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Good morning and thank you very much to all the journalists who are following this press conference. It follows the one delivered by our colleague Commissioner [in charge of Crisis Management Janez] Lenarčič, who explained the news on humanitarian aid budget, which is also part of the external policies of the European Union.
Let us concentrate today on the most important instruments, which are managed by my colleagues Commissioner [in charge of International Partnerships, Jutta] Urpilainen and Commissioner [in charge of Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér] Várhelyi.
In the framework of a new and revamped long-term European Union budget, boosted by the new funds, the European Recovery Instrument – the “Next Generation European Union” - that is providing an ambitious answer to the challenges the European Union is facing internally and also externally.
You know that the coronavirus crisis has changed the world. It has added new threats to the already existing global challenges. These [challenges] require global responses and the European Union is reinforcing its ambitions with a package that increases to a total of €118 billion proposed for the external action for the period 2021-2027.
The new proposal proposes a top-up of €15.5 billion to the external action policies. This increase will be implemented through two main changes.
First, the increase in the External Action guarantee (EFSD+) under the new instrument on the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument – the so-called NDICI. It increases its capacity up to €130 billion. Previously it was only €60 billion. Now, thanks to this additional provisioning of €10.5 billion, we can cover the risk up to €130 billion on loans.
Then, the humanitarian aid budget, which Commissioner Lenarčič has already explained, that receives an important increase of €5 billion.
These figures that will be explained in detail by my colleagues and friends, the Commissioners in charge of managing these resources, represent our ambition to behave as a global leader and a reliable, responsive and predictable geopolitical actor, promoting our interests and values throughout the world. It is an important step. We have done an important and innovative proposal to simplify and streamline most of our external financing. These new instruments will allow us to have more flexibility and more efficiency on the implementation of our external actions.
There is also the European Peace Facility, which is an off-budget fund, it is not part of the MFF, but it is also important to keep in mind the need of being able to fund our military missions and operations and to provide our partners on peace operations with the needed military defence capabilities in order to be able to face their challenges. But this is going to be discussed with the Member States in the Council I just wanted to remind you remember that apart from the MFF there are other budget lines related to the external action of the European Union, mainly on the field of security and defence.
Thank you very much for the attention.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-191659
Q. If we assume for a moment that you get everything you asked for in the field of security, foreign policy and defence, including the European Defence Fund (EDF) and the European Peace Facility. What kind of difference would that make to the stands Europe can take on its external actions?
Well, if I could have everything I want, for sure it will be a big difference, because the European Defence Fund would allow us to develop our defence industry, avoiding [duplications] and creating synergies between the industries located in different countries. This is very much needed in order to avoid spending useless money doing several times the same thing.
Unhappily, I am afraid I will not get everything I want. Although the European Defence Fund, as you know, is under the management of Commissioner [in charge of Internal Market] Thierry Breton, because it is part of the industrial defence policy. It is not defence policy strictly speaking; it is defence from the industrial point of view. But you cannot pretend to be a military actor, if you do not have capabilities, and the capabilities have to be built and in order to be built you need industry.
I am afraid they are not going to have all the money they need, but with the money they allocate to this fund, we will create more integrated and more effective industrial capacities in Europe, in order to fulfil our defence needs.
About the Peace Facility: you know that the Peace Facility is urgently needed because we train the troops of our partners - in the Sahel, for example - we train them, but we are not able to provide them with the tools, the military capabilities [needed] in order to face the challenges they have to face in the battleground. We have to provide them with the military equipment. To train them is not good enough. There has to be training, but they have to [be able to use] have the capabilities that the fight in which they are involved requires. This costs money and if we have a look at the budget of these countries, the amount of the defence expenditure is so big that no European country would be able to afford this very much unbalanced distribution of resources. So, I think that we need the capacity of providing them with the military capabilities that complement the training we are providing.
Q. You spoke in the past about the need for the European Union to speak a language of power. So, I wonder how you thought this external financing can help to do that? Secondly, I would like to ask an unrelated question. I wonder if you could react to the killing of George Floyd in the United States. In your opinion, does this affect the United States ability to uphold human rights around the world?
We, here in Europe, like the people of the United States, we are shocked and appalled by the death of George Floyd.
I think that all societies must remain vigilant against the excess use of force and ensure that all such incidents are addressed swiftly, effectively, and in full respect for the rule of law and human rights.
We have to be sure, everywhere, especially in societies which are based on the rule of law, democratic representation and respect for freedoms and liberties, that people who are in charge of taking care of the order are not using their capacities in the way that has been used in this very, very unhappy death of George Floyd. This is an abuse of power, and this has to be denounced and combat[ted] in the States and everywhere.
We support the right to peaceful protest, and we also condemn violence and racism of any kind and for sure we call for a de-escalation of tensions.
We trust in the ability of the Americans to come together to heal as a nation and to address these important issues during this difficult time. Allow me to repeat that all lives matter. Black lives also matter.
About the language of power: if you do not have tools, you can use the languages, but nobody will believe you. In order to be credible you have to have capacities. Not only military capacities. When one hears the word ‘power’, [one] immediately thinks about military, no? Power is soldiers, tanks, fighters. No, power is something more than that. This is hard power. There are different kinds of powers. Today we have good examples of retaliations that do not use military force.
