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Report by President Charles Michel at the European Parliament on the European Council of 10 and 11 December 2020

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Raad, gepubliceerd op woensdag 16 december 2020.

Last week’s European Council was a memorable one. We sealed the deal on two crucial agreements: the European budget and Recovery Fund and the new Climate goal for 2030.

We worked round the clock. The negotiations were intense. But we took our responsibility, overcame the obstacles, and came together for the good of Europe. And in this process, all institutions — including your Assembly — played important roles and helped shape the final outcome.

These agreements represent major steps forward:

  • we have the resources — 1.8 trillion euros;
  • we have solidified the Rule of Law with new and effective legislation;
  • and we have agreed to step up our climate goals for 2030.

Let me briefly summarise these decisions.

You all know the impasse we faced in recent weeks. Our 1.8 trillion euro agreement came with the conditionality for the protection of our budget . It was a collective decision by all 27 leaders taken last July but two Member States could not approve the package. We found a way to unblock the situation, and here, I want to pay tribute to Chancellor Merkel and her team for their tireless efforts. The adoption of the Regulation on a conditionality mechanism is now under way.

Our second major decision was not only a win for Europe. It was and it is a win for our planet. We agreed to reduce our carbon emissions by at least 55% by 2030. And reaffirm our goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. This demonstrates our credibility as the global leader in climate action. It was a difficult negotiation - some Member States needed more safeguards for their businesses and workers. And some Member States have asked to address the possible imbalances of the Modernisation Fund.

For our economies, going green doesn’t mean going broke. Quite the opposite. Our climate action will spark economic growth and create jobs. And speed up the transformation of our economies and give us a competitive edge. But greater ambition requires greater investment. This is why we will now work to develop common, global standards for Green finance. This agreement is the start of a process. The implementation will be agreed later this year.

When COVID struck, we were taken off guard. It hammered our economies and disrupted our societies. But today Europe is rising to the challenge of COVID. We are recovering. And we are getting stronger in four key areas:

First, on vaccines. The global community has developed vaccines in record time. The EU has played a leading role in this venture. This global success could also be a European success story.

Second: the EU has taken the irreversible decision to collectively borrow, invest and reform. A clear sign of unity and confidence.

Third, we have solidly anchored our prosperity and our social transformation to our climate ambition. But prosperity alone is not enough. We must focus more than ever on the individual and the collective well-being of our citizens.

And fourth, our long-term goals. COVID may have dominated 2020, but it will not monopolise our priorities and our vision for the future. Our vision for Europe's place in the world remains crystal clear. Less dependence, more influence. A stronger Europe, that better contributes to a fairer world.

We are mobilised to face the challenges ahead of us, particularly those that will probably mark this coming year, 2021. The first objective we all share is to defeat COVID-19. And to make 2021 the year in which we get the virus under control and we succeed in truly initiating a process of economic recovery and transformation. The year, also, in which we manage to make progress on Europe’s place in the world.

As regards COVID, it certainly won’t be easy to maintain cooperation for the deployment of vaccines when they become available, or to maintain efforts on testing and tracing. Making a success of economic transformation also means - and this was one of the points of discussion at the Euro Summit - ensuring that in 2021 progress can continue to be made on the banking and capital markets union.

We therefore welcomed the work carried out recently by finance ministers. And we want to encourage continued efforts in 2021 towards those two objectives, which, to our mind, are extremely important. To support, firstly, the international role of the euro, but also to consolidate economic development in the euro area based on two pillars - the climate pillar and the digital pillar.

And finally, the ambition - and this a difficult, long-term objective, which requires both tenacity and commitments - of building, day by day, greater unity at European level, and greater solidarity too. The ambition of expressing a stronger position at international level.

This is what came out of the discussions held at October’s European Council seeking to define our strategy in the short, medium and long term as regards the Eastern Mediterranean. It is also what emerged from the discussions we had last week. The decision was taken to apply sanctions to Turkey, and the decision was taken to keep the possibility of a more positive agenda on the table once Turkey decides to end the hostile rhetoric and unilateral actions towards the European Union or Member States of the European Union.

It is also what came out of the discussions held among Member States on the relationship with the United States, a relationship we want to be stronger. The United States is a major and important ally for the European Union, and it was therefore important, as I see it, to begin work in order to be able to establish what can be proposed in terms of possible areas of partnership with this great country. In terms of the fight to defeat COVID, commitment to more international cooperation, support for multilateralism, and so on. And also, of course, the question of international trade and economic development, as well as security and geopolitical issues.

As you can see, the last European Council of this year was an important moment, as it reflects the ambition of making progress on these subjects that I feel strongly about.

I would like now to thank you, Mr President, and also the members of your parliament, for the difficult, intense work carried out especially in the context of the trilogue under the responsibility and leadership of the German rotating presidency. I firmly believe that the successes of the last few days are important for Europe’s 450 million citizens. There is still considerable work to be done. There are many challenges ahead of us.

We express the hope that the coming days will help us gain greater clarity on another major issue - the future relationship with the United Kingdom. The mandate given by the European Council is clear and it is within that framework that our negotiators are working with patience, seriousness and tenacity. Thank you for your cooperation throughout 2020. And you can count on me personally, and on the European Council, throughout the coming year, to continue working with the European Parliament at the service of the European project. Thank you.

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