In her impassioned speech to the European Parliament on Thursday, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen laid out the most ambitious plans in the EU’s history.
In response to the devastating Covid-19 pandemic, the President said that:
“Europe has done more in the last four weeks than it did in the first four years of the last crisis.”
“The Member States that can, will put up guarantees so others can support the hardest hit in their countries.
“As a result of all of this action, Europe’s collective response is well above 3 trillion euros. This is the most impressive response anywhere in the world.
“But we know we will need more.”
Ms von der Leyen started her five-year term as Commission President last November, after more than 50% of all MEPs voted in favour of her tenure.
▪ COURAGE, TRUST AND SOLIDARITY
She said “the moment” had come:
“to put behind us the old divisions, disputes and recriminations.”
“The moment to be ready for that new world. To use all the power of our common spirit and the strength of our shared purpose.
“The starting point for this must be making our economies, societies and way of life more sustainable and resilient.
“Finding the answers in this new world will require courage, trust and solidarity. And it will need massive investment to jumpstart our economies.”
She then made the boldest announcement of her 14-minute speech.
▪ A NEW MARSHALL PLAN FOR EUROPE
Declared President von der Leyen:
“We need a Marshall Plan for Europe’s recovery and it needs to be put in place immediately.”
The Marshall Plan, also known as the European Recovery Program, was a U.S. program providing aid to Western Europe following the devastation of World War II.
It was enacted in 1948 and provided more than $15 billion to help finance rebuilding efforts on the continent.
But this time, of course, Europe is not looking to the USA for help. Europe will look after itself. Explained President von der Leyen:
“There is only one instrument we have that is trusted by all Member States, which is already in place and can deliver quickly. It is transparent and it is time tested as an instrument for cohesion, convergence and investment.
“And that instrument is the European budget. The European budget will be the mothership of our recovery.”
For that reason, explained the President, the next seven year budget “must be different to what we had imagined.”
“We will use the power of the whole European budget to leverage the huge amount of investment we need to rebuild the Single Market after Corona.”
▪ RENEWABLES, CLEAN TRANSPORT, SUSTAINABLE FOOD…
She gave a visionary view of the future of the Union.
“This is the lesson we need to learn from this crisis. Investing in large scale renovation, renewables, clean transport, sustainable food and nature restoration will be even more important than before.
“This is not only good for our economies, it is not only good for our environment but it reduces dependency by shortening and diversifying supply chains.”
“This is the Europe that I believe can emerge from this crisis. One that does everything it can to protect lives and livelihoods. One that is open to the world but can take care of itself.
“One that is more resilient, green and digital and that invests in its future together. This is the path to recovery.”
▪ A STRONG SOUL SHINES BRIGHT
Ms von der Leyen concluded her remarkable speech by saying:
“This is the path to recovery. It will be a long road and the world will be trying to find its way. This crisis will likely redefine our politics, our geopolitics and possibly globalisation itself.
“And in this new world Europe will need to stick together through thick and thin. And as I look around our Union – and I see all that humanity and that ingenuity – I know that we can and we will do just that.
“They say a strong soul shines bright after every storm.
“If we all stand up for Europe today – with courage, trust and solidarity – I know that tomorrow Europe’s soul will shine brighter than ever before. Long live Europe. Vive l’Europe. Lang lebe Europa.”
Who can deny that in von der Leyen the EU has a strong and shining leader – just at the time such leadership is so desperately needed?
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