Press Releases Opening remarks by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with President Michel following the meeting of the European Council of 21 October 2022

Opening remarks by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with President Michel following the meeting of the European Council of 21 October 2022

We had a very good discussion this morning again, after having agreed yesterday on this huge energy package. There is a lot of work now ahead of us concerning energy but the roadmap is very clear. And it was good to have this unanimity, this broad support for the roadmap that we have put forward.

Today, the focus was indeed on the two topics of Ukraine and China. And here, looking at Ukraine, let me first of all focus on the financing of Ukraine. As you know, we had agreed to have EUR 9 billion of macro-financial assistance to Ukraine, which will be partially disbursed until the end of the year. Overall, so far, the European Union and the European level have supported Ukraine since the beginning of the year with, by now, EUR 19 billion. But the focus in the discussion was now more on the year to come. It is very important for Ukraine to have a predictable and stable flow of income. Therefore, we assume, and Ukraine is telling us, that they need approximately EUR 3 to 4 billion per month to have enough resources for the basics. And these EUR 3 to 4 billion should be financed by the European Union, by our American friends and by the financial institutions. Therefore, the discussion was about round about EUR 1.5 billion per month for Ukraine financed by the European Union. So this would give overall a figure of EUR 18 billion for the next year. An amount on which Ukraine can count and where there is a stable and reliable, predictable flow of income. We have tasked the Finance Ministers to develop the appropriate mechanism. But it was also important to give this signal to Ukraine, that we very well know how important this reliable flow of income is.

Of course, there are other topics on the agenda. Having seen in the last days the atrocious and deliberate attacks of Russia against civilian infrastructure, Ukraine has other needs that have to be addressed. For example, the mobilisation of humanitarian aid to help the most vulnerable in Ukraine to get through this winter – in particular the more than 11 million internally displaced people, by now, who need support; who need access to water, electricity, heating; who need shelter. We have announced this week that we will provide a further EUR 175 million for food, for shelter, for health support and for education. And we will provide emergency shelters in the Rivne, Bucha and Kharkiv regions. Of course, we are in very close contact now with the Ukrainian authorities to look at how we can restore, as best and as much as possible, electricity, water supply and other essential services, like for example heating. For that purpose, Commissioner Lenarčič was on site this week to assess the situation, to activate the Civil Protection Mechanism and to look at how best and quickly we can support Ukraine to deal with these vicious and atrocious attacks on the civilian infrastructure. This is the immediate support.

But of course, there is also the mid- and long-term support for reconstruction. And indeed, next week, we will have, in the context of the German G7 Presidency, co-hosted by the Chancellor and I, a conference on the reconstruction of Ukraine. This is a conference that looks at how we should address the reconstruction. It is a huge task. It is an international conference. The best experts worldwide will join and discuss how to best approach technically but also financially this reconstruction process together, not only with the European Union but also with our global partners. And of course, the reconstruction process and the massive investments that are necessary should be aligned with the needs for reform in order to really pave already the path to EU membership. Ukraine, as you know, is a candidate country, so everything should be focused on this common journey that we will undertake together.

The second topic was indeed China. Yes, the discussion showed that we are witnessing quite an acceleration of trends and tensions. It was very clear from the Communist Party Congress that President Xi is continuing to reinforce the very assertive and self-reliant course China has taken. Clearly, China is continuing a mission to establish its dominance in East Asia and its influence globally. At the same time, we have been witnessing, as you will recall, in February, the so-called no-limits partnership between Russia and China, right before the invasion in Ukraine. These developments will affect the EU-China relationship. The Chinese system is fundamentally different from ours. And we are aware of the nature of the rivalry. Against this backdrop, we had a very good strategic discussion on our relationship with China.

Obviously, we have to be very vigilant when it comes to dependencies. And we have learnt our lesson concerning the over-dependency on fossil fuels from Russia, and how tough but necessary it is to get rid of this dependency. In the case of China, it is the risk of dependency on technologies and raw materials. Therefore, the priorities here are to reinforce our own capacities and of course also to diversify the supply of raw materials towards reliable, trustworthy suppliers.

In this context, the Chips Act concerning semiconductors, so technologies, and the Critical Raw Materials Act are the major initiatives that we have put on the table. They are basically the strategic response to our dependencies. But so are also the free trade agreements and raw materials partnerships that we are working on with other countries – in other words with reliable partners. The recent foreign direct investment screening is also a strong tool that has been given to us. So with our new instruments, like the International Procurement Instrument and the Regulation on foreign subsidies, we will have a new foundation on how to approach China. Those tools – the International Procurement Instrument and the Regulation on foreign subsidies – will enter into force in spring next year. This shows there is a broad approach on the judicial side towards the risks we see in the relationship with China, also the difficulties to achieve a level playing field, and the steps forward we have taken to solve here the imbalances and to re-level the playing field. I hope we can soon add another layer to that. That will be our Anti-coercion Instrument. We had all in all a broad discussion on these different, an excellent discussion and a very good Council.

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