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Speech by President von der Leyen at the Special Edition 2021 of the Munich Security Conference

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op vrijdag 19 februari 2021.

Thank you so much.

Lieber Wolfgang Ischinger,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Indeed, I vividly remember how two years ago Joe Biden promised at the Munich Security Conference: ‘We will be back'. And indeed, we have just seen and heard it: The U.S. is back. And, as we have just heard, more globally committed than ever. This commitment could not come at a better time. How we come out of this crisis will have profound consequences - for our citizens, for our economies, and also for the position of our common alliance in the post-COVID-19 world.

Let me give you two examples for what could be driving our new global agenda. The first example is climate change. Climate change is the looming crisis behind COVID-19. And the loss of biodiversity is a main driver of today's and potentially future pandemics. More than a year ago, Europe has said that it wants to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. And with our European Green Deal, we want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% already by 2030.

But to successfully fight global climate change we need others to match our ambition. And they do. From South Korea to Japan, from South Africa to China. And we are really excited that President Biden re-joined the Paris Agreement on his very first day in office. Because the United States is our natural partner for global leadership on climate change. And I am sure: A shared transatlantic commitment to a net-zero emissions pathway by 2050 would make climate neutrality a new global benchmark. And it would be a timely message in the run-up to the COP26, the next UN Climate Change Conference, to be held in Glasgow later this year. We have just heard it, I also commend President Biden´s initiative to host a Climate Leader´s Summit on Earth Day. Because now is the time for action.

This is also true, when it comes to the digital world and the impact it has on our democracies. And this is my second example. The storming on the U.S. Capitol was a turning point for our discussion on the impact social media have on our democracies. This is what happens when words incite action. In a world where polarising opinions are the most likely to be heard, it is only a short step from crude conspiracy theories to the death of police officers.

In December, the Commission launched the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act - our new framework for the digital market. Of course, imposing democratic limits on the uncontrolled power of the big tech companies alone will not stop political violence. But it is an important step. At its most basic, we want to make sure that what is illegal offline is also illegal online. And we want clear requirements that internet firms take responsibility for the content they distribute, promote and remove. Because we just cannot leave decisions, which have a huge impact on our democracies, to computer programmes without any human supervision or to the board rooms in Silicon Valley. The latest decision of Facebook regarding Australia is just another proof for that.

Today, I want to invite our American friends to join our initiatives. Together, we could create a digital economy rulebook that is valid worldwide. A set of rules based on our values: human rights and pluralism, inclusion and the protection of privacy. We need to join forces and protect these values with all our energy.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A more and more assertive China has shown robust economic growth in 2020 - despite the pandemic. And a more and more defiant Russia continues to breach international rules at home and abroad - despite growing protests of its own citizens. It is up to us, the United States and Europe, to strengthen our cooperation again. As proven and trusted partners. As indispensable allies. Shoulder to shoulder. Because if we lead the way, this is not only about joining forces. This is a signal to the world.

Thank you!


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