Presentation of the programme of activities of the German Presidency of the Council of the EU

Speech by the President Von Der Leyen

Dear Chancellor, Honourable Members,

We are looking forward to the German Presidency.

Presidencies of the Council are not something you can pick and choose; ther are scheduled according to a strictly defined rota

And Germany’s turn has in fact come at a time that could not be any more challenging

Expectations of the German Presidency are high – I know that puts pressure on you – but it is also something positive as it shows that we have confidence in you

Ladies and Gentlemen,

the Corona crisis has raised a lot of questions – social and economic questions and also questions about our understanding of ourselves

About how we see ourselves and also how we see ourselves in relation to others.

And all this is being played out against the backdrop of a world in which the supporting structures are starting to crumble

The Corona crisis has made us think in new and different ways about the values of solidarity and community. We are thinking in new and different ways about the great value which a united Europe brings, which must be recreated every day. Admittedly, to begin with, many were looking inwards, at the small things, and not enough at the bigger picture and from all angles. However, we pulled ourselves together and started to see things afresh through European eyes, and to feel things with a European heart.

And, dear Chancellor, thanks also to Germany’s contribution in recent weeks, this “sense of collective responsibility” is back with us again in Europe.

At this time of crisis, people’s words and deeds in all four corners of our continent have given us new reason to hope that we will be able to get through this together.

What is good for Europe is also good for us” When I hear these words, I recognise them as the sound of Europe that we all want to hear.

And this re-discovered “sense of collective responsibility” is not a bad companion for us as we find ourselves on the starting blocks of a Council Presidency which will play a seminal role in the future of our Union

Honourable Members,

the challenge ahead of you, the rotating Presidency, and ahead of us all, in the next six months could not be more extraordinary.

And in the last six months, more than 100.000 lives have been lost in Europe because of COVID-19

We have entered the worst recession since almost 100 years.

The Summer Forecast from yesterday shows a contraction of more than 8% this year with only a partial rebound next year.

This crisis is deeper and it is way broader than the one ten years ago.

But the one ten years ago is still vividly present in the memories.

And some of our Member States, during that crisis, endured:

– skyrocketing youth unemployment

– They saw young people leaving home in droves to search for job opportunities elsewhere

– They saw an unprecedented drop in public investment to historically low levels

All of which ultimately damaged public programmes and public infrastructure severely

And for many, this was a traumatising experience.

But it does not have to be that way.

In other parts of our Union, the economy was supported by strong public investment from the very beginning of the crisis.

People were able to stay in their jobs. That was when the conceprt of “Kurzarbeit” was implemented on a large scale. And this allowed some to come out stronger from the crisis than they went in it.

And we should draw lessons from this

And this time we should do it together

If we do it right, we can also emerge stronger from this crisis thanks to a common European purpose and thanks to NextGenerationEU.

And this Presidency has chosen one word at the core of its programme.

Gemeinsam. Together. Tous ensemble

and that is the engine of our Union

Honourable Members,

There are two points I want to emphasise

First of all, solidarity means that those who need it get more support

But what it does not incentivise is a lack of action

And that is why, in NextGenerationEU, investment is linked to reforms based on our existing country-specific recommendations in the European Semester.

And let me tell you: Each and every Member State has homework to do. There is not one Member State that has not country-specific recommendations that should be linked as reforms to the investment

And if we want to come out stronger from this crisis, we must all change for the better. There is not a single Member State that is exempted from that. We must all change to the better.

And this is also what European people expect from us.

They are certainly very different in their individual expectations.

But they are completely united in wanting to drink clean water, to breathe fresh air, to see their children grow up in nature

And what they certainly do not want is that politics contributes to increase flooding, to heat waves, to droughts and to the loss of millions of species – and this is a very real scenario in case of non-action.

And therefore, economic recovery is inseparable from the European Green Deal, as well as digitalisation and resilience.

And my second point is:

Do not neglect the core MFF – our seven- year budget – over NextGenerationEU.

We need them both.

NextGenerationEu is for the acute crisis – but the MFF is there to stay, it is the most important tool to implement our long-term goals.

Research, Innovation, Migration, Foreign Policy, Security – just to name a few

These policies need real European added value and they need a strong seven-year budget to bring all that to life

Honourable Members,

all this has to be agreed now – in the next weeks – to clear the path for all the other topics that we want to tackle.

By the end of the year, we will have to chart the path towards our goal of a climate- neutral Europe

In September, we will propose the European Union’s new 2030 Climate target, underpinned by a robust impact assessment.

And here, cooperation with the European Parliament and the European Council will be vital.

We will also aim to click the digital transition into a higher gear.

Honourable Members,

over this Presidence, wi will do our utmost to find an agreement with the United Kingdom on our new relationship – while respecting our principles and preserving our European unity.

I also believe it is important to maintain our strong transatlantic relations, despite the many difficulties we face.

The partnership with Africa is at the heart of the German Presidency’s programme – and my personal programme, too

In tackling this virus, we have to show that this partnership with Africa is not just a fair-weather partnership but also one where we also stick together when the clouds roll in.

And we must also continue working with China to build a more balanced partnership.

It’s time to act together

As your motto says:

Gemeinsam Europa stark Machen.

Together for Europe’s recovery

Tous ensemble pour relancer l’Europe

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