Jose Manuel Barroso has used his first US-style ‘state of the union’ address to call for solidarity in tackling Europe’s economic problems
The President of the EU Commission, in his second term in the job, was speaking to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
He said recovery was gathering pace but unevenly, and unemployment was still too high. He called for greater use of the internal market and less red tape.
‘This is Europe’s moment of truth,’ he said. ‘Europe must show it is more than 27 different national solutions. We either swim together or sink separately. We only succeed if, whether acting nationally regionally or locally, we think European.’
There was also veiled criticism of France over its expulsion of Roma migrants – more than 1000 this month, 8000 this year. Barroso said European governments had to respect the rights of minorities.
The call was backed from the floor. “The Roma are Eu-ro-pean citizens, citizens with full rights,” said Guy Verhofstadt, leader of ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe), the parliament’s third largest group.
Thousands of Roma have migrated across Europe from countries such as Romania taking advantage of EU laws on free movement.
‘We can never accept,’ he went on, ‘that their rights are violated, never in a world in the grip of so much uncertainty. I think Europe must remain a continent of freedom, tolerance and justice.’
President Sarkozy has defended the expulsions as legal – the Roma have no right to stay longer than three months unless they have work or residence permits – and necessary to combat crime. The European Commission has called on France to prove that the policy is in line with EU law.