Monsieur le Président, re-bonjour.
Mesdames et Messieurs les députés,
Just under two weeks ago I returned from a tour around the Western Balkans. It was a memorable trip for many reasons.
What struck me the most was the passion and conviction in the European Union. This gave me a renewed sense of belief and hope: that if a region, a dramatic region like the Western Balkans is so determined to reform from top to bottom in order to join our Union, then we must be a Union worth being part of. The Western Balkans clearly see much more in us than we ourselves see in our Union. I want to see this same belief in our Union across all 27 Member States.
Of course there is a great deal of work to be done. All bilateral conflicts must be resolved and more unity is needed. Each of the Western Balkan partners must continue their reform path, especially when it comes to the rule of law and fundamental freedoms and values.
As I said to all leaders in the region, there will be no fast-tracking. We will put substance over speed. Each case will be taken on its own merits with no fixed dates or firm deadlines.
But I came back from the trip more convinced than ever that this is our shared future. It is about reconciling our history and geography.
But it is also a reason more to focus on building a stronger, more democratic and united Union.
This is what the March European Council is about.
I would like to thank this House and the Bulgarian Presidency for leading the way in recent weeks. The breakthrough on posted workers will ensure that fairness comes first in our labour market. As we collectively agreed: equal pay for equal work in the same place. The agreement on 5G shows we are serious about our digital leadership and equipping ourselves with the tools we need to thrive in the society of tomorrow.
Europe believes in open and fair trade, based on a global rulebook. Our economy depends on it, our consumers expect it. But as I have said all along: we are not naïve free traders.
So we will not sit idly by if our industry is hit with unfair trade measures that put European jobs at risk. We will defend our workers, we will defend our industry, and we will do so respecting the rules that the world agreed to under WTO.
The United States has regrettably decided to impose restrictions on steel and aluminium which will impact a significant amount of EU trade. We believe in win-win trade, but going it alone on tariffs is a lose-lose for all.
Yes, the global steel industry has an over-capacity problem. This is why since December, along with Japan and the U.S., we have been looking at how to address this issue globally.
Commissioner Malmström met with both of her counterparts this weekend to deepen that cooperation further. And she also expressed our concerns to the United States on the tariffs they imposed on national security grounds.
Exports from the European Union are clearly not a threat to the United States’ national security. We are long-standing and trusted security partners and we work together to keep each other safe and secure. And as their own figures show, the U.S. only needs 3% of its annual steel production to serve the Pentagon’s needs.
We will keep making this point in the run-up to the European Council next week. We are expecting more clarity from the American side in the coming days and we will continue to work with our partners to push for an exemption to these measures.
But as always we will – and we have to – prepare for all eventualities.
Should the need arise, the European Union will respond in three ways.
First, under WTO rules we have the right to rebalance these measures, and we stand ready to do so.
Secondly, we will be ready with safeguard measures if there is a surge in imports into the European Union as a result of the U.S. closing its market.
Thirdly, we will seek dispute settlement consultations in the WTO, in conjunction with other affected countries.
Compliments of the European Commission