Statement by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with President Sassoli and Prime Minister Costa on the EU's political priorities under the Portuguese Presidency

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC) i, gepubliceerd op woensdag 20 januari 2021.

Thank you very much dear António,

We are very much looking forward to the Portuguese Presidency and it is going to be a pleasure to work together. The tasks are enormous. I just wanted to reinforce three thoughts that have already been mentioned. The first one is: Indeed this Portuguese Presidency comes at a very crucial point in time where we are battling this pandemic. And indeed, on the one hand, we see the vaccine roll-out and this is the light at the end of the tunnel, we know that. But we also know that the months and weeks ahead will be hard for citizens, they will be hard for businesses, because we all are aware of the fact that we still need lockdowns across Europe - we do have prolonged lockdowns across Europe - and this comes, of course, at a high price. It is necessary, but we know it comes at a high price.

It is now very reassuring that we succeed to put in place our vaccine strategies straight and swiftly, but we also have NextGenerationEU, you mentioned it. Because we know the longer the crisis lasts, the more important it is that we come with strong investment that, at the same time, modernises into the European Green Deal, the digitalisation; and of course, reinforces the appropriate social safeguards that are necessary. So I am very much looking forward to the Summit we will have in May in Porto. And I can only also reiterate that it is necessary now that we have a swift ratification process for NextGenerationEU in the respective Member States because we do need now the economic recovery.

Second thought: Indeed, it is a very special day, not only because we start here, in Parliament, the Portuguese Presidency, but it is a very special day because of the inauguration ceremony of the new President of the United States, that we are waiting for. And because of the end of a very obstructive four years on the side of the United States, and now we see the United States coming back into international cooperation. So I am looking very much forward to presenting to Joe Biden our proposal for a new transatlantic agenda. There is a lot of things we have in common, a lot of things to do. And it is very good that the U.S. is coming back to the international stage.

But indeed as you said, António, the EU must steer its own course and continue to reinforce its partnerships across the whole globe. And this is why I am very much looking forward in particular to your proposal for the EU-India Summit in May. Indeed, when we are looking to Asia, and in particular to India, we tend to overlook the amazing potential of this biggest democracy in the world. The health crisis indeed reminded us that this overlooking, we do this at our peril - so it is good that we will have the Summit -, and that we are missing out on a world of opportunities, if we do not interact with India, that is offered by a subcontinent as diverse and as dynamic as the European Union. So I am sure, António, that Europe will benefit from your experience and your understanding of India, and of course in the international arena in general.

And last point: Indeed, it is so good that Joe Biden has announced that the U.S. will rejoin the Paris Agreement immediately. Of course, this is great news for us in the fight against climate change and we, from the bottom of our heart, welcome it. But it is also a further reason for Europe to speed up its efforts, to get moving and to keep the first-mover advantage. This is important, so I like competition, it is good competition, it is positive competition, when it comes to the green economy. And of course, I count on the Parliament - I know the large support there - and the Portuguese Presidency to help us to push forward to implement the European Green Deal and mainly the Climate Law. So we are looking forward to a lot of work. I just mentioned a few things.

Thanks very much for all the support.