Press conference of Jean-Claude Juncker with Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho in Lisbon, Portugal
I am glad to be here today with my friend, Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho.
I am a friend of Portugal.
As a Luxemburger, the Portuguese people are particularly close to me. Around 20% of the citizens living in my home country Luxemburg are from Portugal.
To me, Portugal is therefore not a foreign country. I feel at home when I hear the Portuguese language, or when I smell that pastéis de belem are on the table.
My visit this weekend to Portugal comes at an important moment in Portuguese and European history: Portugal is exiting its programme today. And Portugal can do so in a clean manner, without needing a further programme.
I want to congratulate the Portuguese people for their hard work, their super-human efforts over the past three years that have allowed this to happen.
European solidarity was also an important element of success.
However, everybody in Europe should acknowledge the impressive reforms, and the often painful measures that Portugal has taken to get back on track.
The Portuguese people are true heroes, and the clean exit today is first of all a success of the Portuguese people.
I believe we all can agree that never again should Portugal or any other European country get into such a situation.
This is also why I am currently campaigning across Europe to become the next President of the Commission.
As Commission President, I want to work night and day for a Europe where the economy grows again and where people find again decent jobs. Growth and jobs will be the most important headline of my Commission.
However, I believe we have to be serious and honest, after the experience made in the worst economic and financial crisis since the Second World War: We can no longer afford to build our economies on debt. Mountains of debts have been accumulated in the past. And they are the main reason why Europe got into trouble.
Debt is deeply anti-social. Because the debt generated today will have to be repaid by our children and grandchildren.
Every cent too much we spend too will be lacking when our children and grandchildren want to have access to schools, a reliable health system and a strong social system.
Debt is also deeply anti-democratic. Because we have seen it: a country that has too much debt quickly becomes fair game for the markets. An over-indebted country becomes the victim of speculators. Instead of a democratically elected government, suddenly the markets decide.
This is why today is such an important day for Portugal. Portugal leaving the programme - this means the end of the troika. This means a declaration of independence for Portugal. And this is why I am here today to celebrate this together with my friend Pedro Passos Coelho.
I believe that in Europe, we all have to learn the lessons of the past mistakes. We have to identify new sources of growth and jobs which are not based on debt. In my political programme, I have developed a number of them:
- A Digital Internal Market, where Europe abolishes the regulatory borders between countries for online surfers, innovative start ups and mobile phone users. 3 million jobs could be created over the next five years in this field we get our policies right.
- A European Energy Union, which better connects Europe's energy grid, and which makes Europe the home of modern renewable energy
- A balanced Free Trade Agreement with the US that abolishes notably all customs duties. It is anachronistic that Portuguese companies have to pay up to 3% customs duties on Portuguese products sold on the US market!
To achieve this - growth and jobs without new debt - we need a strong responsible leadership of the next European Commission that can work together in partnership with responsible governments in all Member States, North and South, East and West, big and small.
I believe that I am the right man for the job.
Let me make a final important remark: Over the past 10 years, the European Commission was in Portuguese hands, under the presidency of my friend José Manuel Barroso. These were not easy years, and it was important that there was someone at the head of the Commission who understood the South of Europe well. Who put a strong emphasis on solidarity when others were talking only about fiscal discipline, important as it is.
I want to underline that as Commission President I will try my best to continue this work of José Manuel Barroso.
Europe needs solidity AND solidarity. The Commission needs to understand the North and the South, small and big countries.
And perhaps it is not a bad thing if the next President of the Commission will come from a country in which 20% of the population are Portuguese. It will certainly ensure that Portugal's voice will continue to be strong in Europe over the next 5 years.
Thank you for your attention."
Click here to read Jean-Claude Juncker's top priorities as Commission President.