(Source: European Commission)
Thank you Prime Minister, dear Andrej, for this visit, first of all, to this magnificent Prague State Opera and this National Museum here. So I am deeply impressed and it is wonderful to see how these gems from the 19th century are now fit for the 21st century, entirely renovated. In the State Opera House, we saw also the modernisation and adaptation to move towards climate neutrality by a heating system, a ventilation system, a water management system that optimises the energy performance – very impressive to see that. And I think these two achievements here illustrate your commitment to a sustainable future in Czechia. And of course, NextGenerationEU will support it.
Indeed, NextGenerationEU is reshaping our continent for future generations. With the investment of NextGenerationEU, we make the European Green Deal a reality; we are also building our digital leadership in Europe; and we are equipping our societies to be stronger, to be more resilient and, in particular, to deal with the future health challenges we might be seeing. NextGenerationEU is worth EUR 800 billion, in today’s prices. And with this, it is one of the largest recovery plans in the world. It is the recovery Europe and Czechia need now, and the one they need to build for the future.
Indeed, today the European Commission is giving its green light to Czechia’s recovery and resilience plan after a very good cooperation and a thorough assessment. Let me describe a little bit what is important in this plan. Almost 42% of the plan’s budget support the climate objectives, the European Green Deal. And this includes large-scale energy renovation of public and residential buildings – we just saw how it should be in the State Opera. It includes indeed – and I am very glad about that – investment in childcare, investment in social care facilities. But the Czech plan foresees much more also to protect our climate, for example the construction of charging points for electric vehicles or the investment in clean public transports, the investment in safe and modern railways, but also the investment in renewable energies, as well as the infrastructure for waste recycling.
And we all see these days how important it is to invest in our fight against climate change, against global warming. The extreme and destructive weather events are becoming more frequent and more intensive. We had these terrible events in Belgium, in the Netherlands, in Germany, but also in Austria and Switzerland. And they remind us how high the costs are if we do not act – the costs in human suffering and also the financial costs.
And Czechia has experienced enormous suffering recently, too. You know the tornado that has claimed six lives and caused terrible devastation, 2,000 houses have been destroyed. And I just want to express that I really feel for the citizens and the businesses that have lost so much. And my hope is – but in our conversation, my confidence also is – that the current flooding will spare the Czech Republic. But the big picture is clear: We have to do more on climate protection and we have to do more on climate adaptation, to be resilient also for those incidents, and we have to act quickly.
This Czech plan has a second landmark goal, and that is digitalisation – 21% of its budget goes into the digitalisation. It will make public services more accessible and more efficient, and in particular the healthcare sector. It will also connect the country with the expansion of high speed Internet. And I am very glad to see that NextGenerationEU will also help Czech schools to become more digital, also by investing in the skills of the teachers and of course investing in brand new equipment – that is for the next generation. And of course, the plan will support Czech businesses to become more innovative, to create new products, to grow and to create good jobs in the future.
And then the third point I wanted to mention is that I am very glad that you choose to significantly invest in strengthening your national health system. Indeed, the Czech plan foresees investments in eHealth but also investment in fighting cancer. So on the one hand, the very important screening programmes all over the country. But, on the other hand, also the focus on a special care unit. Highly specialised centres are the ones where you develop the new technologies and the new therapies in fighting effectively cancer. And that combined with a national reform of long-term care. So this is a Czech plan for Czech people, enabled through the European Union.
In short, the plan meets the demanding criteria we have jointly – you described the process – established. It combines the investment for the green and digital transition, the reforms addressing most of Czechia’s structural challenges. And our approval is an important milestone now for the disbursement of EUR 7 billion over the next years. Once the plan is approved by the Council – that is now the next step –, we will be ready to disburse the pre-financing. And the release of the rest of the funds will be performance-based.
With NextGenerationEU, we want to rebuild a robust economy everywhere in our Union. And we know that for NextGenerationEU to be a success, we have to be certain that this money is spent in line with the rules, with the country’s recovery and the citizens best interests at heart. And this is why Heads of State or Government have agreed to closely monitor that this money is spent wisely. And we have given ourselves the instruments to make sure that the budget is well protected because, after all, it is the European taxpayers’ money.
With that, I am happy to hand over to you, Prime Minister, the plan for Czechia and NextGenerationEU.