EUROPEAN COUNCIL THE PRESIDENT
Stockholm, 7 May 2013
PR PCE 93
Remarks by President of the European Council
Herman Van Rompuy
after his meeting with Prime Minister of Sweden
Can I first of all say that I am glad to be back again in Sweden. It is my fourth visit since I took office during the Swedish EU Presidency of the Council in 2009. And I am grateful for Prime Minister Reinfeldt's hospitality. It is almost exactly one year since my latest working visit in May last year as part of my annual "tour des capitales".
First on the economic crisis. The economic and social situation remains at the very top of the European agenda. There is both good and bad news to report.
To start with the good news. Financial stability in the euro zone has been restored. The existential threat to the euro is behind us. Public deficits across Europe have been reduced by more than half since 2008. And competitiveness is improving in several countries - also in the Southern part of the EU. This is encouraging. Not only for the euro zone but for all countries in Europe. If there is one lesson we have all learned from the crisis, it is how interdependent we have all become - euro and non-euro countries alike.
The bad news is that the economic crisis is dragging out longer than anticipated. And worse, the number of people in search of a job has not yet started to fall.
We are now - especially in the euro zone - in that most difficult of moments: in-between. After the violent storm, but before the clear sky. And in this "in-between" moment, it is essential that we remain committed and keep our direction. The direction was firmly agreed by all leaders in the European Council in March. It consists of four fundamentals:
The first fundamental is to preserve financial stability;
P R E S S
Di rk De B a c k er - Sp ok esp e rson of t h e Pr esi d en t - 11 + 32 (0 )2 2 81 97 68 - + 32 (0 )49 7 5 9 99 19
Preb en Aa ma n n - Dep u t y Sp ok es p erson of t h e P re si d en t - 11 +3 2 (0 )2 2 81 2 06 0 - +3 2 (0 )4 76 85 05 43
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The second is to make our economies more resilient, through sound public finances - based on structural efforts - and improved competitiveness;
The third is to take immediate measures for growth and employment. It is in this context that I will present a new proposal for immediate action for growth and jobs, notably aimed at reducing youth unemployment, at the June European Council;
Finally, the fourth fundamental is to complete the architecture of our economic and monetary union.
In this "in-between moment", Sweden serves as a reminder and example of how to handle a crisis. Sweden has made impressive progress since the 1990s. The decrease in your public debt from 70% of GDP 20 years ago to 38% last year and budget deficit from 11% of GDP to almost balanced budgets since 1993 is impressive. And all this while remaining highly competitive - or rather because you managed to stay highly competitive. Since the financial crisis, Sweden has in many ways been an exception, especially in terms of fiscal restraint and economic growth. Allow me to commend the Prime Minister for these achievements.
The Prime Minister and I also discussed the agenda of the upcoming meetings of the European Council. In a few weeks time, we will meet to increase our fight against tax evasion and to further our energy cooperation.
Let me also commend Sweden for its persistent efforts in the area of defense and for its participation in EU's crisis management operations across the three continents. We will discuss defense at our meeting of the European Council in December.
Let me conclude my telling you that after this meeting, I look forward to visiting Kungsbrohuset for the first time. As you all know, Kungsbrohuset is one of the world's most eco-smart and energy efficient buildings - another Nordic strength and an inspiration for Europe. And since, as I said, energy is high on the agenda for the European Council this month, I wouldn't have wanted to miss it!
Tack så mycket.
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