Michel: Access to our large market will no longer be sold off

EU wants to be stronger and more autonomous, to defend a fairer world, European Council President said at the UN General Assembly

Photo: EU Charles Michel.

This pandemic has increased our determination to transform our economies and societies tenfold, said European Council President Charles Michel in his speech at the UN General Assembly, outlining all the large-scale socio-economic measures and funding efforts that the EU has taken in response to the crisis.

The speech was delivered online on Friday, the same day President Michel got out of quarantine after being tested negative for Covid-19.

He stressed that the EU has been at the forefront of international cooperation which has raised nearly €16bn to finance the research and the deployment of vaccines, tests and treatments. And we are mobilised, alongside all the players involved, to ensure that these vaccines and treatments are universally accessible and affordable, he added

“More than ever, the European Union is defending the rules-based international order and cooperation based on universal values. The European Union wants to be stronger, more autonomous, and firmer, to defend a fairer world. And it is in this spirit that we lead the implementation of the Paris Agreements. And that we have already integrated the objectives of the 2030 Agenda into our system of economic governance.”

President Michel underlined that the EU is now developing these values and this open model “with greater awareness of our strength, with more realism, and perhaps less naivety”. We have faith in the virtues of free and open economies, never in protectionism, he said noting that “access to our large market - the second largest economic zone in the world, and the first in terms of international trade - will no longer be sold off”. From now on, we will better enforce the level playing field, in a market open to those who respect its standards. Whether they leave our Union or want to move closer to it.

The European Union is also committed to advancing overall tax fairness, in particular in the digital sector. Large-scale activities carried out in this area can no longer escape fair taxation. The European Union is committed, alongside the OECD and the G20, to international cooperation to correct this injustice.

“The European Union is an actor for peace and progress, which wants to mobilise its influence and strength to make others more robust as well.”

In his speech Michel touched upon Western Balkans’ European perspective, the Eastern Partnership developments, Belarus, Navalny, Venezuela, and put a strong accent on relationship between Europe and Africa “It is to recognise that a strong Europe needs a strong Africa, and vice versa. The potential is huge. Investing, innovating, developing infrastructure, promoting education, supporting health systems: this is the key to forging a mutually beneficial partnership.”

The European Union is concerned about tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean. Unilateral actions and violations of international law must absolutely stop. Together with our Member States, we are undertaking intensive diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions and to promote dialogue. In this spirit, I have proposed the organization of a multilateral conference on the Eastern Mediterranean, in conjunction with the United Nations.

“We also support the efforts of the United Nations, and where involved, regional organizations, like in Libya or Syria.”

Michel emphasised that the Iran Nuclear Deal remains key for global non-proliferation and regional security. It is therefore essential to preserve the JCPOA and for all parties to fully implement it. The agreement endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231 remains in place and for us there is no doubt that the sanctions lifting commitments under the agreement continue to apply. While we strongly support the preservation of the Iran deal, we continue to firmly address other concerns, such as the domestic and the regional situation.

He also said the EU is praising the start of intra-Afghan negotiations and will support a lasting peace. On  another tormented region, he stated that the issue of peace between Palestinians and Israelis remains more timely than ever.

“We must continue to support the legitimate aspirations of both parties. And we remain firmly committed to the two-state solution. We will spare no effort with our international partners, including the Quartet, to facilitate the return of Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table, to find a negotiated solution within internationally agreed parameters. For our commitment to international law and UN resolutions is unwavering. At the same time, we welcome Israel's rapprochement with countries in the region as a positive development for peace and stability in the Middle East.”

He also revealed his standpoint on the new rivalry between the US and China. “Since I became President of the European Council, I have often been asked a question that is both simple and brutal: "In the new rivalry between the United States and China, which side is the European Union on?" My answer is the following...

We are deeply connected with the United States. We share ideals, values and a mutual affection that have been strengthened through the trials of history. They remain embodied today in a vital transatlantic alliance. This does not prevent us from occasionally having divergent approaches or interests.

We do not share the values on which the political and economic system in China is based. And we will not stop promoting respect for universal human rights. Including those of minorities such as the Uighurs. Or in Hong Kong, where international commitments guaranteeing the rule of law and democracy are being questioned.

China is a crucial partner in addressing common challenges, such as global warming, Covid-19 or debt relief in Africa. And China is also an important trade partner. Yet we are determined to rebalance this relationship towards greater reciprocity and fairer competition. A spirit that we are also cultivating with ASEAN members, with which we will continue to deepen our relationship.”

Highlighting that the European Union is an autonomous force, “master of our choices, master of our destiny”, President Michel added that the EU’s compass to pursue its interests are the fundamental values of democracy, human rights, the rule of law and cooperation.



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