Speech by President-elect Ursula von der Leyen at the 2019 EPP Congress in Zagreb - EU monitor

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Friday, January 15, 2021

Speech by President-elect Ursula von der Leyen at the 2019 EPP Congress in Zagreb

Source: European Commission (EC) i, published on Thursday, November 21 2019.

Herr Präsident, lieber Joseph

Du hast unsere Parteienfamilie durch enorm schwierige Zeiten geführt.

Du hast das großartig gemacht. Die Jahre Deiner Präsidentschaft waren gute Jahre und ich möchte Dir im Namen von uns allen danken.

Lieber Donald Tusk,

Keiner weiß so gut wie Du, dass Teamgeist und Loyalität in schweren Zeiten entscheidend sind.

Du bist darin vorbildlich und ich werde Dir das immer zusichern.

Meine Damen und Herren Vizepräsidentinnen und Vizepräsidenten,

meine Damen und Herren,

liebe Freundinnen und Freunde

Gerne hätte ich heute auch jemanden begrüßt, den wir hier sehr vermissen.

Das ist Jean-Claude Juncker.

Jean-Claude, der europäische Politik über Jahrzehnte so sehr geprägt hat, wie wohl kaum jemand.

Er hat die Kommission mit großer Erfahrung und mit einer wunderbaren Portion feinsten Humors durch die schwierigen Jahre seit 2014 geführt. Und er hat damit die Grundlage geschaffen, auf der wir heute weiter aufbauen können.


Dafür danke ich Dir sehr und wir wünschen Dir von ganzem Herzen gute Besserung. Und ich möchte unseren kroatischen Freunden danken, dass sie so wunderbare Gastgeber sind.

Lieber Andrej Plenković,

Wir alle wissen, wie sehr Dein Herz für Europa schlägt.

Deshalb hat mich mein Weg nach meiner Wahl im Juli auch direkt hier nach Zagreb geführt. Im Oktober hat die Kommission grünes Licht gegeben, dass Kroatien es verdient hat, Mitglied des Schengenraumes zu werden.

Das ist Dein Verdienst, Andrej! Und ich drücke die Daumen, dass der Rat jetzt positiv entscheidet. Für mich gehört ihr in den Schengenraum!

Chers amis,

Si tout va bien, le Parlement européen approuvera ma Commission la semaine prochaine afin que nous puissions commencer à travailler. Je sais que vous êtes aussi impatients que moi.

En mai, les électeurs européens ont été très clairs. Ils veulent que l'Europe agisse sur les enjeux du monde d'aujourd'hui. Et encore une fois, ils ont confié cette tâche au PPE.

Encore une fois, ils ont fait du PPE le plus grand parti en Europe. Et encore une fois, le PPE est le groupe le plus important au Parlement européen.

Mes chers amis,

Tout cela n'aurait pas été possible sans Manfred Weber.

Cher Manfred, je voudrais te remercier de tout mon cœur.

Nous avons tous vu avec quelle énergie tu as fait campagne dans toute l'Europe comme Spitzenkandidat. J'ai l'ai vu moi-même quand nous avons fait campagne ensemble dans les États baltes et en Europe centrale. Mais je sais aussi que les étapes qui ont suivies ont été très difficiles pour toi.

Cher Manfred,

Après ma nomination tu m'as soutenue depuis le premier jour - sans hésitation, et avec une grandeur d'âme qui mérite notre respect à tous.

My friends,

When I was a little girl, my father, who was Director-General for competition, sometimes took me to his office in Brussels.

I cannot recall whether this was already in the Berlaymont but I remember how impressed I was by the many languages that I heard in the corridors. And yet, at that time there were only 6 Member States.

Today, just a life-span later, we are 28 member states with 500 million citizens and 24 different languages. And no state was forced to join the EU. They all did so voluntarily.

They all worked hard over years to live up to European values. And made sacrifices to join our common market. Because they all yearned for the European dream.

More than 70 years ago, the longest and happiest period of peace for Western Europe began. And thirty years ago in the East, people took their fate into their own hands.

Their courage was greater than their fear. Their hunger for freedom was more powerful than any state. And their desire for democracy was stronger than any ideology.

It is in this spirit that we have to now work hard to position Europe globally. And just as our parents with great commitment have handed us over a prosperous Europe - We, too, have to hand over to our children a strong and sustainable Europe.

It is in this spirit of European values, that I want to preside my Commission.

Dear friends,

To do that, I can rely on a top team of EPP commissioners. The EPP sends four women and four men to my new commission.

