21 March 2012

EU budget and 20 years of ECHO

Incredible how quickly the last days have passed. After some very good days in Italy this week I was busy with a lot work and preparations here in Brussels. Yesterday I had a working lunch with the Swiss President Widmer-Schlumpf, quite a difficult meeting I must admit because there are many issues to be solved to get our cooperation to a new level. In the afternoon I also met with President Salva Kiir Mayardit of the newly founded state South Sudan and Jakob Kellenberger, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Also in the afternoon, I spoke at the festivities of the 20th anniversary of DG ECHO, our Directorate General for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis response headed by Claus Sorensen, with Kristalina Georgieva as the responsible Commissioner in the College. Watch my speech from about minute 4:20:

Today we had the weekly meeting of the College in Brussels where among other things we discussed about the Commission proposal to ensure reciprocity when international bidders want to participate in EU-wide public procurement. In the afternoon I had meetings with the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr Bakir Izetbegovic, as well as with Mr Igor Luksic, Prime Minister of Montenegro. Tomorrow morning at 9.30 I will be in the Hemicycle of the European Parliament in Brussels, together with the Presidents of the Parliament and the Council, to discuss the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), the European budget for the time after 2013. Last week on Tuesday during the College meeting we already had a long debate about the last budget in this Financial Framework and we will make our Commission proposal for the 2013 budget on 25 April. It will however be crucial to think about the budget of the future, making the Union fit to get out of the crisis and to follow the road of the Europe 2020 strategy with the MFF 2014-2020. If we want to invest in the future of the European Union, we need a budget that allows to make the necessary investments, for example in energy and digital communication infrastructure under the Connection Europe Facility, and we should also consider that for these efforts the European Union needs more own resources to boost growth, make Europe safer and to make Europe count in the world. You can watch the speeches of the three presidencies and the following press conference on Europe by Satellite. It is a very important topic and I recommend everyone to listen! That is it for today from Brussels. Tomorrow evening I will be in Copenhagen and on Friday I will finally be back in Portugal. If I find the time, I will blog here again at the end of the week.

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