“We now have the opportunity to achieve something historic for Europe together,” Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said in her address at the European Parliament today speaking of ‘a new opportunity for our community'.
The Parliament's extraordinary plenary session was convened to discuss the conclusions of the Special European Council which brought about the agreement among the EU leaders on Europe's recovery plan and the next long-term EU budget.
“This week, not only taboos and perceptions have been cast aside, but one big watershed for our Union has been crossed”, von der Leyen stressed. “By standing united - 27 Member States backing the Commission - we raise money on the capital market to fight the worst economic crisis ever - together.”
She recalled that ten years ago, during the financial crisis, the Union and the euro were saved from breaking up, but ‘at enormous internal cost'. “This time we are doing a lot of things differently and some things better”, she explained, describing the EUR 750 billion worth NextGenerationEU as ‘a magnificent signal of solidarity and willingness to reform'.
This unique recovery tool, consisting of EUR 390 billion in grants, topped up by EUR 360 billion in loans, will be invested in reforms linked to European priorities: the European Green Deal, digitisation, modernisation of our Single Market, resilience. It should enable all EU countries to be in an equal position, to help their people and their businesses - without squeezing the life out of their public budgets.
Von der Leyen emphasised the important role of the European Parliament in designing and defining the functioning of this facility. “The Commission will ensure full transparency, including by standing ready for a structured dialogue on priorities and expenditure, and a regular exchange of views on national plans and overall implementation,” she said.
She stressed that protecting our budget and the respect for the rule of law went hand in hand. The European Council has stated a clear commitment to respecting the rule of law and protecting our financial interests. She strongly welcomed this, highlighting the rule of law was of utmost importance now that with the NextGenerationEU more public money was on the table than ever before. In this context von der Leyen announced that the Commission would work together with the co-legislators to ensure that its 2018 proposal for the rule of law is ‘taken forward and, where necessary, improved'.
Cuts in many programmes of the long-term EU budget were regrettable decisions, she said reminding that the value of EU programmes always far outweighed the costs. She noted on the other hand that we managed to ‘plug almost all of the gap' of around EUR 70 billion due to Brexit, and that thanks to the NextGenerationEU, the Union will have ‘a massive and unprecedented financial firepower of EUR 1.8 trillion'. “That is almost 13% of our EU27 GNI. The MFF and NextGenerationEU together will increase the percentage of modern policies to over 50%”, von der Leyen told the Parliament.