Buenos días, Good morning,
Prime-Minister Rodríguez Zapatero and I focused our discussion today on the agenda of the European Union for the next months, in particular the economic agenda.
Very important reforms have been launched by the Spanish government to cut the deficit and the debt, reform the labour market and pensions, and to restructure the financial sector, particularly the cajas. This is a very credible package of measures that are contributing to financial stability, and will enhance economic growth and fight unemployment.
Some of those reforms are unpopular; in Spain and elsewhere; I’m fully aware of it. Yet they are necessary, and not simply for the sake of cutting costs and deficits, but in order to preserve our social models, to be able to guarantee our welfare and jobs for our children. It is to save the welfare state, not to undermine it.
These reforms are needed not only because of the stability of the eurozone but for and foremost for national reasons, in order to preserve the future.
This crisis has revealed how interdependent the countries in the eurozone are. But at the same time it is extremely important to differentiate across countries. Each country is different, and the challenges faced by Spain are not at all the same as those faced by other countries.
Over the medium term, we have to increase convergence within the eurozone. We have become so dependent upon each other that the problem of one country is a problem for all the members of the Union.
We also discussed the overall situation in the euro area. I am fully aware of the current tensions in the debt markets, but let me be very clear that there is a very strong commitment at the highest level to do whatever is necessary to safeguard financial stability of the euro area.
Leaders have to rise above their domestic political agenda and they will. Proposals of the Eurogroup on measures that will resist contagion risk in the euro area are urgently needed.
In the difficult time we are facing, we tend to forget that the euro is a stable and sound currency with strong fundamentals compared to other currencies. Most importantly, the economic recovery in the Eurozone as a whole is quite good, with forecasts of overall economic growth close to 2 percent in 2011 and 2012. This helps Spain come back to higher growth rates too.
I am in very close contact with the Presidents of the Commission, the European Central Bank and the Eurogroup.
Finally, we talked about EU foreign policy, in particular the relations with our southern neighbours.
The European Union has started implementing our main instruments for dealing specially with our southern neighbours, in particular in the areas of trade, aid and civil society support.
We underline the importance of the Union for the Mediterranean, and the importance of rapidly launching concrete and significant projects within its framework.
Gracias (Thank you).