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Barroso backs Spain in State of Union speech

George Mills · 11 Sep 2013, 16:12

Published: 11 Sep 2013 16:12 GMT+02:00

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In an upbeat speech, Jose Manuel Barroso said Europe was fighting back from the crisis that began five years ago.

He noted that "people's savings are safe" and that the EU had successfully mobilized €700 billion ($928 billion) for crisis-hit countries.

Barroso also highlighted rising stock markets, industrial output and consumer confidence.

"The most vulnerable countries are paying less to borrow," said the European Commission President as further evidence that things were on the improve.

Spain came in for special mention too with Barroso noting that exports of goods and services now made up 33 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

This was "a signal of the very important reforms and increased competitiveness," he said.

"For Europe, recovery is in sight," said Barroso.

But the president also warned that greater efforts were needed to support growth and reduce unemployment.

He said the speed of structural reforms needed to be greater and highlighted the important of the EU's Country Specific Recommendations.

That document advises Spain to bring its budget deficit below 3 percent of GDP by 2016 through "expenditure restraint" and "revenue-increasing" measures.

In his speech, Barroso — who wants a Europe which adds value but doesn't "meddle" — said the EU would invest in skills, education and vocational training, while continuing to support the university exchange programme Erasmus.

Support for small and medium-sized enterprises also came in for special mention.

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Critically, the Commission President also called for a banking union so that " taxpayers are no longer the ones in the front line for paying the price of bank failure.

Barroso also used the speech to deflect blame for the crisis away from Europe.

"I know some people out there will say Europe is to blame for the crisis and the hardship,” he said. 

"But we can remind people that Europe was not at the origin of this crisis. It resulted from mismanagement in the past and irresponsible behaviour in financial markets."

George Mills (george.mills@thelocal.com)

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