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Speech by President von der Leyen at the New European Bauhaus Conference

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op donderdag 22 april 2021.

Dear Presidents,

Dear Francesca and Bjarke,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There are moments in time where it is good to take a minute to reflect. We rush from one emergency to another. We put in all our efforts to get as fast as possible out of the crisis. This is true for vaccines and the health situation, as well as for the economic and social recovery.

But let us take a minute to look beyond the pandemic. Let us ask ourselves the questions:

How can we create new perspectives?

How can we stimulate hope, creativity and innovation?

And how can we address what is by far the most serious crisis for our planet, the one that has not stopped because of the pandemic, and I am talking, of course, of the climate crisis?

This is what the New European Bauhaus is all about. It is about hope. It is about inspiration. It is about new perspectives. And it's about concrete actions against climate change. And this conference comes exactly at the right moment.

Let me talk for one minute about one of the greatest Europeans of our times: Robert Schuman.

One of the founding fathers of our European community. Back in 1954, when Europe was still suffering from the consequences of the war, he wrote:

“Europe. It's essential to work on the economic recovery, to guarantee military security and to organise us politically. But, what would all these efforts be worth, if we were not able to build, at the same time, solid and deep cultural relations between the European countries? That's how we form the European spirit, and all the rest will follow.”

Robert Schuman had understood one of the keys to the success of the European project: Politics and economy are necessary - but not sufficient. We need more. We need a common narrative. It must reach not only our brain but also our heart and our souls. We need to be able to feel it. The New European Bauhaus wants to create precisely this feeling for our European Green Deal.

With the New European Bauhaus we want to make the European Green Deal tangible and “palpable”. We want to add a cultural dimension to the economic and technological transformation. This is essential to achieve our overarching goal: Making Europe the first climate neutral continent by 2050. And thus reconciling our way of life with nature. To get there, we need both: a real transformation of our economy and society, and a debate about how we can live in respect of nature and our planet.

The historical Bauhaus was founded in Weimar and Dessau. It turned into a worldwide movement. This didn't happen by chance. Some ingredients of what made the historical Bauhaus a success can also be an inspiration for the New European Bauhaus.

Let me mention three.

The first ingredient: The historical Bauhaus was created in a time of profound transformation. People were facing the challenges of industrialisation. Gropius and the founders wanted to respond to the emerging needs of a new era. They aimed for solutions that were functional, affordable, but also beautiful. With this principle in mind they shaped buildings, fabrics and furniture. They always aimed higher than just innovative design. The New European Bauhaus is also striving for this mix of aesthetics and affordability. But we want to add another element: sustainability. Because the New European Bauhaus wants to match sustainability with style.

Now, the second ingredient: The historical Bauhaus boldly promoted new materials like steel and cement. Today, we also need to look into new building materials. But this time, it is about sustainability. It is about materials that need less CO2 in their production process. The New European Bauhaus wants to accelerate the transition of the built environment. It wants to scale up nature-based materials, to support circular design and architecture. Buildings are responsible for 40% of our energy consumption. And if we manage to change this, we have a chance to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees.

The winners of the recently awarded Pritzker prize for architecture showed how this can be done. This prize, for the first time in 46 years, was awarded not for new buildings, but for refurbishment. The architects, Anne Lacton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, upgraded social housing buildings in Bordeaux by making them more energy efficient and more beautiful. Because European cities should capture CO2 instead of producing it. And yes: it is possible! Yes, we can turn our cities into urban forests!

The third important element from the historical Bauhaus is interdisciplinarity. We want to convene people from different backgrounds and with different competences to share and grow their ideas and visions. We can create a better tomorrow, if culture and technology, innovation and design go hand in hand.

It is an honour to have so many brilliant speakers with us today and tomorrow.

For our New European Bauhaus we need all of you:

Politicians - be it in the European Parliament or in the rural areas and cities of our Union. Scientists, activists, artists, designers, architects, entrepreneurs. We want to include the ideas and perspectives of all ages and all backgrounds.

And finally: we don't want to limit this just to the European Union. That is why I am thrilled to see impressive names from the US, Australia and Asia on the speakers list. When we asked for contributions during the design phase of the project, we also asked about the needs to make transformation happen. Surprisingly, only a minority of people mentioned funding first. The vast majority underlined the importance of networking and connecting the right people.

Today, at this conference we can contribute to this evolving New European Bauhaus network. I am impressed to see the interest and ideas this project has already sparked.

Over 5000 participants took part in the first info-sessions organised by the European Commission. We saw dozens of events and discussions in many Member States - from Croatia to Finland; from Slovenia to Spain. Hundreds of contributions were posted via the New European Bauhaus website. In Portugal three ministries are working with architects and designers on their vision of a New European Bauhaus linked to the sea.

In Poland, organisations are looking into possibilities to combine the New European Bauhaus with the transformation of the coal regions. And we are particularly thankful for the huge interest and support from the European Parliament and the Committee of the Regions. Thanks to all of you!

This project is a project of hope.

It's a project of change.

And of economic transformation.

This also means funding. Tomorrow, we will launch the first edition of the New European Bauhaus prize. Commissioner Gabriel and Commissioner Ferreira will give you all the details tomorrow. We want to celebrate those who have already created inspiring examples for the New European Bauhaus.

In autumn, we will launch the call for the first five pilot projects. It will include a seed funding of 25 million euros and the possibility to combine this with money from the structural funds. More calls will follow.

So I hope that this conference can contribute further to making the transformation happen, and to connecting more and more people who want to make it happen.

And I am looking forward to the discussions.

Thank you very much and have a great conference.


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