9 October 2020
Dear Ministers, dear Eduard, ladies and gentleman.
I wish I could have been here with you in the beautiful mountains of Tatra for the second time since 2018. Unfortunately, I was forced to cancel my visit and I had to stay in Paris. Again, I convey my sincere apologies to Eduard and to the Globsec team. You have done a tremendous job to organise this Summit despite the sanitary situation we all know. We have gone through a particularly tough year, to say the least. But I believe it is more necessary than ever for policymakers and business representatives to reflect on how to boost the European economy and give it the means to address the great challenges of the 21st century. It is a great honour to receive the Globsec European Award. It is an even greater honour to receive this award after political leaders who have actively contributed at the European or national level to the strengthening of the European Union such as Donald Tusk, Kristalina Georgieva or Wolfgang Schäuble. I thank you for tonight’s honour. This gives me the opportunity to say a few words on the European priorities for the coming years and the challenges ahead.
1/ We have managed to answer swiftly and decisively to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Europe could have been divided. Instead, we have shown the world our unity with a historic agreement on a recovery package of 750bn€. The future of the EU and the Euro area was at stake. If we had failed, it could have been the end of the Euro area. The risk we had to avoid was simple: having some Member States recovering rapidly and the other Member States lagging behind. It would have weakened the eurozone, weakened the EU and its promise of economic convergence. It would have harmed the integrity of the single market which is one of our strongest assets. This risk has been avoided, now we are heading in the same direction. For the first time, we will issue debt together to finance our common recovery. This package is the concrete expression of European solidarity to ensure that no one is left behind in the recovery. €390 billion will be invested directly in European regions and sectors most affected by the crisis. This is another strong signal sent to the European citizens of the added value of the European Union.
Now we must ensure the right implementation of the recovery and resilience Facility. As you know, this requires that all Member States present ambitious national recovery and resilience plans which must include both investments and reforms. This means that all national recovery strategies will be coordinated among the Member States, on agreed priorities.
2/In France, we presented a €100 billion recovery plan in September.
This recovery plan seeks to strike the right balance between managing the epidemic, protecting jobs and preparing the economy for the decade to come. To this end, the recovery plan is built on three pillars:
The first pillar is competitiveness. 34 billion euros will be dedicated to boosting France’s competitiveness. This includes substantial cuts in production taxes, support for equity capital funding for businesses, 11 billion euros in key industrial projects in the health, microelectronics, or cloud sectors to foster innovation and protect sovereignty. The second pillar is employment. 36 billion euros will be invested to protect and create jobs. We will invest in skills and safeguard employment by helping people find a job through an apprenticeship, vocational training and recruitment incentives. Young people will be at the core of our policy. The third pillar is making the economy greener: 30 billion euros will be earmarked to speed up the greening of the economy. We will invest to make buildings more energy-efficient. We will help industries become less carbon-intensive. We will finance the development of new green technologies such as clean hydrogen.
3/ Finally, beyond recovery challenges, I am convinced that the crisis we have experienced is an opportunity to rethink the role Europe wants to play in the world. We need to invest massively to meet climate and digital challenges.
This is one of the objectives of the Recovery and Resilience Facility, which provides that the Member States will have to devote 37% of their investment to the ecological transition and 20% to the digital transition to receive European funds. If Europe wants to succeed, we have to create new European resources. This has been clearly stated in the conclusions of the July European Council. I strongly support working on a package of new European resources for the EU budget.
We should not shy away from considering a set of options:
- a resource based on the emissions trading scheme (ETS), with a high enough carbon pricing, could help meet our climate objectives;
- a carbon border adjustment mechanism, fully compatible with WTO rules, could prevent more effectively the increasing risk of carbon leakage;
- a resource from revenues generated by digital taxation could be efficient at the European level if we cannot reach a solution on the digital tax at the OECD. And I believe we must have a call for a proposal from the Commission in early 2021.
- Last option, a financial transactions tax could be proposed.
This is one main debate we have to lead in the months to come. Finally, we must strengthen European strategic autonomy, especially industrial autonomy. Our strategic autonomy must be considered at European level and not at the level of one Member State. Where possible and relevant, the EU will need to diversify its suppliers, coordinate strategic stocks and promote recycling, for instance for minerals or essential health products. We must also build new industrial alliances around important projects of common European interest as we did for electric batteries. It has been a success, I believe we can reach the same success on clean hydrogen. I would welcome the participation of V4 countries to those industrial alliances.
I want to share with you, one last belief. I believe Europe will be stronger than before this crisis. I know how committed are the V4 Member States to promote a more competitive and a more sovereign. We share the same priority: to recover fast. We know where we are going: we are preparing Europe for 2030. For all these reasons, we can be confident in the future: Europe will be stronger in the years to come.