Sat. Aug 13th, 2022

Brussels, 8 July 2022

Thank you very much, Secretary-General, dear António,

Thank you very much for inviting us here for this retreat – the College of Commissioners of the European Commission, and you with your Commissioners here. So I am very much looking forward to the discussions today and tomorrow.

Indeed, we are in a defining moment. We just barely recovered from COVID-19, the pandemic, when Russia started the senseless and atrocious invasion in Ukraine with terrible knock-on effects not only for the people in Ukraine that are horribly suffering, but also with enormous knock-on effects globally of this senseless war. We will certainly discuss many of the topics, but I want to refer to three of them.

The first is the looming food crisis. Russia is blocking the export of grain from Ukraine and thus bringing hunger to millions of people. The blockade of the Black Sea must stop. And I am very grateful, Secretary-General, for your tireless work to try to create a solution for the export of Ukrainian grain via the Black Sea. As long as the Black Sea is blockaded by Russia, we try, as the European Union, to offer alternative routes for Ukraine, be it by road, be it by train, or for example on the Danube river.

Secondly, we are doing our outmost to support financially the vulnerable countries so that they are at least able to go to the global market for wheat purchases or grain purchases. We have allocated EUR 620 million this year for this purpose. But we also think that, in the mid and long term, we should work intensively with the vulnerable countries to boost the local food production in those countries themselves. So we are also allocating funds, EUR 5 billion, over the next years into precision farming, for example, in nanotechnologies or water management in arid areas, so that these countries are no longer so dependent on the global food market, but are able to produce the food they need locally.

The second topic we will discuss intensively is the energy crisis, also a knock-on effect of Russia’s war of aggression. The fossil fuel prices are skyrocketing with a heavy negative impact on livelihoods. The best answer to that is massive investment in renewable energy. Renewable energy is clean, it is by now more cost-efficient than fossil fuels and it creates independence. But of course, we also have to work intensively to make it possible that the energy prices stay at a decent level. And we have come forward with a REPowerEU programme of EUR 300 billion to make it possible for the European Union to diversify away from Russian fossil fuels. The second pillar is very important, it is energy savings, energy efficiency. And indeed, the third pillar is a massive investment in renewable energy. Renewable energy will play a big role when we will be discussing the preparation of the COP27 this year. The Secretary-General mentioned the climate crisis and the urgency to fight climate change.

We will certainly discuss the topic of not only carbon pricing but also the Just Energy Transition Partnerships. That is highly industrialised countries supporting other countries, vulnerable countries to get out of coal and into renewable energy. We are, for example, having a project with South Africa, but also leading on other projects in these Just Energy Transition Partnerships. The preparation of COP27 will be paramount because it is so important to rally the world to commit themselves to fighting climate change. We should not weaken the efforts because of other crises that we have, because the big looming crisis in the background is the climate crisis.

And the third topic is indeed how we can better deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals. The European Union is aware of massive investment gaps globally – in the green transition, for example. And therefore, we have put up Global Gateway, an investment programme abroad of EUR 300 billion, to support the transition to the green and digital in other regions of the world. For us, it is important that this investment is transparent and of high quality, and paying into the Sustainable Development Goals.

So, many topics to discuss together. Indeed, Secretary-General, dear António, you mentioned that the European Union is the largest financial contributor to the United Nations. And there is a good reason for that, it is because we are deeply convinced that the one and only way to have a peaceful and prosperous cooperation between countries globally is through the rules-based order and multilateralism. And of course, the core is the United Nations as guardian of the UN Charter and multilateralism. So it is a very good investment contributing to the United Nations.

Many thanks for having us here. And I am looking forward to the next two days.

Source – EU Commission