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Remarks by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with Andrej Plenković, Prime Minister of Croatia

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op vrijdag 10 januari 2020.

Thank you so much, Andrej.

Thank you very much for being such a splendid host. Thank you for the evening yesterday with the concert and today this library.

This is a historic moment for Croatia, because it is the very first time that Croatia is taking the EU Presidency. And it comes at a very special moment for the new Commission because you are the Presidency of our first 100 days. So our success also depends on your success. And thank you very much for the excellent talks we have had over the last weeks but also today.

Indeed, we have been discussing the European Green Deal. We are aware of the fact that it is urgent to move forward. We have a very ambitious goal to be climate neutral in 2050. If we want to achieve that goal, we have to be active now and go forward with the necessary legislation. So within this mandate, it will be crucial to put in place the necessary measures to reach our very ambitious goals 2030 and 2050. And we are convinced that the European Green Deal will be the new growth strategy for the European Union. It is about investment, it is about innovation, it is about new technologies. And if the world is following and aligning with the Paris Climate Agreement and with our ambitious goals, then I want the European Union to be a role model, to be the exporter of knowledge and new technologies and to be the one who is the front runner in these topics. For that, we will have to invest a lot. And therefore, in the coming days, we will make proposals for the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan, which is basically a European Green Deal Investment Plan. And we will make proposals for the Just Transition Mechanism, to provide support for the regions that have to step up the most. I know that you very much agree with this goal, so thank you very much for the support.

Indeed, we have been discussing the MFF, because for not only the European Green Deal, but many other topics, too, we need an appropriate funding. So this Presidency will be crucial that we get the support in the MFF for our ambitions and at the same time, support a greater convergence between our respective Member States. I count on Croatia to help build this consensus on our budget. The third topic we had is, as you called it, an ‘Influential Europe'. We could not agree more with that headline. Your Presidency will lead to the preparations on our ‘Strategy with Africa'. In this Presidency, we will have the College meeting with Africa and the preparation for the EU-Africa summit. We count on you to build consensus in the Council on some important trade agreements we do have.

And the next months will of course be particularly crucial for our relationship with the Balkans. You introduced - rightly so - the topic. We know that we can count on Croatia and that we have a very strong supporter on our side! The Zagreb summit will be a potential milestone in this process. For that, we have still to do a lot of work. We will be working on the methodology and put forward for the enlargement process the proposal for the methodology early this year just to reflect how we can improve the accession process. But I am deeply convinced that this should not keep us from taking on the accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania. We asked them to do a lot, they fulfilled the criteria so now we do have to deliver and to keep our promises. With this, I am able to tell you - talking about standing at the side of our Western Balkans friends - that the European Union is happy to announce that the donors' conference for Albania will be on 17 February. It is a donor's conference following the horrible earthquake in Albania and we want to help Albania in its reconstruction. So this conference will take place on 17 February.

Last but not least, we have been briefly discussing Brexit. I was on Wednesday in London to meet Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It is important that it is a very clear message from our side: We want to stay good friends, good neighbours and partners. It is the story of old friends and new beginnings. We have to find a good balance between divergence and being close to the Single Market. We both agree that the European Union and the United Kingdom share common values. We have many interests in common. And it was very good to hear again that it is very clear that we will have a very close cooperation on the global stage when it comes to topics like for example climate change - the United Kingdom is as dedicated as the European Union on that topic - or for example security. But of course, we have been very clear on the second topic, too, which is access to the Single Market. There is a difference of being a Member State or not - and there are trade-offs between regulatory divergences on the one side, and access to the Single Market. This room has now to be explored in the coming negotiations. In June, we will take stock of the progress. And this will be an essential milestone falling under the Croatian Presidency, too.

So I am glad that I can count on your energy and your dedication, Andrej.

Thank you very much.


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