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Commission President: Priorities

28 September 2009
by inadim -- last modified 29 September 2009

The President of the Commission is appointed by the governments of the Member States, and then approved by the European Parliament. This dual legitimacy gives the President political authority, which he exercises in a variety of ways. The President must try to provide forward movement for the European Union and to give a sense of direction both to his fellow Commissioners and, more broadly, to the Commission as a whole. The current President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, was re-elected for another five-year term in September, 2009.


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PRIORITIES OF COMMISSION PRESIDENT BARROSO

Growth and Jobs

The EU strategy for growth and jobs launched in 2000 and revised in 2005 is starting to pay off. Three years ago, Europe’s economy was stagnating, faced with low growth, long-term unemployment and depressed business. Today, many achievements can be noted: EU GDP growth has grown constantly since 2005; Europe has created three million jobs in 2006 and unemployment is down to around 7.5%. While the renewed Lisbon strategy may not be the sole reason for these achievements, it certainly has helped to move things forward.

Beyond this increasingly positive outlook, much more can be done to make Europeans feel more confident about economic reforms, which are all too often seen as a threat for social protection. The innovation gap with the US remains too wide. The 70% target for employment, which currently stands at around 63.8%, must be a collective target for the EU. Finally, the commission will keep promoting sustainable development, not only as a duty, but also as an opportunity for the EU: taking the lead on energy efficiency and CO2 emissions reductions will make European industries more competitive and make the Union visible as a driving power all over the world.

Europe's Role in the World

The sheer size of the European Union in economic, trade and financial terms makes it a world player. The EU has a web of bilateral and multilateral agreements covering most countries and regions of the globe. The biggest trader and home to the world's second currency, the EU also spends one billion euro a month in assistance projects in all five continents. Handling the Union's external relations is literally a global responsibility.

This responsibility stretches from helping to run the civil administration in Kosovo and financial support for the Palestinian Authority to implementing a €1 billion reconstruction programme for Afghanistan.

To expand and deepen relations with other countries and regions, the EU holds regular summit meetings with its main partners like the United States, Japan, Canada and, more recently, Russia and India, as well as regional dialogues with countries in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. Although these relationships focused mainly on trade issues at the beginning, they have expanded over the years to cover investment, economic cooperation, finance, energy, science and technology and environmental protection as well as political matters such as the global war on terror, international crime and drug trafficking, and human rights.

Fight Against Terrorism

Following the attacks in New York on 11 September 2001 and Madrid on 11 March 2004, the European Union has launched a systematic action plan designed to improve cooperation between Member States, but also between Member States and third countries. The action plan was reinforced and intensified in the aftermath of the London bombings in July 2005. Since December 2005, the EU acts through the Counter-Terrorism Strategy whose four-fold objective is to prevent, protect, prosecute and respond.

Enlargement

From six members in the 1950s to 27 in 2007, the European Union (EU) represents an international power. After five rounds of enlargement, the EU has become the world's largest trading zone with a population of 485 million.

As a symbol of restored peace and stability across the entire continent, EU enlargement has brought numerous benefits. It has helped transform central and eastern Europe from communist systems to modern, well-functioning democracies. It has recently inspired radical reforms in Turkey, Croatia and the other Western Balkan countries. Finally, it has boosted Europe's economic growth and has improved Europe's social environment (in other words, increasing Europeans' general social standing or their general standard of living).

Despite its significant added value, many EU citizens are now wondering about the grounds for enlargement. Did the 2004 enlargement take place too fast? Isn't it undemocratic to enlarge the EU without listening to public opinion? Hasn't enlargement paralysed the functioning of the EU? Can the EU still absorb more members? These are some of the many questions being asked on past and future rounds of enlargement, and which the EU is endeavouring to answer on a daily basis using concrete facts.

Sustainable Development

Achieving sustainable development is one of the European Union's key priorities. It encompasses issues of great importance to all, such as maintaining and increasing long-term prosperity, addressing climate change, and working towards a safe, healthy and socially inclusive society. It sets out to meet the needs of present generations without jeopardising the needs of future generations. The EU's Sustainable Development Strategy which was renewed in 2006 aims for a more prosperous, cleaner and fairer Europe.

Social Change

Understanding the complex dynamics of social change within society is essential if Europe is to strengthen its response to globalisation. In light of this, the Commission is taking stock of Europe's social situation with a particular emphasis on access and opportunity. Social transformations, the factors behind them, as well as their contribution to well-being, will be examined and a debate will consider the key factors contributing to well-being – economic opportunities, working life, good health, multiculturalism, diversity, etc. This exploration of Europe’s social reality will pave the way for a new consensus on the social challenges facing Europeans.

Source: European Commission