Speech by President von der Leyen at the European Parliament Plenary on the preparation of the European Council meeting of 10-11 December

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC) i, gepubliceerd op woensdag 25 november 2020.

Grazie, Presidente,

Honourable Members,

I come to Parliament today to report on our plans for the next European Council on 10 and 11 December. But before I will turn to that, please allow me to update you on two other topics. About Brexit. And about the situation we are facing with respect to the Multiannual Financial Framework and NextGenerationEU.

Honourable Members,

These are decisive days for our negotiations with the United Kingdom. But I cannot tell you today, if in the end there will be a deal. There has been genuine progress on a number of important questions: on law enforcement and judicial cooperation; on social security coordination. And also on goods, services and transport we now have the outline of a possible final text. In these areas there are still some important issues to agree, but they should be manageable.

However, there are still three issues that can make the difference between a deal and no deal. The crucial topics for the European side are of course questions linked to the level playing field, governance and fisheries. With very little time ahead of us, we will do all in our power to reach an agreement. We are ready to be creative.

But we are not ready to put into question the integrity of our Single Market - the main safeguard for European prosperity and wealth. This is why we need to establish robust mechanisms, ensuring that competition is - and remains - free and fair over time.

In the discussions about state aid we have still serious issues, for instance when it comes to enforcement. Significant difficulties remain on the question how we can secure - now and over time - our common high standards on labour and social rights, the environment, climate change and tax transparency.

We want to know what remedies are available, in case one side will deviate in the future. Because trust is good, but law is better. And crucial in light of recent experience: a strong governance system is essential to ensure that what has been agreed is actually done.

Concerning fisheries: No one questions the UK´s sovereignty on its own waters. But we ask for predictability and guarantees for our fishermen and women, who have been sailing in these waters for decades, if not centuries.

Honourable Members,

The next days are going to be decisive. The European Union is well prepared for a no-deal-scenario, but of course we prefer to have an agreement. I fully trust in the skillful steer of our Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier. But one thing is clear: Whatever the outcome, there has to be - and there will be - a clear difference between being a full member of the Union and being just a valued partner.

I am fully aware of the challenges the current situation is creating especially for this Parliament and the ratification procedure. This is why I want to sincerely thank you for your support and understanding. As in the past, we will walk those last miles together.

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren Abgeordnete,

Zur gleichen Zeit wartet die Union auf grünes Licht für unseren nächsten mehrjährigen Finanzrahmen und NextGenerationEU. Die Kommission hat im Mai ihr Aufbauprogramm NextGenerationEU und den Mehrjahreshaushalt vorgelegt. Die Staats- und Regierungschefs der 27 EU-Mitglieder haben im Juli vier lange Tage und Nächte verhandelt und einen Kompromiss gefunden. Sie, meine Damen und Herren Abgeordnete, haben dieses Paket weiterentwickelt. Am Ende steht jetzt ein Ergebnis, das die vielen politischen Anliegen angemessen berücksichtigt.

Jetzt haben zwei Mitgliedstaaten Zweifel angemeldet. Der beste Weg wäre, diese Zweifel auszuräumen. Im Juli haben sich alle 27 Staats- und Regierungschefs auch auf einen neuen Konditionalitäts-Mechanismus verständigt. Es geht hier um Verstöße gegen das Rechtsstaatsprinzip, die das europäische Budget gefährden - und nur um diese. Das ist angemessen, verhältnismäßig und auch notwendig. Es ist schwer vorstellbar, dass irgendjemand in Europa etwas dagegen haben könnte.

Meine Damen und Herren,

Wer dennoch Zweifel hat, für den gibt es einen klaren Weg: Er kann vor den Europäischen Gerichtshof ziehen und die neuen Regeln auf Herz und Nieren prüfen lassen. Das ist der Ort, an dem wir üblicherweise Meinungsverschiedenheiten über Rechtstexte austragen. Und nicht zulasten von Millionen von Europäerinnen und Europäern, die dringend auf unsere Hilfe warten.

Wir alle sind ihnen eine rasche Antwort schuldig. Denjenigen, die ihre Restaurants und Geschäfte zu unser aller Wohl vorrübergehend schließen mussten. Denjenigen, die in ihrer Existenz bedroht sind. Den Menschen, die um ihre Jobs bangen. Auch in Polen und Ungarn.

Honourable Members,

This is especially the case as the pandemic situation remains serious. With nearly 3,000 deaths a day COVID-19 was the cause number 1 for death in the EU last week. Hospitals remain under stress, and in some regions intensive care units are overwhelmed. I know that shop owners, bartenders and waiters in restaurants want an end to restrictions. But we must learn from the summer and not repeat the same mistakes. Relaxing too fast and too much is a risk for a third wave after Christmas. Weeks ago, I have said that this Christmas will be different. And yes, it will be quieter. This is also a question of solidarity between Member States.

But there is also good news. The European Commission by now has secured contracts with six companies. The first European citizens might already be vaccinated before the end of December. There is finally light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccines are important, but what counts are vaccinations. Member States must get ready now. We are taking about millions of syringes and the cold chain, the organisation of the vaccination centres, training of personnel, you name it. In short: Member States have to prepare the logistic for the eventual deployment of hundreds of millions of doses. Because this is our ticket out of this pandemic.

Honourable Members,

Whether COVID-19 or not, there is another crisis that rumbles on: global warming, the crisis of our planet.

Honourable Members,

A growing number of countries have pledged carbon neutrality by 2050. Good news.

I firmly believe we all must put a price on carbon.

These words could be mine, but they are not. These are remarks of António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, at the G20 Summit last week-end. For the first time since four years, the G20 agreed on a clear commitment to fight climate change. Europe has been proudly leading the way. By now, more than half of the G20 members have committed to climate or carbon neutrality around 2050.

It demonstrates that being courageous pays off. And it shows that we have chosen the right course when we decided to cut back CO2 emissions until 2030 by at least 55%. This should also encourage the Heads of States or Government to confirm this goal at the next European Council.

Enfin, permettez-moi de parler de la sécurité des personnes en Europe. Je suis sûre que je parle pour toute l'Union quand je dis que l'Europe est solidaire des Français et des Autrichiens. L'Europe est unie face aux attaques terroristes au cœur de nos villes.

Et l'Europe est prête à agir. Le 9 décembre, la Commission présentera un nouvel agenda européen pour la lutte contre le terrorisme. Avec cela, nous voulons renforcer la coopération entre les services de sécurité, donner aux gardes-frontières la technologie moderne dont ils ont besoin, intensifier nos efforts pour éviter la radicalisation, et mieux protéger les lieux publics.

But there is only so much we can do, when Members States do not put into practice what they agree upon. For example, the strong rules against money laundering and terrorist financing or against the use of firearms. Implementation is key. I am sure: The European Council will be an opportunity to turn to action quickly.

Honourable Members,

From Brexit to the fight against the pandemic, from the budget to the fight against terrorists: It is when we manage to join forces, that we Europeans can achieve most. It is when we negotiate hard and then stick to the compromises found, that we move forward best. This is how we will finally leave the corona world, and continue to build our future.

Lang lebe Europa.

Vive l'Europe.

Long live Europe.