(Source: European Commission)
Thank you so much,
Dear Prime Minister, dear Alexander,
It is a pleasure to be here and thank you very much for the very warm welcome here. And I have to say that I am really impressed with what I have seen in this building. This is amazing to see those young people with all this motivation from all walks of life.
And as far as I understand, you can just come if you are motivated enough, and you can be a programmer within seven months if the motivation is there. The teaching skills are here. And this is amazing to see that. So I could really feel, let us say, the passion of these people working here. And thank you very much for that experience.
Indeed, we have gone through very tough times the last 15 months in the pandemic. And now it is about recovery, now it is about building up resilience. And one of our main cornerstones is NextGenerationEU, our Recovery Plan for Europe. But it is much more than recovery, it will shape our continent for decades ahead. We will be investing through NextGenerationEU more in digitisation than ever before. We will make the European Green Deal a reality with these investments. And we will be equipping our societies and our economies to be stronger and to be more resilient. NextGenerationEU is worth EUR 800 billion, in today’s prices. It is the largest recovery package in Europe since the Marshall Plan. And it is a recovery that Europe needs now, and it will need it for the future.
So indeed, I am very happy to announce that today the European Commission has given its green light to Belgium’s recovery and resilience plan. It follows indeed an excellent cooperation between our authorities. I thank you very much for that. It follows a thorough assessment through the Commission. And if you look at the reforms and the investment, I am sure it foresees that it will accelerate the green and the digital transition in Belgium, but of course also for the benefit of Europe.
Nearly 50% of the plan will support green objectives and it will help protect our climate. Just to take a few examples, you will be investing in large-scale energy renovation. As we know, 40% of the energy is going through buildings, so that is a main source of greenhouse gas emissions. If we invest there for insulation or modern heating and cooling system, it is a big step forward. It will invest in clean mobility, in the deployment of new green public buses and of tens of thousands of electric charging stations. We have been speaking about that, how important it is to have the modern mobility, the clean mobility. And I am very glad to see that this plan also heavily invested in the protection of Belgium’s beautiful nature and beautiful biodiversity. So thank you very much for putting this emphasis there too.
But, as we have witnessed today here in this building too, the Belgian plan will dedicate a significant part to our other landmark goal – and that is digitalisation. You are already a front-runner in this area. And indeed, rightly so, you should take pride in it. It is outstanding. And now you will dedicate 25% of the Belgian plan to digitalisation. I think NextGenerationEU will give the boost to maintain your leadership in that field with investments in fibre, in digital equipment for schools, in digital skills for all –and here we saw a brilliant example. So this is the right way to go.
In short, the plan clearly meets the demanding criteria we have jointly established. The reforms it contains will improve the efficiency and the sustainability of public finances, and they will make Belgium’s education system more inclusive, more digital and help reach our objective of an 80% employment rate by 2030.
Therefore, I am glad to give our green light to this ambitious, far-sighted plan. The Commission’s approval is an important milestone for the disbursement of close to EUR 6 billion over the next years. So what is needed now is the approval by the Council within the next four weeks, and then in July we can start together. And it is now with confidence that I hand over to you, Alexander, on behalf of the European Commission, the proof that this plan has been approved.