[Check Against Delivery]
José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Remarks by President Barroso following his meeting with Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands
Brussels, 13 February 2014
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
I am very happy to welcome Prime Minister Rutte to the European Commission today. This visit is a clear demonstration of our commitment to the European agenda and our extremely good working relationship.
Prime Minister Rutte and I have had a very productive meeting, where we discussed some European issues. We are going to continue the discussion after this press point.
I commended Prime Minister Rutte and his coalition for the central part they played in steering the Dutch economy through the worst of this crisis. Europe has turned a corner and growth is returning thanks to profound reforms at national level and moves to deepen integration in the EU, especially in the euro area.
A very open and dynamic economy at the heart of the EU and its internal market such as the Netherlands is in a good position to benefit from the pick-up that is now underway.
To boost growth and bring down high unemployment, Mark Rutte and I agreed that we must keep doing everything we can to maintain sound public finances and make our economies fitter – that is, reforms for increased competitiveness.
The Netherlands has recently agreed important reforms to the housing market, healthcare, labour market and energy sector, which set a good example and will, without doubt, help to make the Dutch economy more competitive.
At EU level, our immediate priority must be to agree on a Single Resolution Mechanism for banks before the European Parliament elections in May. The Netherlands has consistently supported deeper integration in the euro area, and the Banking Union in particular, for which I am very grateful.
These elections make it more important than ever for politicians to leave their comfort zones and engage in an open and honest debate about the benefits of a more integrated European Union. As a founding member of the European Union, the Netherlands is a natural ally in this.
I think we must explain to citizens why Member States have entrusted Europe with certain tasks and competences, and how we are working together to make the European Union more efficient – which is, of course, in all of our interests.
As I said in my State of the Union speech last year in the European Parliament: Europe should be "big on big things and small on small things". Europe should concentrate on where it matters the most. Subsidiarity is a democratic principle, but at the same time, we have to be honest, we cannot now undo the European project. What we have to do is to review the legislation in a way that makes it lighter, cheaper and, of course, more business- and citizen-friendly.
As always, this is a joint effort between the European Union and our Member States. Making our Union better is not something that only happens in Brussels. I was glad to be able to discuss this with the Prime Minister today.
We also agreed that any efforts to streamline European decision-making, which is important and on which we are working actively - for instance, through the Refit programme, and I thank you, Mark, for your very strong support also in the European Council on this agenda, I am very grateful - we believe that all these reforms and efforts must preserve the single market, which, by the way, is crucial for the Dutch economy and also for the European economy as a whole.
So, ladies and gentlemen,
There is a lot still to achieve in this period. We, as the Commission, have a lot of work, not only until the European elections, but until the end of our mandate. I would like to thank Prime Minister Rutte for his excellent cooperation and also his commitment to ensuring the Netherlands continues to play its rightful role at the heart of Europe.