(Source: European Commission)
Thank you very much Taoiseach, Dear Micheál,
Thank you for the warm welcome today. And thank you very much for the visit here, at the Grangegorman campus, the Technological University of Dublin. Indeed, as I understand, it is the first and it is the largest technological university. And we have seen a lot of its excellence, be it science, technology, engineering, mathematics. And you have students from all across the globe, so a fascinating environment – very inspiring. And for me, the most interesting part for example was to see the Micron Agritech, where students are able, through digital technologies and AI – artificial intelligence –, to support the farmers in their daily life with for example their animals, on animals’ health. So this shows the future and this shows, of course, the excellence that is happening here, the development of research and technologies that are really future-proof.
We have the pleasure to be here because NextGenerationEU will also fund this university. And indeed, NextGenerationEU is Europe’s Recovery Plan. But it is of course much more than that. As you have described, it was a common effort to get there. And we know that NextGenerationEU – EUR 800 billion in today’s prices – will reshape our continent for decades ahead. One thing is for sure, we are making the European Green Deal a reality, by investing in it. We are digitising our economies, as we have never done before.
And this is largest recovery package – after this difficult and horrible pandemic – that Europe as ever seen since the Marshall Plan. And it is necessary because we want to spur the recovery for Europe and Ireland, indeed, now and for the future. We want to be stronger, coming out stronger out of this pandemic than we went into it. And we want to emphasise and we want to invest in our common objectives that are mainly the European Green Deal, it is digitalisation and it is the resilience.
So today, indeed, I am very happy to announce that the European Commission has decided to give its green light to Ireland’s recovery and resilience plan. I want to thank you, Taoiseach, for the excellent cooperation with your team and the Commission’s team. There was a thorough assessment by the Commission, but really thank you for the detailed work over weeks now to put forward this ambitious plan. The reforms and the investments it foresees will accelerate the green and the digital transition in Ireland. And it will make the country even better prepared for the future.
If I may point at some specific points: 42% of this plan will support our climate objectives. There is investment in large-scale energy renovation of buildings – because we know that energy consumption in buildings is high. There is investment in clean mobility – for example the electrification of the commuter railway network in Cork. NextGenerationEU will also boost climate innovation in Ireland, by investing in research and skills. This is, of course, to the benefit of the Irish businesses, by promoting emission-reducing technologies, for example, and by creating thus the jobs of the future, the jobs of tomorrow. These investments are matched by ambitious reforms. They will help Ireland to reach our EU-wide climate goals, including climate neutrality by 2050. And it includes incentives to use – and you have described that to me – renewables for example to produce clean energy, to support to businesses, which want to go into that direction.
Indeed, just this week, on Wednesday, the Commission has put on the table a very ambitious Package. It is basically the roadmap of how we are going to reach our 2030 climate goals, moving towards climate neutrality in 2050. We call it ‘Fit for 55′. And by presenting this Package, Europe is the very first continent on this globe that not only has ambitious goals but is showing the comprehensive architecture, how we are going to get there. And it is very good to see that entrepreneurs in Ireland are already embracing these opportunities the green transition is bringing to them. It is also true for the farmers, the improvement of forestry. And taking good care of our natural environment is crucial. All this offers huge opportunities, for example for carbon farming – we have been speaking about it – for the farmers. Because in the end, we will all benefit if the health of our planet is improved.
The Irish plan will also dedicate significant resources to our other landmark goal – and that is the digital transformation. Ireland, and Irish businesses, are already front-runners in this area. With 32% of the plan’s budget dedicated to this goal, NextGenerationEU will give another boost to maintain your leadership in that field. Just as an example, EUR 40 million will be invested in the Technological University Transformation Fund – and this is great news. What I really like about the Irish plan is that it is also very much dedicated to people. It includes significant investments in the digital skills, better connectivity, more efficient and accessible public services and, of course, investment in particular in the healthcare sector.
In short, the plan clearly meets the demanding criteria we have jointly agreed on. It is a well-balanced plan of investments and reforms. It will help Ireland to achieve the green and the digital transition. And in parallel, it will improve the labour market, the business environment and the provisions of social and affordable housing, just to name a few examples.
As I said, we are giving our green light today to this far-sighted plan. The approval is an important milestone for the disbursement of close to EUR 1 billion over the next years. And now with confidence, I can hand over to you the positive assessment of the Irish plan.