(Source: European Commission)
Thank you very much Mr President and Mr Prime Minister. Thank you very much for welcoming me to Poland at such a defining moment for our Union. Russia’s war in Ukraine is raging, with disastrous consequences. Millions of people have fled the increasing and incessant shelling, the ruins and the chaos on the ground. Faced with Putin’s crimes and aggression, our most important asset is solidarity. First of all, solidarity with the people fleeing the war and those internally displaced in Ukraine. Here, I want to thank the Polish people from the bottom of my heart for their outstanding generosity. History will not forget their solidarity. You have welcomed more than three and a half million refugees with open arms. You opened your houses and your hearts. This is a shining example to the whole world. Second, we need solidarity with the Member States most impacted by the shockwaves of this war, in particular those who, like Poland, are the object of the Kremlin’s energy blackmail.
Indeed, Russia has been using energy as an instrument of pressure and blackmail. We do not accept this blackmail. This is why the European Commission has put forward REPowerEU. This is our plan to get rid of the dependency on Russian fossil fuels as soon as possible. And the first important pillar is diversification away from Russia towards other suppliers. In this respect, I welcome today’s OPEC announcement that they will increase the supply of oil. Because this makes it easier for us to wind down and get rid of Russian oil, and move towards other regions of the world to get the necessary oil.
And of course, the second important pillar is massive investment in renewables. This is clean energy. It is not only good for our climate, but it is also good for our independence and our energy security of supply. Renewables are produced at home. They create good jobs here. This is precisely what you are doing here, for example, at PSE. When I look at the organisation of the grid, with the support of NextGenerationEU, you are powering Poland’s future. A future where clean energy, like offshore wind, as I heard, here in PSE, will progressively replace fossil fuels in Polish homes and businesses. This is NextGenerationEU. And let me explain the plan: The plan overall has EUR 800 billion to reshape our continent for the future generations.
Yesterday, the European Commission gave its green light to Poland’s recovery and resilience plan, after a thorough assessment. Almost 43% of the Polish plan’s budget supports our climate objectives. It will finance the energy renovation of hundreds of thousands of buildings. The Polish plan also foresees EUR 5 billion for the development of renewables – solar, onshore and offshore wind energy – and the very interesting development of hydrogen. Finally, the plan dedicates EUR 7.5 billion to clean mobility. Investing, for example, in electric buses and trams for Polish cities.
Then there is a second priority. That is digitalisation. 21% of the Polish plan is dedicated to digitalisation. It will, for example, support high-speed broadband roll-out throughout the country. It will provide pupils, students and employees with new skills that they need for the economy of tomorrow. It will invest in Poland’s very important cybersecurity and in better, more accessible public services, for example, for businesses and citizens.
Then, the third point I want to mention is that the plan also includes significant efforts to strengthen Poland’s economic and social fabric. For example, better childcare, to support women’s access to the labour market; or a modernisation of the hospital system; and considerable support to small and medium companies.
As you know, in all of our recovery plans in NextGenerationEU, we have investments coupled with reforms. And the approval of this plan is linked to clear commitments by Poland on the independence of the judiciary. First of all, the current Disciplinary Chamber will be abolished and replaced by an independent and impartial court established by law. Second, the disciplinary regime has to be reformed. Controversial disciplinary offences like, for example, the requests to the European Court of Justice, or the questioning of the status of a judge, have to be removed. And third, the judges affected by the rulings of the Disciplinary Chamber shall have the right to have their case reviewed by the new Chamber. These three commitments, taken in the form of milestones, have to be fulfilled before any payment can be made. A first payment will only be possible when the new law is in force and ticks all the boxes under this contract. In addition, Poland must demonstrate by the end of 2023 that all unlawfully dismissed judges should by then have been reinstated. When delivered, this is progress, but we are not at the end of the road on the rule of law in Poland.
For the first time in our history, Europeans are financing a recovery plan like NextGenerationEU of this unprecedented scale. It is common European money – and Member States and the Parliament have cast in law that they have to be certain that this money is spent in line with our values and rules, everywhere in our Union. This is why we established a monitoring process that this money is spent wisely. And we have given ourselves the instruments to make sure that the budget is protected. Because in the end, it is the European citizens’ money. Today, our approval is an important step for the disbursement of over EUR 35 billion to Poland over the next years. It is a first step, as the money will be disbursed when the reforms and investments are in place. Implementing this plan will contribute to our common goal: a better future for the Polish people, for Poland and for Europe.