Today, 75 years later, we face very different – but in some ways no less demanding – challenges. Climate change threatens our global livelihoods. We must modernize our economy and find a more sustainable way of living and working.
When outstanding personalities from Belgium, Poland and the
Netherlands came together in 1946 to found ELEC, the European League for
Economic Cooperation, large parts of Europe lay in ruins. The horrors
of the Second World War and the atrocities committed in the Holocaust
were still fresh in their memories.
To the founders of ELEC it was clear: the only possible answer to
this terrible past was European integration. They believed that only a
united Europe would be a guarantee against future wars, and that only a
united Europe could continue to play a decisive role on the world stage.
Today, 75 years later, we face very different – but in some ways no
less demanding – challenges. Climate change threatens our global
livelihoods. We must modernize our economy and find a more sustainable
way of living and working. We must find a way of doing business that
gives more back to the planet than it takes. We must move to a circular
economy that maintains and increases our prosperity. At the same time we
must secure Europe's technological, economic and political
independence. Future opportunities for our companies depend on this.
I know that I can count on your advice and expertise. You have
accompanied our European Union over the past decades. You have been a
stalwart friend of our EU. And I am sure we will be equally close
partners in weathering future storms together! This is why I am so
pleased to join you today to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the
founding of the European League for Economic Cooperation.
Today I want to speak about three important future challenges and how we will address them.
First, on climate change. We have seen the floods and wild fires this
summer, right here in the heart of Europe. And we hear about extreme
weather events from California to Siberia. The urgency to act is by now
clear to all of us. And you know that Europe wants to become the first
climate-neutral continent by 2050.
Our European Green Deal is a model for many regions in the world. I
have just witnessed this again at the COP26, the UN climate conference.
Despite the mixed results of COP26, it has confirmed that we are on the
right track with our European Green Deal. Because not only do we have a
common vision on how to tackle global warming. We also have a clear
roadmap with targets agreed by all 27 Member States. And we have the
necessary funds to make this sustainable future a reality.
With NextGeneration EU, our recovery plan, and the EU budget, we will
invest up to €2.1 trillion in the coming years. 2.1 trillion euros for a
more sustainable and more digital future. This is a powerful advantage
for the EU in global competition.
We will, for example, speed up the development of renewables in
Europe. And we will strengthen the European Emissions Trading System and
apply it to new sectors. This price on carbon through the Emissions
Trading System is market-driven, and it sets the right incentives –
through innovation and investment.
I know that such fundamental transformation is not easy. But I am
confident that with the European Green Deal we will turn our struggle
against the climate crisis into an economic opportunity for all. In
addition, Europe's climate ambition strengthens the global role of our
currency, the Euro. I know that ELEC has always shown a keen interest in
the monetary aspects of European integration. And rightly so.
Today the Euro is already the first choice for sustainable finance.
50 % of all sustainable financial instruments are issued in euros – and
only 27 % in dollars. Surveys show that the volume of sustainable
investments could triple by 2025. We will do everything we can to
further expand this position!
There, NextGenerationEU comes into play again. About one third of
NextGenerationEU is financed by green bonds, that's more than €250
billion. This is by far the largest green bond programme the world has
ever seen. With NextGenerationEU, Europe is becoming a true pioneer in
the field of sustainable investments.
We are striving for the same pioneering role in digitalisation. This
is my second point. Today, it is the big internet platforms that
determine who is allowed to trade or communicate with their help. This
gatekeeper function of a few is not acceptable. The EU will define
common rules and thus set limits to the global power of these digital
With our Digital Services and Digital Markets Acts, we aim to
implement a rules-based system for plattforms. It must be clear that
consumers are as protected while using their digital services as they
are protected while using services in the real life. We want to ensure
that the rules of the analogue world will also apply in the digital
world. We also want the largest platforms to be more transparent about
how their algorithms work. Because it is not acceptable that decisions
with far-reaching effects on our democracy are made by computer programs
that no one can understand, let alone control.
These two acts will be the world's first comprehensive set of rules for digital gatekeeper platforms. Made in Europe.
Don't get me wrong: We Europeans embrace future technologies and the
possibilities that, for instance, come with Artificial Intelligence,
from autonomous driving to medicine. But what sets Europe apart from
many other economic and social models is that we put the individual and
values such as the protection of our privacy always at the center.
This brings me to my third point. European values and interests
should also play an important role when we trade and work with the rest
of the world. Take an obvious example: Of course it makes sense that
Europe is moving forward with the exemplary commitment on climate
protection that I just mentioned. But it is also true that the EU
ultimately is responsible for only eight percent of global CO2
emissions. To achieve the 1.5 degree target, we need the rest of the
world. This is why just yesterday we presented our Global Gateway
strategy, the European partnership program for the world. Global Gateway
will help us support and strengthen the green and digital
transformations in Africa, in Asia or in Latin America in line with our
With Global Gateway we will for example invest in Africa – to help
create a market for green hydrogen linking the two shores of the
With Global Gateway we want to create new partnerships and not new
dependencies. We want both sides to benefit from our common projects. We
want them to be sustainable, for the environment but also for our
partner countries' finances. Because what brings prosperity for our
neighbours, brings even more back home.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have to accelerate our green and digital transformations. And we
have to take other countries and regions along with us. I will continue
to count on your advice on this path, as my predecessors have done over
Again, I congratulate the European League of Economic Cooperation on its 75th anniversary.
And I wish you every success in the future!
© European Commission
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