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Members of the European Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The coronavirus pandemic has radically changed the conditions of the German Presidency. I am very aware that Germany now holds great responsibility for European policy.
The coronavirus pandemic was and is an enormous burden for us all. For those who have fallen ill with the virus and their families, for workers in the healthcare sector, for numerous businesses and millions of workers.
Now, we have to work together to drive forward the economic and social recovery and bring about a fresh start after the crisis. That is why the motto of our Presidency is “Together for Europe’s recovery”.
The fight against global warming, against the destruction of nature plays a key role in these efforts.
- The recovery of the European economy can only succeed if the stimulus and investment packages are clearly aligned with combatting climate change, protecting the environment and biodiversity, but also with resilience and social equity. Because all these challenges are connected.
- At the same time, the economic recovery can help us speed up progress in our fight against global warming and the destruction of nature as well as help make our Union more equitable and strengthen solidarity.
I am confident that if we make the European Green Deal the strategy for Europe's future, it will not just benefit our environment and climate. But, it will also be good for the European economy, our competitiveness, secure jobs for the future and for solidarity and quality of life in Europe.
The German government wants to contribute to achieving these aims during the German Council Presidency. This is what is guiding our initiatives and plans.
Today, I want to highlight four of our priorities:
- First: climate action, which remains at the top of our agenda. During the German Council Presidency, I want to reach an agreement on raising our 2030 climate target. This is what we committed to in Paris and it also makes sense economically. This goes hand in hand with an agreement on a Climate Law that would make climate neutrality by 2050 legally binding.
- Second: one thing I have learned from the coronavirus crisis is that nature conservation also prevents pandemics. The risk of disease spreading from animals to humans increases when habitats are destroyed. And that is why I want to strengthen the EU position on biodiversity conservation and will push for ambitious international measures in line with the one health approach to conserve nature and protect our health. The EU Biodiversity Strategy provides a very good foundation for this. We want to adopt conclusions in the Council related to biodiversity. At the same time, the Council of agriculture ministers is consulting on the Farm to Fork strategy. Both strategies are closely linked.
- Third: the EU will become stronger for the future, more competitive and more resilient if we extend the lifespan of products and more resources stay in the economic cycle. This will help Europe become less dependent on international supply chains - another lesson learned from the coronavirus crisis. In addition, it will also help us achieve climate neutrality. I am therefore advocating that we adopt conclusions in the Council on the Circular Economy Action Plan.
- And finally: I want to add a new topic to the Council agenda - digitalisation and the environment. This is not just about minimising the negative impacts of digital technologies on the environment because they consume high levels of energy. I am interested in how we can make digitalisation a tool for a liveable future through guiding principles in policy. A tool that would counteract global warming and the loss of biodiversity and support circular economy. These guiding principles would be particularly effective if applied throughout the whole of Europe. I am also planning conclusions for the Council on this topic.
These are the core elements the German Presidency will use to make Europe more modern and resilient and to live up to its international responsibilities, also given the important conferences on climate action and biodiversity taking place next year.
I will go into more detail on other environmental policy plans during the discussion: for instance, the planned revision of the Aarhus Regulation to strengthen public participation, the start of consultations on the 8th Environment Action Programme and the strategy for sustainable chemicals policy.
I would like to emphasise that we politicians, in the Council and here in the Parliament, have a major opportunity in this situation to prove that we not only solve problems, but we can also change things for the better. We must seize this opportunity!
I look forward to working together with you.
And I am now looking forward to the discussion.