European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen expressed her views on the future of Europe in an interview with the French news outlet Les Echos.
“I feel that a period of opportunity is opening up for the EU, and that we should take advantage of it. There is a need for more Europe in a world where we see increasing competition between the United States and China. There is a need for our human-centered approach. We are needed as a good neighbour and stabilizer in a fairly unstable nearby environment. And we can afford to give a lot to the rest of the world. Above all by putting our planet at the center of our concerns. On this point, we can, and we must have a role of model, showing the way for a transition towards a neutral economy in greenhouse gases, capable of being prosperous and innovative.”
She announced that the EU will have to create a fund for a just transition, in order to help regions or industries weakened by this transition. Between public money, the European Investment Bank and private capital, a hundred billion euros could be released over the next 7 years. We will also ensure that European subsidies cannot support sectors or technologies harmful to the environment. I recognize that all of this will require a powerful strike force. But if we do it right, in the end we will export our technologies. And I am convinced that the rest of the world will have no choice but to follow.
About Brexit she said that the EU might need to extend the deadline for talks about a new trade relationship with the UK.
“It seems to me that on both sides we should seriously ask ourselves if all these negotiations are possible in such a short time. I think it would be reasonable to take stock mid-year and, if necessary, to agree on an extension of the transition period,” she said according to POLITICO’s report on the Interview.
“The U.K. is hoping for an EU trade deal to be agreed during its transition period, which is set to run from the start of February until the end of 2020, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he will not extend negotiations beyond that date.
Von der Leyen added that countries that want to access the EU single market “must accept its common principles and values,” or else face barriers.
In separate comments to German magazine Der Spiegel, von der Leyen said of Britain’s departure deadline, currently set as Dec. 31, 2020: “That worries me a lot, because time is extremely short for the mass of issues that have to be negotiated.”
Before trade negotiations can start, both the U.K. and European parliaments must first pass the Withdrawal Agreement that would see Britain leave the bloc on January 31.
Sassoli said that if the Withdrawal Agreement gets the green light from the U.K. parliament it is unlikely to face opposition in its EU counterpart.
Speaking about Europe and being European, Von der Leyen said that although our languages, our personalities, our cultures differ, “we perceive the invisible link which unites us: we are Europeans.”
Von Der Leyen said that the cost of global warming is rising and public opinion is now aware: we have little time to act, to drastically change course and move towards a healthier way of living, working and producing. Now companies are also realizing that there is an opportunity there. Europe has the most patents in renewable energy.