CATCHING THE WIND IN OUR SAILS
Mr President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,
When I stood before you this time last year, I had a somewhat easier speech to give. It was plain for all to see that our Union was not in a good state. Europe was battered and bruised by a year that shook our very foundation. We only had two choices. Either come together around a positive European agenda or each retreat into our own corners. Faced with this choice, I argued for unity. I proposed a positive agenda to help create – as I said last year – a Europe that protects, empowers and defends. Over the past twelve months, the European Parliament has helped bring this agenda to life. We continue to make progress with each passing day. Just last night you worked to find agreement on trade defence instruments and on doubling our European investment capacity. I also want to thank the 27 leaders of our Member States. Days after my speech last year, they welcomed my agenda at their summit in Bratislava. In doing so they chose unity. They chose to rally around our common ground. Together, we showed that Europe can deliver for its citizens when and where it matters.
Ever since, we have been slowly but surely gathering momentum. It helped that the economic outlook swung in our favour. We are now in the fifth year of an economic recovery that finally reaches every single Member State. Growth in the European Union has outstripped that of the United States over the last two years. It now stands above 2% for the Union as a whole and at 2.2% for the euro area. Unemployment is at a nine year low. Almost 8 million jobs have been created during this mandate so far. With 235 million people at work, more people are in employment in the EU than ever before. The European Commission cannot take the credit for this alone. Though I am sure that had 8 million jobs been lost, we would have taken the blame. But Europe's institutions played their part in helping the wind change. We can take credit for our European Investment Plan which has triggered €225 billion worth of investment so far. It has granted loans to over 445,000 small firms and more than 270 infrastructure projects. We can take credit for the fact that, thanks to determined action, European banks once again have the capital firepower to lend to companies so that they can grow and create jobs...