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On Eve Of EU Summit, Barroso Calls For Investment To Take Europe Back To Growth

2/29/2012 9:21 AM ET

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called on EU Heads of Government and State to "invest as much in getting Europe back into growth as we are currently investing in getting Europe out of the crisis."

"I will come to the European Council tomorrow with a message on growth - sustainable growth," he said at a pre-summit press conference in Brussels on Wednesday.

Barroso said he hopes that a level of commitment shown by the leaders of Member States will be translated into effective, concrete delivery.

He said the "spotlight on growth is justified because we have been making significant progress on other priorities."

On economic governance, the so called six-pack has been adopted and we are applying it vigorously. The Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance has been agreed and will be signed the day after tomorrow. The European Council will agree economic policy orientations for the European Union for this year.

The financial markets and the banking sector are recovering. The risk of a credit crunch is receding thanks also to the decisive action of the ECB.

The financial firewalls are being strengthened. It has been agreed on how to leverage the EFSF lending capacity and accelerated the establishment of the ESM by one year to July 2012. Barroso expressed confidence that "in the coming weeks we will see a decision that ensures the right level of firepowers of the ESM and the EFSF."

Barroso claimed that "real progress" has been made on Greece in the last couple of weeks. The second Greek program has been agreed in principle. "The private sector bond exchange is on its way, and I will meet Prime Minister Papademos later this afternoon with several of my colleagues of the Commission and his team to discuss how we can work to support the reforms Greece is making and how we can work even harder to maximize the impact of European funds to return Greece to Growth," he told reporters.

Regarding Europe in general, while the forecasts show mild recession for this year, the Interim Economic Forecast also points to the return to growth in the second half of the year. The figures released today - both in terms of our economic sentiment indicator and the business climate indicator - show an increasing confidence for the second month running. "Industry is starting to believe. It is time to build on that possibility of confidence," Barroso said.

He stressed the need to put across the message of a growth strategy and the decisions the leaders take at Brussels to Member States themselves, the social partners, the trade unions, the business community, the regions, and the local authorities. "We have the economic priorities in the Annual Growth Survey which now will feed into the National Reform Programs and the Commission's Country-Specific Recommendations. What we need is for these to be turned into action. "

In the last couple of weeks Commission experts have visited the eight Member States with the highest levels of youth unemployment. Barroso said he believes that these Member States will develop credible national job plans by mid April as agreed.

He called on the European Council to focus on two other issues to boost the growth potential for Europe: funding for transport, energy and ICT infrastructure projects; and the urgency of bringing down the cost of broadband roll out.

With an allocation of EUR230 million from the EU budget, the Commission expects to be able to mobilize investments of up to EUR4.6 billion through project bonds.

by RTT Staff Writer

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