Tags: Barroso EU economy

New EU Chief Urges Ambitious Plans for Europe

Tuesday, 07 Sep 2010 07:01 AM


STRASBOURG — European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called on Europe Tuesday to match economic might with diplomatic muscle in his first ever State of the Union address.

In an event seeking to emulate the annual speech delivered by US presidents before the US Congress, Barroso expressed optimism about the economic outlook but urged a deepening of the single market in order to boost growth and jobs.

The head of the European Union's executive arm, standing before a blue lectern while holding his glasses, told the EU parliament that the 27-nation bloc needed to band together to speak with one voice on the world stage.

"I am impatient to see the Union play the role in global affairs that matches its economic weight," he said nearly one year after the Lisbon Treaty created the post of chief EU diplomat held by Britain's Catherine Ashton.

"Our partners are watching and are expecting us to engage as Europe, not just as 27 individual countries. If we don't act together, Europe will not be a force in the world, and they will move on without us," he said.

The event had the same name as the annual, prime time speech delivered by US presidents watched by millions of television viewers. But the similarity was in name only.

Barroso delivered a half-hour speech in the morning in front of lawmakers who had been briefly threatened by parliament bosses with a fine if they missed the event.

"You have shown that you can be present without the threat of penalties," said Joseph Daul, the head of the conservative group, the 736-member parliament's biggest bloc, in the debate that followed the speech.

Daul then criticised Ashton for going to China last week rather than attending the resumption of direct peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians in Washington.

Ashton has defended her trip to China, saying it was a key visit that had been programmed a long time ago.

"How can we justify our absence at the negotiating table between Israel and Palestine when we are the biggest donor in the region," Daul asked Barroso. "Europeans don't understand this, and they are right."

Barroso focused most of his speech, which was interrupted by applause a handful of times, on efforts to strengthen the EU economy with an emphasis on jobs, research and innovation.

"This is Europe's moment of truth," Barroso said.

"Europe must show it is more than 27 different national solutions. We either swim together, or sink separately. We will only succeed if -- whether acting nationally, regionally or locally -- we think European," he said.

He called for an EU budget that "leverages growth" by spending money "more intelligently" amid heated negotiations with EU states seeking to cut expenditures in Brussels, and he proposed the creation of a European bond to finance big infrastructure projects.

Barroso said the bloc's economic outlook was better today than one year ago thanks to the "determined action" of member states, but he warned that not all EU nations were taking part in the recovery.

"The recovery is gathering pace, albeit unevenly within the Union. Growth this year will be higher than initially forecast," he said.

"The unemployment rate, whilst still much too high, has stopped increasing. Clearly, uncertainties and risks remain, not least outside the European Union," he said.

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2010-01-07
Tuesday, 07 Sep 2010 07:01 AM
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