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Statement by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with President Michel, following the videoconference of the members of the European Council

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op vrijdag 26 februari 2021.
Ursula von der Leyen en Charles Michel
Bron: European Commission

Thank you very much.

Indeed, a good EU-NATO cooperation remains a top priority for the Commission. We had an excellent exchange with Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. And indeed, he was pointing out the very different threats and challenges we are facing. And in some cases we address these challenges in NATO. You know all the theatres NATO is engaged in at the moment being. But there are also scenarios where NATO is not engaged, but where the European Union is called upon - if you take for example the EU missions or the UN missions. And the European Union needs to be capable to do that.

Therefore, Europe needs to develop its own capabilities. Thus, stop the fragmentation we have at the moment being - if we look at our military capabilities - and develop interoperable systems in the European Union. That is why we have set up the first building blocks of the European Defence Union. It is the PESCO - the Permanent Structured Cooperation. PESCO is supported by the new EUR 8 billion European Defence Fund. It will help us to develop military capabilities as Europeans together. We have the industry, we have the knowledge. What we need is to put this innovation and these talents at the service of common European capabilities. This will reduce fragmentation and it will enhance interoperability.

Earlier this week, we presented an Action Plan on the third component that is important here. And these are the synergies: the synergies between civil industries, defence industries and space industries. By synergies, we mean that EU funding for research and development in defence and space can have concrete civil applications. One example is the Eurodrone. We will identify critical technologies across defence, space and the civil industries. We will then develop roadmaps - from inception to application - using available EU funding.

And finally, we will apply these technologies to very concrete projects. This week, we launched three flagship projects to test this approach: it is the drone technologies, a new space communications system, and Space Traffic Management. So in short, the cornerstone is PESCO, enabled by the European Defence Fund. And the necessary coordination within the European Union takes place through the so-called CARD planning process and it is very compatible with the NATO planning process itself.

A few words on the Southern Neighbourhood: Indeed, the Mediterranean region has a strategic importance for the European Union. Both our security and stability are intertwined. As we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Barcelona Process this month, we decided to renew our partnership with Southern Neighbourhood countries. First, of course in fighting this pandemic together. This is why we have mobilised over EUR 2.3 billion in support - EUR 1 billion for health and EUR 1.3 billion for economic recovery.

But the pandemic has also exacerbated difficulties in the region, like economic hardship or lack of perspectives for young people. These challenges were there before - without any doubt - and they need to be addressed in a more structural way.

And this is my second point: Our renewed partnership includes an Economic and Investment Plan for the Southern Neighbourhood. It aims to support long-term socio-economic recovery and to accompany sustainable and digital development in the region. Under this plan, the Commission proposes to mobilise up to EUR 7 billion. It is included in the so-called NDICI - the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument. It is a long name for an abbreviation that not everybody knows - the NDICI.

In turn, this Instrument would help mobilise private and public investments worth up to EUR 30 billion. Beyond these two elements, we will of course continue to engage with our partners across all the areas where we share common challenges.

Thank you.

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