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Speech by Vice-President Šefčovič on behalf of President von der Leyen at the European Parliament on the presentation of the programme of the French Presidency

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op woensdag 19 januari 2022.

Madame la Présidente, Monsieur le Président de la République, Mesdames et Messieurs les députés,

C'est un plaisir d'ouvrir cet important débat sous le nouveau leadership de cette Assemblée.

Encore une fois, félicitations, chère Roberta.

Je sais que la présidente von der Leyen regrette considérablement de ne pas pouvoir être présente en personne, ce qui nous rappelle une fois de plus que la pandémie de COVID-19 est toujours très présente dans nos vies.

Mais je suis sûr néanmoins qu'elle partage mon sentiment aujourd'hui: je suis heureux que l'Europe puisse compter sur l'expérience et la sagesse de la France.

Les prochains mois nous verront unir nos forces à un moment crucial de notre histoire, car la Présidence française démarre dans un contexte géopolitique agité.

Mr President just said it, and indeed, you only need to look at our immediate neighbourhood.

There - just a short plane ride away - the security architecture of our continent is being challenged. We see old, failed ideas re-emerging: of power bloc competition, of spheres of influence.

And we Europeans are resolutely opposed to entire countries being once again treated so disdainfully, as mere backyards.

We categorically reject the threat or use of force - one of the fundamental principles that underpin European security as enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act. And we stand ready to take action if necessary.

And we have made clear, any further military aggression against Ukraine will have massive consequences and severe costs.

At the same time, we welcome the recent diplomatic activity from the US-Russia talks to the NATO-Russia Council and the OSCE meeting; and the Commission remains in close contact with the US administration.

We Europeans will do everything in our power to protect and nurture our model of peaceful democratic governance, and its central tenets of dialogue and diplomacy.

We will strengthen it from within and protect it against outside threats: from cyber-attacks to hybrid threats, such as we have seen recently on the border with Belarus.

For this, two projects will be particularly important in the coming months.

With the Strategic Compass, our new European White Paper on defence, we will set out a common strategic vision, while with the defence package, we aim to strengthen our capabilities.

And I know how my colleague, HRVP, Josep Borrell is working closely with Minister Le Drian and with all the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence on this.

Mr President just made very important remarks on the importance of the EU-Africa Summit.

Also, we, in the Commission are looking at this occasion as the possibility for a new beginning - la nouvelle ouverture - a new start in this very important strategic relationship.

We very much appreciate your remarks on the Western Balkans, because they should be - rightfully - on the top of our priority lists.

And we were listening, of course, very carefully, to your wide words on our relationship with the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom are our neighbours, our allies, and I think all of us in this House would like to see them again as our strategic partners.

For that to happen, we need to rebuild the trust, and trust is built by respecting our Agreements - the Agreements which were recently signed and ratified - be it on Withdrawal, be it on Trade and Cooperation or be it proper implementation of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.

And we, on the side of the European Union, on the side of the European Commission will show all the flexibility -all the good will - to make this happen, but we need a good partner on the other side.

Mr President, you have been highlighting how important our unit and cooperation in the world is, and I am very glad the French Presidency is focusing on this.

Because the world around us is becoming more unpredictable.

And Europeans rightly expect us to protect them.

Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The need to focus on the threats of today and the challenges of tomorrow is of course also true for Europe's economy.

Despite the pandemic, we have already embarked on the modernisation of our economy and society, towards a more sustainable way of living and working.

A way of living that preserves both the health of the planet and the livelihoods of its people.

This is our economic growth model for the next ten years and beyond. We have already built a solid foundation for this through NextGenerationEU.

With this 800 billion euro recovery programme, we are not only investing to finally put the pandemic behind us.

We are also investing in our sustainable and digital future. We are tackling the structural challenges of our economies, while ensuring that everyone can benefit from this future: large companies as well as our small and medium-sized enterprises; farmers as well as low-income households.

And the early success of our approach is already proving us right: Studies show that thanks to NextGenerationEU, growth in Europe is 1.5 percent higher than it would have been with national recovery programmes alone.

Dans le même temps, notre nouveau modèle de croissance doit garantir la souveraineté technologique, économique et politique de l'Europe,

Il doit également permettre à nos entreprises et notre marché unique de bénéficier pleinement des nouvelles opportunités.

C'est pourquoi nous voulons rapatrier la technologie permettant de fabriquer les plus petits semi-conducteurs de la planète en Europe.

Et c'est exactement ce que nous allons faire avec le «European Chips Act», que nous présenterons dans les prochaines semaines.

Tout comme elles alimentent les ordinateurs du monde entiers, ces puces sont au cœur de la course technologique mondiale.

Sans elles, il n'y a pas de numérique.

Je sais que mes collègues, la vice-présidente exécutive Vestager et le commissaire Breton, également présents ici aujourd'hui, seront d'accord avec moi sur ce point.

Je suis ravi que la France fasse des dépendances stratégiques et de la résilience de la chaîne d'approvisionnement une priorité de sa présidence.

Dans un monde géopolitique de plus en plus complexe, où la compétition atteint de nouveaux domaines, nous devons forger notre propre destin, tout en favorisant une vision à long terme, en privilégiant la stratégie à la tactique.

Je pense aussi à notre législation sur les marchés numériques et à celle sur les services numériques - «Digital Markets Act» et «Digital Services Act», elles sont les piliers de la stratégie numérique européenne.

Nous voulons limiter le pouvoir des géants de l'Internet. Pour que la concurrence reste loyale, surtout pour les petites et moyennes entreprises.

Car ce sont elles qui sont le moteur de l'innovation ici en Europe, qui paient leurs impôts et qui assument leurs responsabilités sociales.

Mesdames et Messieurs les députés,

Pour Simone Veil, il ne faisait aucun doute qu'une union de démocraties est la forme la plus puissante et la plus résiliente de gouvernement possible.

Au cours des prochains mois de la présidence française, nous travaillerons d'arrache-pied pour rapprocher plus encore notre Union de l'Europe qu'elle envisageait.

United we will overcome the pandemic and deliver sustainable growth.

United we will defend our values and strengthen our security.

And united we will work for the benefit of all Europeans, each and every day.

This is exactly what such bright Europeans, like David Sassoli, would like us to do.

Thank you very much. Merci.


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