There is Valdis Dombrovskis - one of my three Executive Vice Presidents.

As a former Prime Minister, Valdis has the experience and the economic expertise. He will ensure that we strike the right balance between necessary investments in the future and the budgetary discipline that the EPP stands for.

We need both! And strong investment is necessary, when it comes to climate change.

It was EPP President Martens who said already in 2009: “For us, the fight against Climate Change is not only a political but also a moral responsibility for future generations. It is about nothing less than the preservation of creation.”

Our common objective is to balance our climate goals with an ambitious industrial strategy. We have to create an environment that is favourable for entrepreneurship - especially for SMEs.

We want to achieve our climate ambitions with people and with companies, not against them! This is what our citizens want and this is what our companies want.

The EPP's economic expertise is needed. And it is good to know Valdis Dombrovskis is in charge. Of course, we know that we do not all have the same starting point.

Every region has its own set of challenges.

This is why I am very honoured to have Dubravka Suica from Croatia as a Vice-President in my team.

Dear Dubravka, you will help to tackle one of the most urgent problems in many member states - how to organise the wellbeing of our people in areas with declining and ageing populations. You will also make proposals on how to bring Europe closer to its citizens.

You will put people at the heart of Europe.

To use your own language: Slavati, Dubravka!

We can only achieve great goals if we have the resources and the right personnel.

I am grateful that Johannes Hahn from Austria will bring his experience as the longest serving commissioner.

Gio, you will, among many other things, make sure, that we deliver

  • on a multiannual budget,
  • which is geared for the future

and is value for money.

I am delighted to have Mariya Gabriel, from Bulgaria, in the team.

She has done an outstanding job on digitalisation and is moving forward as commissioner for Innovation and Youth, but also in charge of research, education and culture. What we invest today in our young people, our researchers, our universities will determine how strong Europe will be in 20 years' time.

Europe must stay at the innovation frontier, if we are to offer the same promise of prosperity to the next generation. But what makes us unique is our soul, our culture, our diversity, our heritage. And I know that with you, Mariya, it is in safe hands.

I am proud to have Vice-President Margaritis Schinas from Greece in my team. He will promote our “European way of live.” There has been much debate on the title - our European Way of Life - as if there was any doubt about what our way of life is.

We will never let the nationalists and the populists, who want to divide and destroy the European Union, hijack what our European way of life means.

Our European way is the path of freedom, of values and the rule of law. This is beautifully enshrined in Article Two of our Treaty: Our Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality… We will always defend this!

I am very happy to have Stella Kyriakides from Cyprus in our Commission, a medical psychologist. She will lead the fight against cancer - a topic dear to the EPP. She will launch a European Master Plan to cure cancer.

She has the empathy, the knowledge, the passion to serve Europe's people. She will care for the things we all care about: our health, our children's wellbeing, the quality of our food. Stella, it is great to have you with us.

It is also a gift to have Phil Hogan from Ireland on board.

He looked after our farmers for the last 5 years. He will now be in charge of Trade. The EU is a trade superpower.

If we stand together we can negotiate at eye level with any power in the world. Be it in Washington or in Canberra, In New-Delhi or Beijing. And the most important is: the trade we believe in will always be fair and rules-based. And I know that you, Phil, will always promote that. But Phil will also have another task.

If our British friends leave us, -and we will always be sorry for that, one thing is for sure, we will treat them with fairness and with respect. But we have also been clear with our British friends that a country outside the European Union cannot enjoy the same benefits as a Member of the European Union.

For us, the four freedoms come as one. The free movement of goods but also the free movement of capital, services and people. This is what our Union is founded on and for that we will stand united.

Last but certainly not least, Adina Valean from Romania joined the team. Transport and mobility is an important portfolio. It helps connect people, businesses, and regions. It needs to become cleaner and smarter - I am talking about autonomous driving - but it must also stay affordable.

Adina, this is a big responsibility and opportunity: Transport can help serve our priorities: competitiveness, climate and the Single Market.

Dear Friends,

This is our team for Europe. I am proud of them. And we all can be proud of them.

Dear Friends,

We are here today with our whole European family. I am delighted to see the leaders from the Western Balkans and the Eastern Partnership with us. We share the same continent, the same history, the same culture - and we share the same political family.

I want to assure you, our friends from the EPP: We stand by your side, - independent from the process, it is in our common interest that the Western Balkans have a European perspective.

Dear friends,

It is an honour of a lifetime to stand in front of you today as President-elect of the European Commission. I will put my heart and soul into it. And I need you alongside me.

Long live Europe!

Thank you for your attention!