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France/Tunisia/action plan – European Financial Stability Facility/Stability and Growth Pact/European financial system/economic coordination/EU budget/CAP/Cohesion Policy/research and innovation/EU enlargement

Published on February 18, 2011
Excerpts from the communiqué issued following the Council of Ministers’ meeting

Paris, February 16, 2011

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Proposed action plan for Tunisia

The Prime Minister presented a proposed action plan for Tunisia.
Three priorities were identified to support the Tunisian government and people on the path of democracy and economic and social progress: support for the establishment of democracy, the rule of law and the fight against corruption; modernization of the economy and development of employment; and stronger contacts between sectors of civil society.

In order to agree a joint action plan, this proposal will be submitted to the Tunisian authorities by the new French ambassador, who arrives in Tunisia today.

The Minister for the Economy, Finance and Industry and the Minister attached to the Ministre d’Etat, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, responsible for European Affairs, will go to Tunisia on 22 February.

There, France will reiterate her support for the country’s economic development and for the European Union granting Tunisia “advanced status” before the end of the year.

France will fully contribute to the international conference in Carthage on support for political and economic reforms in Tunisia.

European policy

The Council of Ministers looked at the major challenges the European Union has to address.

The Minister for the Economy, Finance and Industry talked about the Euro Area situation.

For nearly a year, the European Union has been taking the necessary measures to urgently address the financial and monetary crisis. France and Germany have played a crucial part in this.

As the European Council of 4 February confirmed, the Euro Area and European Union as a whole must develop a comprehensive response. This involves:

- consolidating our ability to respond immediately to crises, with the implementation of the Greece and Ireland support plans, the strengthening of the European Financial Stability Facility by the Euro Area States, and the establishment of a future permanent mechanism, which requires a limited amendment of the Treaty;

- strengthening the Stability and Growth Pact, in accordance with the guidelines laid down in the Van Rompuy report of October 2010, by developing budgetary coordination and surveillance, complemented by macroeconomic coordination and surveillance, critically important to prevent new crises;

- continuing to clean up the European financial system, especially the banking system, in particular by swiftly setting up the European financial supervision system, continuing financial regulation and carrying out new stress tests on banks.

- strengthening the convergence of the European economies to improve their competitiveness. In this regard, it is necessary to increase the coordination of economic policies through the adoption of a “convergence pact for competitiveness”.

Enhanced coordination of national economic policies is indeed essential to get the Euro Area to operate more harmoniously and prevent crises and imbalances. On 4 February, all Euro Area member States and the Commission shared this analysis and mandated Mr Van Rompuy, in close cooperation with Mr Barroso, to make concrete proposals which will be examined during the Eurogroup summit taking place on 11 March.

The Minister for the Budget, Public Accounts, the Civil Service and Administrative Reform, and Government Spokesman talked about the Financial Perspectives 2014-2020.

From June 2011, the European Commission will present its proposals on the European Union’s next financial framework. Member States will have to adopt this unanimously, after the consent of the European Parliament. This traditionally sensitive negotiation is especially important given the unprecedented efforts to improve the organization of our public finances.

In this framework, France intends to uphold the following priorities:

- it is important not to spend more but to spend better. The European budget must be subject to spending discipline inspired by that applied to the national budget. Commitments must be set at a level compatible with the necessary stabilization of the Member States’ budgetary contributions. This is the key message conveyed in the letter sent by President Sarkozy and four heads of government to the Commission President last December;

- France wants an ambitious budget to be maintained for the Common Agricultural Policy, which is still, in fact, the main truly integrated common policy. It is a major trump card for European competitiveness;

- France is also in favour of renewed financing of the European Union that helps end the inequality and complexity of the current financing system;

The Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries, Rural Affairs and Town and Country Planning talked about the future of the Common Agricultural Policy and Cohesion Policy.

In the autumn of 2010 the European institutions started work on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy and Cohesion Policy. This analysis will be decisive in defining not only the content of these two policies but also the financial resources to be allocated to them in the next spending review.

France intends to uphold a Common Agricultural Policy that is ambitious – including in terms of its budget – as well as fairer, more equitable and based on renewed Community preference.

To this end, she has undertaken major efforts of persuasion, as demonstrated by the common Franco-German position of 14 September 2010, which a large number of Member States now share. In support of these efforts, she can also cite measures taken at national level to modernize her agriculture.

The Cohesion Policy is important for France, her regional and local authorities and her territories, particularly overseas. It has helped reduce disparities in wealth between European regions and fostered cohesion throughout the Union. In future, the convergence seen in recent years should be taken into account.

The Minister attached to the Minister for the Economy, Finance and Industry, responsible for Industry, Energy and the Digital Economy presented the guidelines for research and innovation in Europe.

Research and innovation are among the major priorities of the new European strategy for employment and growth (Europe 2020) drawn up in June 2010. In particular, the heads of State and government confirmed the objective to increase the combined public and private investment levels for research and development to 3% of GDP.

With this in mind, the European Council of 4 February has just set important guidelines which must allow Europe to become a competitive knowledge society on a worldwide scale. In particular, these guidelines meet the objectives upheld by France to:

- simplify the management of European Union research programmes;

- finish building, by 2014, a European Research Area, which will promote the coordination of national policies and mobility of researchers in Europe;

- help companies, especially small and medium-sized ones, gain access to funding, in particular through a European-level mechanism for promoting intellectual property rights and the Europe-wide establishment of a European venture capital system.

The Minister attached to the Ministre d’Etat, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, responsible for European Affairs talked about European Union enlargement.

The European Union’s enlargement policy has significantly contributed to the integration and stability of the European area. It has been a powerful vehicle for reform and spreading and consolidating the common values and principles of freedom, democracy, the social market economy, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

In order for this policy to remain a major strength for the States concerned and the European Union as a whole, it must be brought fully under control and conducted with renewed rigour:

- the prospect of accession must be assessed according to the merits of each individual candidate;

- the pace of the enlargement process must be clearly determined by each candidate’s ability to meet the accession criteria fully and effectively, particularly in areas related to the rule of law;

- the pace of this process must also take into account the EU’s capacity to absorb [new members].

The same rigour is required in the Schengen Agreement enlargement process. The accession of new members can in fact be envisaged only if all the necessary conditions exist for the integrity and security of our common area of free movement./.

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