Barroso urges mobilisation of 'pro-Europeans'

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The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, has said David Cameron's promise of a referendum in the UK of EU membership should be a "wake-up call for pro-Europeans living in their comfort zone to come out and discuss Europe".

Speaking at the plenary session of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on 13 February 2013, he said the EU needed to be "self-critical" and admitted there were "bureaucratic problems" in the running of the union.

But he insisted that the history of Europe meant there was always a danger of "extreme nationalism and xenophobia" whenever the continent faced social and economic uncertainty.

Mr Barroso also admitted he was "disappointed" that the recent agreement on the EU's long-term budget was lower than the Commission's original draft but said the deal maintained a "modernised regional policy and common agricultural policy".

The new budget ceiling for 2014-2020 amounts to €960bn, following the recent summit of EU leaders in Brussels. It is the first time the EU's multi-annual budget has been reduced.

The European Commission had originally proposed a long-term budget of €1.025tn. That would have meant a 4.8% increase on the current 2007-2013 budget. The new total of 960bn is a 3.3% cut.

The European Economic and Social Committee is - alongside the Committee of the Regions - one of the two formal consultative bodies of the EU.

It has no powers to amend or reject draft laws but its opinion must be sought on certain legislative proposals as set down in the Treaty of Lisbon.

It has 344 members, made up of employers' associations, trade unions and other interested parties such as consumer groups, farmers and professional associations.

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