Court of Auditors evaluated, we had been reporting serious implementation deficits for 10 years, because two countries with a huge number of irregularities, in other words, infringements of the law with regard to the use of EU money, were at the top of the list. Spain and Italy have been in this position for 10 years. I would like to know how many years we will go on like this without changing anything. Therefore, I would like to call strongly for urgent action on precisely this issue. We simply cannot continue in this way any longer. In the case of implementation deficits, it would be good if an implementation overview of the annual programme were to be produced at the end of the year showing what had actually been completed.
Liisa Jaakonsaari (S&D). – (FI) Mr President, Karl Marx once said that every step of a real movement is more important than a dozen programmes. Sometimes, this statement by Marx occurs to me when people here discuss the flood of programmes that pour in from the Commission. I am very pleased that the Commission has made progress with the financial transaction tax (FTT) and Eurobonds.
It may be that historical literature of the future will present the view that these two phenomena, the FTT and Eurobonds, are the factors that gain their upper hand, as it were, from market forces. I disagree strongly with what a previous speaker, Ms Swinburne, said: it is also an act of justice, because people – all of us – want the financial sector to respond to new challenges, and by taxing it, we will have new resources to implement measures that promote employment.
Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the Commission. – Mr President, I will try to react to the most frequent questions and comments, but first I would like to thank all honourable Members for a very interesting and lively debate. I believe that most of us in this room feel the same way: we are really going through the defining moment in European history.
I think, judging from most of your interventions, that we have come to the same conclusions: we need more Europe, not less; we need to move forward together, or risk fragmentation. How much more proof do we need of how interdependent we are in Europe? Therefore, I think that the answer should be a stronger, more responsible Union, and one which safeguards what makes us unique: the Community method.
Our work programme for 2012 brings us closer to deeper integration of economic policies and governance in the euro area. Clearly, the deepening of euro area integration must be done through the Community method.
I agree absolutely with Mr Swoboda. The Commission will do everything possible to prevent a possible split in the European Union. I also agree with the many speakers who said that we need to offer even more assistance and help to the countries in need. Therefore, we are exploring all the possibilities we have at our disposal. We have just established a Task Force for Greece and we are looking at other ways to help the countries with problems to absorb European funds better. I am sure that the discussions we will be having next year about how to simplify our programmes will also be very important in that respect.
To return to the subject of what action we intend to take, I would like to assure you that we really do feel a sense of urgency in the Commission. We know that we are in an extremely demanding and difficult situation and that urgent steps are needed. You have seen how many steps we have taken so far. I think the governance package will truly change the character of how we govern – from both the macro-economic and the micro-economic point of view – the European Union as such and Member States’ economies in particular.
We will be having a deep debate on this issue tomorrow with President Barroso and Vice-President Rehn, so I will not go into further detail now. I would just like to assure all of you that we will soon be presenting you with a list of proposals and a request to fast-track them. Some of them have been mentioned here in this Chamber this afternoon. These are the proposals through which we believe we can guarantee growth and speedily create jobs. They relate to the single market and are oriented towards removing barriers in the market. They are focused on using new technologies, including digital technologies, to create jobs and growth.
Turning to the economic situation, the Commission will come, on 23 November, with a new package, alongside the Annual Growth Survey. It will comprise not only an analysis of the state of the economy in the European Union, but also very clear and concrete country-specific recommendations concerning what the Commission believes should be improved in this or that Member State. Here again, we will need your help to reinforce the message from the European Union and support the measures which, sometimes, can only be taken at national level.
In addition, we will put forward two other very important proposals in this area which are based on Article 136. One will be a communication on the external representation of the euro area and the other – as promised – will be the Green Paper on stability bonds. We know that we need to have a very thorough look at this proposal, and you know how important that discussion will be.
Some of you referred to the discussion on Treaty change. As you know, the President of the European Council has been asked, in close collaboration with the President of the Commission and the President of the Eurogroup, to explore the possibility of limited Treaty changes in the context of the strengthening of economic governance. An interim report, including a road map, will be presented in December 2011 and should offer the first orientations. As you know, the report should be finalised by March 2012.
