Chapter News

Opening remarks by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with President Michel following the Special European Council meeting of 17-21 July 2020

Thank you very much.

Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to thank the President of the European Council – Charles Michel – for his enormous efforts and perseverance. This European Council’s success is also his success.

And I would like to thank Angela Merkel for her exceptional guidance. We negotiated for four long days and nights – more than 90 hours – but it was worth it. This agreement is a signal that Europe is capable of taking action.

A popular prejudiced view of Europe is that our reactions are ‘too little, too late’. This proves otherwise. At the end of April, the European Council tasked us with drawing up a recovery package. Today, only two months later, we have NextGenerationEU and it has the approval of the European Council.

In the history of the EU, this is an all-time record for a new budgetary instrument. And NextGenerationEU is impressive in its scope, worth more than EUR 1.8 trillion. That is more than 5% of the EU 27’s GDP. Europe still has the courage and imagination to think big!

Exhausted though we all may be, we are also conscious that this is an historic moment in Europe. We find ourselves in one of the most serious of economic and public health crises. And yet, following tough negotiations, Europe has successfully responded in force to this unprecedented crisis. This response draws on the EU budget and combines solidarity with responsibility.

‘Solidarity’, because all 27 Member States stand jointly behind NextGenerationEU. And ‘responsibility’, because NextGenerationEU not only leads the way out of this crisis – it can also lay the foundations for a modern, more sustainable Europe.

I want to emphasise two more points. We have now the New Own Resources tightly linked to the repayment. This is a big step forward with a clear timetable. Member States will benefit as they will contribute less to repay the investments. And the New Own Resources will strengthen the European Union also in the long term. I am glad that we managed to safeguard this achievement during the whole negotiations.

And Europe’s recovery will be green! The new budget will power the European Green Deal. It will accelerate the digitalisation of Europe’s economy. Thanks to NextGenerationEU, national reforms will be boosted. We invest in Europe’s future.

And finally, unlike in previous crises, this time, Member States have not opted for an intergovernmental solution. But they have entrusted the European Commission with Europe’s recovery. We will together manage a total of EUR 1.8 trillion. The bulk of the money will be channelled through the programmes in which the European Parliament is involved. NextGenerationEU comes with a great responsibility. We are determined to bring about reforms and investment in Europe.

Nevertheless, I must also mention a difficult point: In their search for a compromise, leaders have made far-reaching adjustments in the new MFF and NextGenerationEU, for example in health, migration, external action and InvestEU; they have not taken up the Solvency Instrument. This is regrettable. It decreases the innovative part of the budget, even if more than 50% of the overall budget – MFF and NextGenerationEU – will support modern policies.

Finally, to conclude: Europe as a whole has now a big chance to come out stronger from the crisis. Today, we have taken a historic step, we all can be proud of. But another important step remains ahead of us. First and foremost, we now have to work with the European Parliament to secure agreement. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but tonight is a big step forward towards recovery.

Thank you!

Compliments of the European Commission.