Speech delivered by Olivér Várhelyi, Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement
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Mr President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,
I welcome the five main lines included in this substantive, timely and forward-looking report.
Firstly, principles. I agree that we must apply principles vigorously: sustainability in support of a green transition – climate, environmental, social, economic and fiscal; non-discrimination, global rules and a level playing field; a just transition, fundamental rights, security and good governance; full participation of partner countries in global value chains, and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Connectivity must promote normative excellence and sustainable investment.
Secondly, on governance. Yes, we need “stronger wheels for the car”. We also need fuel to finance it. European Union and Member State cooperation is crucial. Our reinforced Team Europe approach has proven its value already. As you point out, the role of the private sector and civil society are also key. Global connectivity needs are massive: €67 trillion of investment by 2040, as reckoned by the G20 Global Infrastructure Hub. To meet these, the whole planet must make smart use of scarce resources.
Thirdly, we need to set clear priorities. Global changes since the [EU-Asia Connectivity] strategy launch in 2018 must be taken into account. COVID-19 exposes opportunities but also vulnerabilities of growing interdependence.
I agree with the seven priorities identified: green transformation; transport; digitisation – which is very important, as digital connectivity touches on all our lives; people-to-people contacts; trade and international standardisation; health; and security.
We must continue to translate priorities into action.
We must show rather than just tell. We will mainstream connectivity within the Multiannual Financial Framework programming between 2021 and 2027. We will help to deliver the European Union’s core strategic priorities, such as the Green Deal and the Digital Agenda.
The European Union has already mobilised over €10 billion for connectivity investments in Africa and €1.6 billion in Asia and the Pacific from 2016 to 2019. And connectivity is already a key pillar of our engagement with the Western Balkans. Successes merit more visibility.
Fourthly: partnerships for connectivity. I agree that we must work harder to implement the EU-Japan Connectivity Partnership of 2019. We are engaging with India and ASEAN; Australia and Republic of Korea reach out to us. We must work with our sister continent Africa. And, as of tomorrow [20 January], we can work with the incoming US administration. Despite challenges, we should continue engaging with China, notably within the EU-China Connectivity Platform, always based on our norms and standards, principles and values.
Lastly: global scope. The current strategy, spanning an arc from Lisbon to Tokyo, must guide actions at the global level. I fully agree to address connectivity globally as a part of our priorities.
Actions support our global aims. The Europe-Latin America Bella cable project for example presents commercial, developmental and strategic opportunities for our two continents, and will be launched under the Portuguese Presidency. It makes sense to develop more of these initiatives, under a coherent global connectivity brand.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-201314
I believe that a coherent and meaningful EU connectivity strategy strengthens the role of the EU as an indispensable geopolitical and geo-economic actor. Therefore, I fully agree with the European Parliament proposals to uphold principles, improve governance, pursue priorities, and forge partnerships which add value and articulate a global connectivity approach. I look forward to the European Union hosting the next Europa Connectivity Forum.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-201042