We are absolutely convinced in the Commission that Treaty change is not a short-term remedy for the crisis and that it has to be seen as part of the wider thrust towards reinforced economic governance. I think what is very important for this Parliament is that we are also absolutely convinced that Parliament should be consulted on this measure. Parliament should be involved in the process of thinking about how to approach this issue, and the Commission will definitely proceed in this manner.
With regard to programming, I think that this is the first programme on which the European Parliament and the Commission have cooperated so closely. I calculate that we have had more than 80 meetings between the Commissioners and the respective committees. Many of them were devoted to the so-called structured dialogue, so we really see it as a common project.
In response to Mr Szájer, we are also reflecting on the proposals we heard from the European Parliament. There will be a proposal on the status of the European political parties. We will continue making progress on comitology. As has been said, on the trade area, our work is done. In AGRI we are continuing, and we promise that this process will be completed by 2012. I believe that this will be done.
Some of you asked about the proposals which we promised to deliver this year. As you know, we promised to deliver 40 strategic initiatives. 23 have already been delivered to the legislator and 11 will be done before the end of the year. Here, I would like to assure Ms Trautmann, Mr Őry and Mr Cercas that both the Posting of Workers Directive and also the Social Services of General Interest Directive will be presented to Parliament in December of this year. In the end, we aim to deliver to you 34 out of 40 promised directives. Clearly, the rest need more elaboration and analysis, but I can assure you that they will be coming very soon next year.
To reply to various interventions from the floor, with regard to SMEs, I would like to assure you that every impact assessment now contains a chapter on SMEs and how our policies will influence them and their ability to perform in the single market. We are very much aware of how important it is to reduce the administrative burden and, as was correctly pointed out, a 25% reduction of the administrative burden has already been delivered.
The Commission has delivered even more. We have delivered 31% of the proposals, and 6% of them are now in the legislative process. But legislation at European level is one thing; how it is transposed at national level is another. Therefore, we need the good cooperation of the national Member States to actively reduce administrative burdens at national level.
In response to Mr Duff, who asked about where we stand on the accession of the European Union to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, I would like to briefly assure him that the Commission is committed to speedy accession and that the current draft accession agreement results from technical negotiations with the Council of Europe. We believe that this is a well-balanced compromise text. Therefore, the Commission would be willing to reopen this package only if absolutely necessary, to address the concerns of the two Member States. The Commission and the Presidency are working very hard to reach a common position and to find a possible compromise so that we can conclude this process as quickly as possible.
I will respond very briefly to all the various interventions on the financial transaction tax. I think that we have to be very fair about this question. What we are looking for is a fair contribution back to society from the financial industry, bearing in mind how much society has helped the financial industry. European governments had to provide EUR 4.6 trillion in credit guarantees alone.
I think it is a fair approach to try to look for additional revenues in the European Union. Should we tax labour? Should we tax consumption? Should we again transfer the burden to the citizens? We in the Commission do not think so. Therefore the legislative process will continue and we believe that, in the end, we will be able to find a good solution. Apart from the revenue side, we also have to look at how healthy the regulatory effect will be, especially when we see what kind of results high-frequency trading can cause. This process will have a positive effect on this as well.
Lastly, on Ms Grässle’s question concerning the Staff Regulations, I am sure that she is well aware that we are going through what I believe will be the last phases of the social dialogue. I have a conciliation meeting with staff unions planned for tomorrow afternoon and we definitely would like to present the proposal for Staff Regulation reforms before the end of the year.
Concerning the enforcement of European law, this is a very important issue and we are taking our powers very seriously. To give just one concrete example, we are taking three Member States to court for failure to transpose the Services Directive. In this case, we are asking for financial penalties as well.
President. – The debate is closed.
The vote will take place in December.
