Ursula von der Leyen – 2022 Comments at Press Conference with President Michel and President Macron

The opening remarks made by Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, on 24 June 2022.

Today, we had the opportunity to hold an in-depth discussion on the economy during the Euro Summit. The euro area is forecast to continue growing both in 2022 and 2023 although by less than we anticipated before the war. Obviously, the war in Ukraine is having a heavy impact, both on growth and on inflation. We have seen Russia’s disruptive action on gas. And we are seeing price increases beyond energy, on food and elsewhere in the economy. Therefore, we discussed how to mitigate the economic and social impacts, especially on the most vulnerable of our societies.

This starts with being adequately prepared to deal with potential further disruptions in deliveries of Russian gas to Europe. We are working hard on this. We have reviewed all the national emergency plans to help make sure everyone is ready for further disruptions. And we are working on a common European emergency demand reduction plan with industry, but also with the 27 Member States. We do this because we have learnt our lesson from COVID-19. There we have seen that, when we act together as 27, when we avoid fragmentation, we are strong and we have an enormous impact. I will present this plan in July to the Leaders. There will not be a return to cheap fossil fuels, I think. And therefore, alongside temporary and targeted support to vulnerable families and businesses, it is essential to help our economies and societies adapt to the new conditions. The root cause of our problem is our dependence on fossil fuels, which we must get rid of.

This is basically the essence of REPowerEU. We are providing through REPowerEU resources of round about EUR 300 billion to do three things: The first pillar is to diversify our energy supply. The second pillar is to increase the energy efficiency. And the third pillar is the supply of our own green renewable energy. We are already seeing results. If I may give you an example for the first pillar, the diversification away from Russian gas: We see that the US LNG deliveries to the European Union are up by 75% this year compared to last year. We have just signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Israel, Egypt and the European Union to make sure that there is natural gas from Israel, liquefied in Egypt and then brought via LNG to the European Union. The Norwegian pipeline gas is up by 15%; Azerbaijan is up by 90%. So there is a lot on the move to really diversify away from the Russian gas to other trustworthy suppliers. Looking at the renewables, I think that there is one interesting figure: The European Union was and is the second largest market globally in terms of increased capacity of renewables in 2021, and will be in 2022. So you also see the big move forward of heavy investment in renewables. That is the energy of the future. That is the way to go.

A second topic that we have been discussing is, in parallel, that we are working on the review of the economic governance. We know that debts and deficits have soared in all Member States after COVID-19. And at the same time, investment needs are very large for a successful transition to a green, digital and resilient EU society and economy. Therefore, we need to design rules that in a way reconcile these higher investment needs – they are necessary – and at the same time to safeguard sound fiscal finances. One goes with the other: that is fiscal sustainability and growth.

And let me also end, dear Emmanuel, by congratulating you on an extremely successful French Presidency. The work you have done was colossal. I witnessed every day how intensive your team – and I really want to thank you and your team – has been working on progress in the European Union. It really made a difference. We should keep in mind that when you started, there was a lot on your plate, but you had no clue that there was a war coming. In record time, we delivered together six packages of heavy sanctions. And I think that it was a hallmark and a very defining moment to see the determination of the European Union and the speed at which we can move forward. We have, in this time, welcomed 7.5 million refugees from Ukraine. 3 million are still here. And you and your team, as Presidency, made it possible that we very quickly granted temporary protection, that is access to the labour market, to the education system, to the social security system. All this thanks to the French Presidency.

I thank you personally for the enormous progress that we have made on the European Green Deal – and here, specifically the huge package of Fit for 55. Dozens of proposals have now been pushed forward. And this is a real step forward. The same goes, and I know that this is very close to your heart, for the DSA and the DMA, so putting the online world in order as well as we have it in the offline world, to protect our citizens and to keep up the competitiveness of our businesses in the online world. This has been – the DSA and the DMA – negotiated with ambition and adopted in record time. You really delivered. There was the Conference on the Future of Europe.

But I am personally very proud on one specific file that you have concluded during the French Presidency, and this is Women on Boards. It took ten long years; it was stuck for ten years. The French Presidency made it possible that it reappeared and was negotiated and adopted in record time. So not only did you put an end to an injustice for women, but also to an enormous loss of earnings for companies. It is a real big step forward that we have now this agreement on Women on Boards.

Last but not least, and I would not miss to mention it, we have made good progress on the Pact on Migration and Asylum, especially on the voluntary solidarity mechanism and on the governance of Schengen. Important files. They were difficult to manage, you really pushed it forward. I stop here, but as you can see, dear Emmanuel, I think that France can be very proud of this Presidency. It was outstanding. Many thanks for that.