The year 2011 will be economically challenging and painful, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso warned this week. After two years of economic recession, Barroso expects a difficult year ahead and underlined the need for Europe to make progress on economic governance and policy coordination.
2011 will not be an easy year, it will in fact be a very challenging year. Sometimes it will be painful also in economic terms, he said.
More economic governance and coordination is not an ideological dream. It is a pragmatic need. Those defending it are not utopians, but realists he added.
Barroso is expected to present the bloc's annual growth survey next week, thus launching the first European Semester, a six-month period during which the member states' economic and budgetary policies will be assessed to identify discrepancies and imbalances.
In addition to promoting economic governance and coordination, the commission regards energy and innovation as two important priorities that will be discussed at the next European Council meeting in February.
Barroso hopes the Council will agree on key energy infrastructure links such as overcoming obstacles to the creation of a truly European energy market and on measures to reach the 20% target on energy efficiency by 2020.
In order to improve the bloc's external energy policy, the president will travel to Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan next week to support the Southern Corridor project, which aims at ensuring security and diversification of energy supplies.
Barroso also highlighted the importance of the European Council's endorsement of the European Union (EU)'s strategic approach to innovation, whereby innovation is overarching policy objective.
The president stressed the need to complete the European Research Area by 2014, launch European Innovation Partnerships, support public procurement of innovative products and services, improve access to finance, and cut red tape.
We all know that innovation is essential to drive growth and employment. We need this kind of innovation for Europe's competitiveness, Barroso said.