(Source: European Commission)
Thank you very much dear President,
Dear Nicos, my friend,
Indeed, I want to express my support, first of all, to Cyprus in the face of these tragic fires that have ravaged in the mountains and in the hills. You showed me yesterday the scenery and it was touching to speak to people there. Europe came immediately to your help with equipment, but I want to reassure that we will of course stand by your side, because this will have a long-lasting effect and it will take a lot of joint efforts to rebuild. I want to pay my respect to the victims of this tragedy. And I also want to pay my respect to the firefighters and the forest workers I have met yesterday that so bravely defended against the fires and controlled the blaze, and brought people to safety.
So dear Nicos, indeed, as you said, these events will not stop Cyprus from pursuing a better future. And our visit here today – thank you very much for inviting me to the University of Cyprus to the Centre of Excellence for Research and Innovation, but also to this amazing library. This is all a testimony to that and it shows how committed Cyprus is to a sustainable future. I think this university is setting a very powerful example and it was amazing to see the presentation of the young people in the research centre: the self-driving vehicles; the smart grid; but also the smart organisation of cities; the management of systems, like the water systems; or other topics we have seen out there. This was just a look into the future and that showed us how you are working on the European Green Deal in combination with digitisation, but of course making sure that we have resilient systems. So this was impressive to see that.
This is all part indeed of NextGenerationEU, our massive Recovery Plan. It is worth EUR 800 billion, in today’s prices. It is the largest Recovery Plan since the Marshall Plan, and it gives a powerful signal also to all Europeans that we want to come out stronger from the crisis, from the pandemic than we went into it. With NextGenerationEU, we are shaping our economies and our societies for decades ahead. We are investing like never before in the digitisation – and I have seen the examples. We are making the European Green Deal a reality.
And today, indeed, I am very happy to announce that the European Commission has decided to give its green light to Cyprus’ recovery and resilience plan. It follows indeed an excellent cooperation with your authorities. It was hard work over many, many weeks, but thank you very much for the excellent cooperation. And it followed, of course, the thorough assessment by the Commission. But you see the result, it is a brilliant result, you have described it a bit. It has been designed here in Cyprus and it will spur growth that will deeply improve, modernise and thus transform the Cypriot economy.
Indeed, 41% of the plan will go to the support of our European Green Deal – 41%, this is amazing. There will be investments in energy efficiency and renewables; in sustainable mobility, we saw it; promoting public transportation; but also the use of clean vehicles.
There is a second point that is specific for Cyprus – I have seen now a lot of different plans, but specific for Cyprus – that is that the last days have shown how important it is for Cyprus to dispose of the proper equipment to deal with natural disasters – be it floods, be it fires. And it is very good to see that you have chosen to use this plan to invest heavily in the equipment, for example for fighting fires – EUR 18 million. That is forward looking. And unfortunately, the actual events were the proof how important it is that you have been so far-sighted to integrate that, weeks ahead already of the fires, in the national recovery and resilience plan.
And then there is digitalisation, 23% of the plan are devoted to this landmark goal. You will invest in high-speed broadband, in more efficient and accessible healthcare and public services – that is always a topic that is dear to my heart –, and of course in the digital skills. We had one of the young people asking about the skilling, the upskilling, the reskilling. So that for Cyprus, people of all ages will be skilled for the jobs of the future. And it is doable, it is for a prosperous society important. Now you have the investment to achieve exactly that.
If I look at the overall Cypriot plan, it is very well balanced in reforms and investments, addressing the key structural challenges that Cyprus is facing. The plan will help to connect Cyprus to the European continental network. Your Minister of Energy yesterday was describing that also to me in detail. And thus, it will contribute to the country’s energy integration. It presents crucial reforms indeed from social inclusion to quality education – you have described the different reforms. The plan clearly meets the demanding criteria that we have jointly established in the European Council, and with the European Parliament. It is ambitious, it is far-sighted and it will spur the growth that is necessary for a better future.
So the approval is an important milestone for the disbursement of EUR 1.2 billion over the next years. What you now need is the approval of the Council within the next four weeks, but I do not see any obstacle to that. And then we can disburse already the pre-financing that we have agreed on.
Now, this is by no means the end of the journey, I would say that it is the beginning. Because now: implementation, implementation, implementation. A lot of work, of wonderful work because it is creative, it is innovative, it is future-oriented. We stand by your side, that is important. Your success will be our success, a European success. And now I am happy to hand over to you the symbol for NextGenerationEU.