Taking stock of the past year and looking forward to future challenges

We took measures to protect our economies and safeguard livelihoods

One year in office! A good time to look back at the past year. And look forward to the challenges ahead. This year has been unlike any other. In fact, beyond any of our imaginations.

The pandemic has demanded much of our efforts.  But not all of our efforts.  We tackled many pressing issues facing our Union. And most importantly, we acted with coherence and unity on the big issues. And this is my goal for 2021.

We started big. Last December, we took the landmark decision to become the first carbon neutral continent by 2050. We signed our “peace treaty” with nature. This decision created the political space for our European Green Deal – the powerful engine which will drive forward our transformation.

On the digital front. We endorsed in September our European Digital Roadmap. A milestone for our digital future.

Just a few digital highlights from 2020, Twenty percent of our Recovery Fund will go to digital investment. We are investing in the power of industrial data and promoting common EU data spaces. We are boosting our digital infrastructure, especially a new generation of European microprocessors and supercomputers. The Digital Services Act will promote greater responsibility from online platforms.

After some hesitation, we took rapid action against an unprecedented crisis. We took measures to protect our economies and safeguard livelihoods: budgetary and monetary policy; escape clause of the Stability and Growth Pact; relaxing state aid rules. And of course, who can forget, our historic deal in July on the MFF and Recovery Fund.

We also battled Covid on the sanitary front with our vaccine strategy. We led global efforts to raise nearly €16bn to finance vaccine research. And the Commission has secured a successful portfolio of vaccines.

2020 was an intense year, and also a year that is a turning point in the world and in Europe likewise.

For 2021, I would like to share with you some observations and ambitions that have been at the fore for the past months.

There is one key point that mobilises me and that must mobilise us, and that is Europe's strategic autonomy. This conviction that we must act for less dependence, more resilience and more influence. Acting for a more robust Europe.

There are three key words: trust, coherence and unity. These are the principles that will guide me throughout the coming year, in all the challenges we face.

Certainly, on the external front we will continue to act to try to implement strategies based on unity and strategic debate among ourselves.

This is how we have made progress in 2020 in developing our relations, for example with China. We have decided to be engaged in the global framework for COVID-19, on the issue of climate and mobilisation for climate diplomacy, to rebalance our relationship.

On the economic front, we want more fair play and reciprocity: this is the meaning of the way we are negotiating the investment agreement. And we do not turn a blind eye when it comes to our fundamental values. This is also the meaning of the firm messages that have been sent out about the values that bring us together at the European level.

In the same spirit, on the external level, we have initiated a strategic debate in the Eastern Mediterranean. As you know, this debate will be taken up in the European Council in December. And there too, we want to ensure that the Member States are respected, that our interests are respected and that we are coherent. Messages were sent out in October, it will be important to be consistent.

You know that the elections in the United States open up a possible new page, which we hope will be more optimistic for the relations between Europe and that country. This is also the meaning of the debate that has been initiated between the Member States in order to determine an offer that we can put on the table next year, and to identify the themes on which base we want to strengthen and renew this alliance, which is extremely important for us.

So as you can see, 2021 will be an intense year, an important year, with certain principles that will guide our action and with certain priorities.

The first priority, of course, is the urgent need to defeat COVID-19, to take control of COVID-19 and to succeed in the economic recovery strategy, which will have to be based on the climate transition and the digital transition.

The second priority is to be an actor engaged in the global scene, to promote multilateralism and ensure that we are an actor, not a playground, that we have more influence and less dependence.

These are the few things that I wanted to share with you. One year after taking office, I also have the pleasure of presenting a work that brings together a number of messages that I have had the opportunity to give over the past year in the context of this responsibility and which reflect this desire for a Europe that is confident, a Europe that is moving forward and a Europe that looks the future straight in the eyes, with confidence, with coherence and with unity.

Remarks by EUCO President Charles Michel at a press conference on his first year in office, delivered on 4 December.


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