Written statements (Rule 149)
George Becali (NI), in writing. – (RO) We sense, along with the President of the Commission, how much is at stake in today’s debate, in view of the events taking place outside this Parliament, in the real world which is bewildered and rocked by crisis, youth unemployment, the euro crisis, Greece and Italy, and God forbid that any others should follow. Everyone has expressed their displeasure here today, some more implicitly, others more directly. Some of the regulations promised and needed in light of the crisis have been delayed for an unacceptably long period of time. Perhaps the 2012 programme is not enough. However, the question is: What should we do about the real problems? What should we do about mass youth unemployment? Is centralising the decision a solution or not? Can we launch now the amendment of the Treaty which has had such a difficult path to adoption? I believe that these questions must be answered by actions taken in the coming days, not only in the 2012 programme. I believe that the wisdom and power required are available to provide these responses. I hope that the necessary courage is available too. God’s help be with us.
Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (S&D), in writing. – (PL) In your statement on the state of the Union, Mr Barroso, which you made on 28 September this year, you stressed, and I quote: ‘Greece is and will remain a member of the euro area’. In view of recent events in that country, I hope the European Commission is continuing to give strong support to the above commitment and will firmly resist attempts to exclude Greece from the euro area and/or the European Union. In my opinion, the one solution to this crisis situation can only be European consolidation and united action. I hope that this very purpose will be served by the European Financial Stability Fund which is being set up and the European Stability Mechanism.
It now depends on the Commission to ensure that these mechanisms are sufficiently strong and flexible to cope with the current and future crises. I would also like to express my support for the creation of Eurobonds, which, in my opinion can play a key role in stabilising the euro and restoring confidence in the common currency. In view of the fact that the introduction of Eurobonds will require changes to the present Treaty on European Union, I trust that the Commission will keep Parliament regularly informed about a future plan of action in this area.
My final remark concerns the financial transaction tax proposed by my political group a year ago now. This is another innovative proposal which could contribute to a reduction in the burden of savings which, unfortunately, is mainly going to affect ordinary citizens.
Mitro Repo (S&D), in writing. – (FI) When are we in Europe actually going to start the debate on the need to implement recovery measures? The only way to respond to the economic crisis is to invest in smart, sustainable and comprehensive growth, and in research and innovation. Comprehensive rescue plans for Europe have already been established three times this year: but when will they be put into effect? Recession-torn Europe needs robust recovery measures to support growth and, as a result, create jobs.
As for the countries in crisis, besides recovery and belt-tightening measures, they need investment and growth, if they are ever to recover. How can we restore confidence to the public and to the markets, when even the Heads of State or Government in Europe cannot agree on clear and credible measures to resolve the crisis?
The people and the markets expect our leaders to be capable of making responsible decisions. Up till now, however, the measures implemented lack both a sense of leadership and responsibility. We need a long-term vision regarding what short of Europe we want. Making economic cooperation part of the European Union is the only long-term solution. Economic integration is something that we have failed to realise fully.
Joanna Senyszyn (S&D), in writing. – (PL) The year 2012 is to be European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations. A strategy for active ageing must not be lacking in the Commission programme. In the coming decades, there will be a sharp rise in the number of older people in all the Member States of the European Union. It is anticipated that by 2050, the number of people over 65 years of age will rise by 70%, while the number of people over 80 will rise by 170%.
Senior citizens, who are becoming an ever larger social group, have relatively low incomes. Many of them belong to the group of the 16% of the European Union’s population who live below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold; they have difficulties in finding work and somewhere to live and have restricted access to basic services, particularly health and social services. According to Poland’s Central Statistical Office, there are about 6.4 million older people living in Poland, who represent around 17% of the country’s population. According to predictions, by 2035, this group will then constitute approximately 27% of society. It is also predicted that on average in the EU, there will be a fall in the number of people of productive age. This creates two main challenges and objectives for the Commission’s work in 2012: adapting health care to the needs of an ageing society and ensuring that health care is available for as long as possible and is as effective as possible.