Statement by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with President Michel and Andrej Plenković
… Prime Minister of Croatia, following the EU Leaders’ videoconference
Thank you so much.
Also from my part: many, many thanks to the Croatian Presidency. These were challenging times. They have been outstanding in mastering an unprecedented task in these crisis times. So many thanks from my part, too. It was wonderful to work together, thank you very much for this Presidency and of course, we are looking forward to intensive work in the Council.
Indeed, today’s Council came at a crucial time. We are now only six months away from the end of the Brexit transition period, and it was therefore important to take stock of the ongoing negotiations with the United Kingdom. We jointly stressed our willingness to undertake all possible efforts to come to an agreement, seeking solutions that will allow us to sign a one-of-a-kind partnership with the United Kingdom.
And indeed, for this, we have to bridge wide divergences, which remain to be solved. The topics are known: it is the level playing field, fisheries, governance, and the scope of our police and judicial cooperation. These are important points for the European Union because these are principles – fair competition, rising social standards, protecting our citizens and the rule of law – that are at the heart of the European Union.
Time is short, however, and even if we find a deal, many things will still change in our relationship with the United Kingdom for citizens, for businesses and for administrations. We therefore also need to plan for these changes. The Commission has been working on these issues. We have made progress, but we should not reduce our efforts. We will continue to assist national authorities and other stakeholders in their preparation for Brexit.
I also emphasised to the Leaders that we must continue our work to ensure the proper implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement. We will remain very attentive on this point. Finally, no one can say with certainty where these negotiations will be at the end of this year, but I know for sure that we will have done everything to reach an agreement and to have a good start with the United Kingdom as a third country neighbour then.
On Next Generation EU: Just as we are six months away from the end of the transition period, we are now also six months away from the end of the current MFF – and in the midst of the deepest economic crisis provoked by COVID-19. It is therefore essential that we lose no time in setting our economic and social recovery on a firm footing.
And as you know, the Commission has come forward with a plan to do just that. It is called Next Generation EU. Combined with a reinforced MFF, it will provide the necessary means – EUR 1,850 billion – and the proper focus on a green, a digital and a resilient recovery to help the European Union, its citizens and its businesses to emerge stronger from the crisis.
The first discussion was in my view very positive. Leaders unanimously agreed that the severity of this crisis justifies an ambitious common response. One that combines solidarity, investment and reforms. I was also glad to hear that many Leaders stressed that we must do everything in our power to reach an agreement soon in the European Council before the summer break. There is a real understanding that the effectiveness of the response depends on this, too.
Finally, there was a lot of support for the focus on the green and the digital dimension – that was very good – those being driving elements for the modernisation efforts financed by Next Generation EU. All of this is good news. Of course, the discussions also showed differences of opinion on various issues, for example on the overall size of Next Generation EU, on the balance between grants and loans, on the allocation key, and on own new resources and rebates. It is absolutely legitimate to discuss all of these issues and I explained to the Leaders the Commission’s reasoning on each of them.
So I look forward to the next steps in the discussions that Charles will organise in the coming weeks. I am sure that on these points we can reach a consensus, provided that we do not lose sight of the big picture.
- EU Brussels, also photo