[Anna Karagiannopoulou]: On the burning issue of the economy, the labor market, and the stimulation of the American Middle Class, President Obama focused in his annual address to Congress on the state of the Union, specifically saying that progress has been made. With the main goal of restoring the American dream, where anyone who works hard and meets their obligations makes progress, regardless of their origin or background, President Obama emphasized to the members of Congress that the main concern of this generation should become the rebooting of the real engine of American Economic Growth, namely a prosperous Middle Class. Mr. Obama also pointed out that the country needs a smarter, not a bigger state, and that his proposals are budget-neutral, meaning they do not increase the country’s deficit. [President Obama]: We need to ensure that the state works for the many and not just for a few, that it encourages private initiative, and opens doors of opportunity for every child from coast to coast. [Anna Karagiannopoulou]: The American president asked Congress to approve bills that invest in economic stimulation programs, such as infrastructure, research, education, and clean energy projects, and noted that his priority is to make America a magnet for new jobs and industry and proposed raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour and linking it to the cost of living. [President Obama]: Most Americans, regardless of party, understand that we cannot achieve prosperity with cuts alone. Broad-based economic growth requires a balanced approach to deficit reduction with spending cuts but also revenue increases with everyone contributing. [Anna Karagiannopoulou]: On immigration, Mr. Obama noted that the time has come to reform the country’s immigration laws by strengthening border security, creating a responsible roadmap with specific conditions for immigrants to gain American citizenship, and improving the legal framework of the immigration system. On the matter of the war in Afghanistan, President Obama announced that the US will complete its work in Afghanistan, which is the final defeat of Al Qaeda, adding that nearly half of the American forces serving there, about 34,000, will return within the year, with the complete transfer of power to the Afghans and the end of the war in that country by 2014. On other foreign policy issues, Mr. Obama stated he would do whatever necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and will continue to work with Russia for further reduction of the American and Russian nuclear arsenals, while also announcing a proposal for a comprehensive free trade agreement with the European Union. [President Obama]: Free and fair trade relations across the Atlantic will support millions of well-paying jobs in the United States. [Anna Karagiannopoulou]: Finally, two months after the bloodshed in Newtown, Connecticut, Mr. Obama emphasized that the time has come for serious reforms on the issue of gun ownership, which, as he said, have the support of the overwhelming majority of Americans. The response from the Republican party was given by the Spanish-speaking son of immigrants, Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, who stated that not all problems can be solved by the state and noted that a free-market economy is the source of the middle class’s prosperity. It depends on all of us, all the citizens of the United States, for the next chapter of our American History. With this phrase, President Obama concluded his annual address to Congress on the state of the Union. Anna Karagiannopoulou, VOA, Washington.