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Speech given yesterday by Executive Vice-President Timmermans at the Green Deal Summit in Prague

Speech given recently (26 September 2022) by Executive Vice-President Timmermans at the Green Deal Summit in Prague.

"Check against delivery"

Good morning everyone, 

It is a real pleasure to be here, to be back in the city I have been very often, going back to the 1980s – that will tell you how old I am. 

I have seen it go through so many transformations, and one of the biggest experiences in my life is to see these transformations and to have met the incredible people who had the foresight to look for freedom and fight for freedom when this was seen by many in Eastern West as an illusion. People like Vaclav Havel - the man who I admire without limits and whose library is next door. 

But I'm not here today to speak to you about challenges' past. I want to speak to you about challenges of today. 

In my view, humanity is being challenged at a level that we have seldom seen before in human history. And all these challenges are coming together at the same time. That is creating an immense amount of insecurity in our population, and that security is sadly very often politically exploited: looking for scapegoats, someone to blame, easy answers to difficult questions. 

Now I think this is a time when politicians should have the courage to say that complex problems require complex solutions. And that to complex challenges, there are no easy answers. 

In this context, I want to say that the first and foremost challenge we need to face now, we are facing, is Putin's threat. He has a plan to recreate the Russian Empire. He has a plan to weaken our democracies. He has a plan to divide Europeans with his lives, with his propaganda, with his agents all over the European Union. He has a plan. And if he succeeds in that plan, we will be poor, we will remain dependent on someone who wants to impose his will, our democracy will be undermined, and the personal freedoms so many people have fought for, could be lost. 

So our most immediate task today is to stand together, to not let him divide us, to discover, uncover and show his lies, and to make sure we help our citizens go through the next couple of years, which will be very difficult because of the energy situation. 

Let me be very clear from the outset. It is easier - clearly also part of Moscow's agenda - to blame the Green Deal for high energy prices. Well frankly, look back over the last couple of years: he has step by step executed his plan, by step by step reducing the supply of his gas to Europe, which step by step led to the price increase. The price was already high before the war began. 

Now, Europe is on the trajectory to stop being dependent on Russian hydrocarbons. At the beginning of the war, the end of February 40% of our gas came from Russia. Today, only 9% from our gas comes from Russia, which is quite an achievement, in quite a short period of time. 

The only way we can increase our energy sovereignty over the long run is by no longer being dependent on hydrocarbons. 

The only way to do that we don't have: we have very little of our own gas, we have no oil, coal is really on its way out. So the only way to do that is through renewables and of course, in parts also through nuclear. 

That is the only way we can make sure we can provide our citizens and our enterprises with the energy they need to grow and prosper without becoming dependent on those who are trying to use their energy resources to blackmail others. 

I have just come back from the United States, where I had a visit to the federal government in Washington, but also to the United Nations. The one thing with all the divisions we have in the world, the one thing everybody agrees on is that we are faced with an existential crisis, which is the climate crisis. 

Whether you talk about droughts in Africa and in Europe, whether you talk about the immense drought in China that is crippling the country, whether you talk about the floods. Latest example is Pakistan: one third of the country covered in water. When you talk about all the other issues happening: harvests going wrong all over the world, people fleeing. You know this is a crisis we have to respond to. This is not a crisis we have the luxury to ignore. 

The bad news is that it is getting worse and it is getting worse fast. The good news is we can do something about this. We can actually address it and make sure it doesn't get completely out of hand. And the way to do that, from a European perspective, is the European Green Deal. 

It will offer a transformation of our societies and our economies that embraces the opportunities the industrial revolution is offering, and addresses the threats that come with the emissions of CO2 and other gases that threaten our natural environment. 

I believe if you want to get to climate neutrality in 2050, you have to have a plan that starts not yesterday, not the day before yesterday, should have started years ago. And Europe has for now decades demonstrated that you can grow your economy and reduce your emissions. There is no contradiction between that. We can do even better. 

Czechia for me is one example of a country where - I have been coming here already in this mandate three times, which is more or less the most I have been to any Member State, except perhaps from my own country. Because if I can convince the Czech people, I can convince everyone. Because Czech people are, as lots of other ones told me, I want to get nature, show us and then we will believe it. 

And I like that attitude because it gives us an opportunity to show what we are doing. It also gives us an opportunity to show what the possibilities are for Czech citizens and Czech society. The fact that so many Czech citizens are now scrambling to put solar panels on the rooftops shows how rational they are. They know how to bring down their energy bills. They know how to create sustainable energy for themselves. And we need to help them. 

Industry need to react to that. There is huge potential for industry in reinventing and building solar panels, heat pumps turbines, and anything adding to that. You know what is the most sold electric car in my country - outperforming Tesla and others – it is the ŠKODA Enyaq, in the Netherlands, that is the most sold electric car. 

That is a huge opportunity for ŠKODA and the Czech industry. Now, if I had to answer all the questions Svetlana put on the table, I will be standing here until tomorrow morning. But I promised that I would keep it relatively short so that you could put some questions to me. 

The fundamental point I want to make is this: we have never been challenged individually and as a society as badly as today. The way we will overcome the next couple of years, addressing the issue of energy poverty more than anything else, convincing our citizens we are able to make sure they can get through winter without being cold. If we can do that in the next couple of years, then I think after that, the transformation into a green and sustainable economy will be strongly supported, also by the citizens in the Czech Republic. 

We have to resist the easy answers the scapegoating. We have to resist the propaganda Putin is trying to use as an instrument as a weapon in his war. We have to understand that he has made out of gas a weapon and we need to react to that. 

Let's stand firm. Let's stand together and in united Europe. A committed Europe to this transformation. A committed Europe to see Ukraine come out of this victorious is a Europe that is unbreakable. 

Thank you.

Click here for the full press release

 

Original article link: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/SPEECH_22_5794

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