The Barcelona Council has made the process of economic and social reform "irreversible", Presidency press conference report

March 18, 2002

Brussels, 15 March 2002

This was the message delivered by Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar at the closing press conference of the Barcelona European Council, which he held jointly with Commission President Romano Prodi and CFSP High Representative Javier Solana.

“Each of us has made an effort to strike a compromise that enables us to move forward” in the economic and social reforms agreed upon in Lisbon, explained Mr Aznar.

The President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, described the foundations laid in Barcelona as “excellent” and announced that that the Commission is to draw up a Report on the coordination of the economies of the 15 Member States for the Spring Council of 2003.

Among the undertakings adopted at Barcelona is an agreement on taxation on energy which will be introduced in tandem with the liberalisation of energy markets by 2004. Moreover, in what was described as a “crucial step” by Aznar, the EU 15 agreed to open electricity and gas markets for non-household consumers by 2004. As a result, at least 60% of these two markets will be liberalised by then.

The 15 EU Member States, meeting for the first time with the Candidate Countries at a summit which focused on economic and social reforms, also expressed their commitment to the Stability Pact for budgetary equilibrium by 2004. They expressed their willingness to ratify the Kyoto Protocol before the Johannesburg Summit and agreed to increase average Overseas Development Aid across the EU to 0.39% by 2006. This agreement will be the EU’s common position at next week’s Monterrey Conference.

On employment, the 15 set a target of 20 million new jobs for this decade (5 million have already been created since the Lisbon European Council) and adopted a programme for access to crèche facilities. They also agreed to raise the current average retirement age in Europe by 5 years.

Still on social issues, the Barcelona European Council adopted the European Health Insurance Card, together with a declaration condemning violence against women.

With regard to the interconnection of European markets, agreement was reached on the implementation of the Lamfalussy proposals. Integration of capital markets will be achieved by 2003, while financial services markets will be fully integrated by 2005, thanks largely to the adoption of 7 separate Directives by the end of this year.

In addition to the liberalisation of gas and energy markets, the European Council agreed to review trans-European energy networks by the end of the year and to work to ensure a level of electricity interconnection equivalent to at least 10% of their installed production capacity by 2005.

In the field of transport, a number of projects were put forward for consideration, among them several for the Alps and the Pyrenees. The 15 also agreed to take the appropriate decisions to ensure that the Single Sky proposals become a reality in 2004. The difficulties hindering the adoption of the Galileo Programme were also overcome in Barcelona.

With regard to telecommunications, a new e-Europe 2005 Plan for the development of broadband networks will be submitted to the Seville European Council. In Barcelona it was agreed also that the ratio of Internet-connected PCs to pupils will be reduced across the European Union to one for every fifteen pupils.

Consideration was also given to a report by the High Representative on the reform of the European Council. The Council also discussed and adopted a declaration on the current situation in the Middle East.

Among other issues, the Barcelona Council discussed the agreement reached by Serbia and Montenegro and adopted a declaration on Zimbabwe.

Spanish Presidency Website http://www.eu2002.es

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