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Mr President, Honourable Members
Today, I have the honour of presenting you the Commission Work Programme for 2011. The presentation marks as well a beginning as an end.
On the one hand, the work programme intervenes and launches a new phase of important political work.
On the other hand, the adoption of the Work Programme is the conclusion of the enhanced structured dialogue, which was opened with the State of the Union debate in September here in the Parliament.
The preparations leading to this year’s Commission Work Programme have indeed been a première. And in my opinion, a very successful one. By advancing the implementation of our revised Framework Agreement, we have been able to engage in in-depth discussions on the political priorities for the coming years.
Throughout this fruitful process, I have been encouraged by the large degree of convergence. On the overall direction and on the concrete initiatives. It is a process, which has acted to consolidate what I have called a special partnership.
European action must focus on those challenges where the EU can bring a tangible added value. The 40 strategic initiatives, which the Commission commits to present in 2011, reflect the main political priorities that we have identified together. For the sake of transparency, the programme moreover includes 150 other proposals, which the Commission is working on.
Sustaining economic recovery and securing our societies for the future remains the overarching priority in 2011. Our efforts should continue along three main tracks: Strengthening governance, Completing financial sector reform and Accelerating our implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
Long-term growth must be based on a sound macroeconomic foundation. Through initiating the so called European semester and the follow-up to our proposals of 29 September, we will reinforce the European fiscal framework and broaden macroeconomic surveillance to prevent imbalances.
An ambitious financial sector reform is already well underway and important legislation has been accomplished. In 2011, the Commission will table the remaining pieces of regulation. Key priorities such as transparency and consumer protection will be pursued, while a Bank Crisis Framework will aim to prevent and tackle future crises. The Commission will seek to support Parliament and Council in reaching agreement on the complete reform still in 2011.
Europe must keep pace, focusing on our comparative advantages in this 21st century of globalisation. When competitors are cheaper, we must be smarter. As an example of action at European level, we will develop a more integrated European standardisation system, as an important platform for sharpening the competitive edge of our companies, in particular the SMEs.
For Europe to remain competitive and secure more and better jobs, the transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient society must be carefully planned. Therefore, bringing together the policies on climate change, energy, transport and the environment will be a priority. A particular focus in 2011 will be on energy efficiency.
Adapting to a dynamic economic reality also means ensuring a high level of protection of workers’ rights in close cooperation with social partners. Key proposals on posting of workers and working time will be developed and tabled in 2011.
Meanwhile, the revision of the State aid rules applicable to the services of general interest will be a tangible step towards establishing a quality framework, which takes account of the particular nature of these services.
With the Single Market Act, the Commission has launched an ambitious process to make the single market deliver on its full potential. Our companies should focus on business, not bureaucracy. Not least SMEs are often overburdened or indeed discouraged from pursuing otherwise promising cross-border projects. As a concrete example, by clarifying the rules on collectively managed copyrights, we can simplify the current framework conditions, encourage further cross-border activity and release important job-creating potential - not least in the promising digital sector.
On the demand side, a priority will be to strengthen consumer confidence with our proposal on Alternative Dispute Resolution as an important instrument to speed up the often much too slow process of resolving consumer problems.
Whether we act as consumers, as workers, as students, as travellers or in any other of the multiple roles we fulfil in modern, everyday life - it is when we experience that new opportunities arise, that risks are reduced or that life quality improves that the EU makes sense, a European union in service of the citizens. And the ambition of making the EU a tangible reality for citizens must go beyond the single market.
Strengthening security should always be a means to helping citizens to benefit from the opportunities of the EU. Never an end in itself. Our proposal for "Smart borders" will facilitate the travelling in and out of the EU, while deterring irregular immigration.
To keep Europe open, we will also take action against those that try to exploit our economic system for illegal purpose, while a framework for data protection will respond to a very real concern of citizens in the Internet Age.
The Union must play a role in the world that matches its economic weight. Therefore, we must ensure coherence in our external action.
As such, the work programme announces concrete action to project our 2020 objectives for jobs and growth internationally.
We will also modernize our development policy and humanitarian aid. Those in the world in need, need stronger Europe in the world.
Before concluding, I would like to briefly explain what you will not find in the Commission Work Programme and why.
As announced, we will submit the proposal for the next Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) by mid-2011. The specific financial instruments and programmes will be presented in the second half of 2011 in conjunction with the overall Framework.
To maintain the political nature of the Work Programme, implementation work as a rule has not been included. Similarly for international negotiations, as their conclusion depends on third parties. Meanwhile, these activities remain an important part of our "core business". We will continue to deliver and to pursue our dialogue with you on them.
In my introduction, I noted that the Work Programme was not only the conclusion of our fruitful dialogue, but also the beginning of a next "étape" in our concrete efforts to steer the EU out of the crisis and beyond. Now is the time to maintain momentum. We need to find ways to accelerate collectively our work.
I therefore take this opportunity to encourage Parliament and Council to engage in trilateral discussion on how to implement the Treaty provisions on Union programming. In the Commission’s view this could translate into agreements to move forward quicker in negotiations on selected initiatives of particular importance to attaining our political objectives.
Such a concerted effort would demonstrate our determination to deliver concrete and timely responses in the face of the crisis, which have shaken us all. Europe’s citizens would expect this. I believe the European Union should respond to citizen's concerns.
Thank you for your attention!