Speech by the European Parliament President
"I am very pleased to be able to speak to you today, together with President Rodrigues of the Assembleia da República and the main speakers who have agreed to participate in this plenary session to open the new edition of the European Parliamentary Week, to share my hopes and my vision on the topics we will discuss.
“The circumstances in which we organize this event are, of course, special. Today the world is at war with a virus that is putting to the test the very values on which international cooperation was founded after the Second World War: freedom, prosperity and peace.
“It is undoubtedly these challenges that the institutional framework for international cooperation after the Second World War was created: to allow effective collective action in the face of cross-border problems that no state can solve alone. We need Europe and multilateralism more than ever, international cooperation, even if these formidable political and institutional advances have sometimes been undermined by populist governments on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Let's not hide the truth about the causes of this pandemic. It is the direct result of an economic model that favors the reckless and over exploitation of our natural resources and leads to massive deforestation, intensive agriculture, urbanization, pollution, depletion of biodiversity, etc. Affecting the whole world simultaneously, this pandemic is also an opportunity to become aware of our common human destiny. Furthermore, through its economic and social consequences, the pandemic has led to the exacerbation of inequalities and thus threatens the cohesion of our European societies.
“Entire sectors of our economies have been closed or have gone bankrupt. The pandemic has affected the most vulnerable, the elderly, the isolated, women, young people and the disabled, and has only increased inequalities in Europe, the levels of which were already rising even before the pandemic.
“The pandemic has increased inequalities within societies at the national level but has also widened the economic and social gap between Member States.
“Europe has responded with determination to this economic and social emergency. The European Council agreement of July 21 is historic: for the first time in the history of the European Union, massive budget transfers, financed by a common loan contracted on behalf of the European Union, are directed to the Member States of the Union . These financial flows are therefore a powerful solidarity mechanism at European level. However, if we want these resources to really support our economies that have been dramatically affected, it is up to you, national parliaments, to make an urgent effort: to ratify the decision to raise the ceiling on own resources for the EU budget. Only in this way will the European Commission be able to proceed to gather the necessary resources for recovery on the markets.
“Within the framework of this agreement, it is also up to us today to respond to the changes required by the pandemic, which will undoubtedly be lasting. I believe that Europe must be animated by a concern for the preservation of the environment which should be accompanied, fortiori in the current context of the pandemic, by the preservation of the cohesion of the societies that make up the European Union through the fight against inequalities.
“The Next Generation EU package focuses precisely on the investments needed to transform our production process in order to face environmental challenges. Climate change cannot be dissociated from social justice and the fight against inequalities. Indeed, inequalities and poverty are fueling the ecological crisis, while we see that more egalitarian societies have a better environmental situation and a greater capacity to become more sustainable.
“In this context, I believe it is necessary to rethink the tools of European economic governance so that it can support investments in energy, the digital transition, and the fight against inequalities. For this reason, I believe we must reflect on the need to keep the safeguard clause in operation, which does not suspend the Stability and Growth Pact but which should remain in force until the state of the economy justifies its deactivation.
In addition, in the coming months we should take major decisions because given the economic situation, 25 member states theoretically risk opening an excessive deficit procedure.
“I believe that the opening of procedures would be a negative signal for the credibility of our rules.
“As I said I think it is useful to deepen the reflection already started by the European Commission before the outbreak of the pandemic on the future of economic governance and budgetary rules.
“But now first of all it is necessary to relaunch joint action in the health field with particular attention to the vaccination campaign
“In recent months we have seen unprecedented efforts to find a vaccine for Covid-19, with already 3 vaccines approved in Europe, and many more in the pipeline. In December we celebrated 5 years of the Paris Agreement, yet the climate and environmental emergency remains as pressing today as it was 5 years ago.
“Our new growth strategy, supported by the Recovery and Resilience Facility, can be the driver of change for decades to come and for this we must align economic plans and recovery measures in particular with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
“The decisions made now on how the resources of the recovery plans will be allocated will shape the direction of travel for Europe for the years to come, for future generations.
“And precisely for this reason, the exchange that we will have today is decisive for our common actions, particularly in the preparation of recovery measures. Learning from each other can be of great value and therefore this type of exchange of views between members of all EU Parliaments can play an important role. "
A video of the speech is available here