Power means the capacity of influencing, defending your interest and values and defending your partners using capacities. One of the most important capacities today is financial capacity. As my colleague Jutta [Urpilainen, Commissioner in charge of International Partnerships] has said, we want to promote growth, job creation, and this requires financial assistance. This requires our capacity to participate on the development of the countries on which we very much rely in order to ensure our security – especially, as Olivér [Várhelyi, Commissioner in charge of Neighbourhood and Enlargement] says, on the immediate neighbourhood. If we want to be credible on the Balkans, if we want to use a certain capacity for influencing, we need to have resources. Power starts with financial power. And then, maybe, in some occasion you have to use other powers, but do not believe that the word ‘power’ is only related to the military interpretation of the word.
With the Peace Facility, the European Defence Fund and with the external foreign policy, we have to intervene also on military capabilities. As I said, in the Sahel and the use of the European Peace Facility, [we will be able] to provide instruments, equipment, not only training but also the power, the strict power understood as the usual force.
Apart from that, I want to stress that the word ‘power’ has a complex and plural interpretation that goes from trade to financing, deals and agreements on climate change. There is a complex set of capacities that have to be put together in order to use power. Power in the broad sense of the word.
Q. It seems that we have a situation now in the South-Eastern borders with Greece and Turkey. Turkey has announced that they will start exploring and exploiting parts of the continental shelf that now belongs to Greece. They have published a map mapping the area and, from the map, you will see that these places are extremely close to the Greek islands. Turkey says they do that due to the Memorandum of Understanding that they have signed with Libya some months ago, the one that the EU does not recognise. What is going to be your course of action from now concerning this situation that poses a security threat to Greece as it is?
We are in close contact with the our colleagues, the Foreign Ministers of Greece and also Cyprus in order to follow the situation of the drillings and we are calling Turkey to stop drillings in the areas where there is an exclusive economic zone or territorial waters of Cyprus and Greece. On that, the Foreign Affairs Council already delivered a strong message addressed to Turkey.
In our negotiations with Turkey – well, at the time being there are just talks – this is an issue of utmost importance. Some Member States even considered that, as a drillings continues, these talks should not be continuing. I think that the only way of solving these kind of issues is to reaching out in order to see what can we do in order to make Turkey understand that our good relations will depend critically on the respect of the sovereignty of Greece and Cyprus and on the territorial waters under dispute.
Q. We have read that you will start this week to work on sanctions towards Russian officials, because of the cyberattack on Germany. I would like to know if it is correct and when do you expect a decision on that.
f/u. You have the right to answer a question or not answer a question but you do not have the right to say ‘this is a press conference on that issue’ and then answer on other issues if the question is good for you. We had some problems on Friday with the High Representative press conference. We had no occasion to have a more in-depth discussion on China, just short answers, it is okay, technical problem. I will put again my question, you can chose not to answer but do not tell me this is because of MFF, because you have answered on Floyd, on Russia G7 and other issues. Are you going to work on sanctions against Russia because of the Russian cyberattack on Germany?
I take the freedom of answering questions which are highly relevant in the world stage today. I suppose you are aware of what is happening in the United States with respect to the murder of George Floyd and also how important, geopolitically, is the decision of how the G7 works. These are issues on which I have information I can share publically. I understand this is a good occasion to spread the message of the European Union, and I used this opportunity.
With respect to this issue of the cyberattack and the sanctions on Russia I do not have any information that I can share with you at the moment, that is why I am not answering the question.
Q. On the European Defence Fund, the money is slightly lower (€8 billion) than the one that was in the original proposal (€11.7 billion). Since the High Representative has a double hat, both in the Commission and in the Council of the European Union, I was wondering whether he sees any political space to increase the money for the European Defence Fund and whether he thinks that Member States will actually be more willing to open the wallet there. Secondly, I would like to know whether the HRVP supports the idea of inviting Russian to the G7. Thirdly, I was wondering whether the EU will follow the UK in offering an accelerated pathway for Hongkongers who want to leave.
The European Defence Fund, as I tried to explain before, is under the responsibility of another Commissioner, our colleague Thierry Breton. Because it is an issue of internal market and industrial development on the field of defence, it is not exactly defence, which is my portfolio. But, in any case, I am very much interested in supporting this European Defence Fund, because it will be the continuation of the work that we are doing through the European Defence Agency, who tries to study what and how the European defence capabilities can be enhanced – and it depends a lot on industrial capacities. I would be very much supportive of the allocation to the European Defence Fund. As I am attending the European Council, I will use the opportunity to try to explain that the European Defence Fund and the European Peace Facility – this second one, out of the budget – are important tools in order to enhance our security and defence in the long run.
The European Union considers that the G7 format is a vital multilateral framework among countries guided by shared values, interests and commitments. They sit together because they share values, interests and commitments. Cooperation among like-minded partners is crucial – even more in such difficult times.
Russia’s participation in the – at that time G8 – has been suspended until Russia changes course and the environment allows for the G8 to again have a meaningful discussion. This is not currently the case. I think I have to address you to the Hague Declaration from March 2014 explaining why the G8 became the G7 and why it is still difficult to believe that in the current circumstances it can again become the G8.
I would also like to stress the fact that the prerogative of the G7 chair – in this case the United States - to issue guest invitations, which reflects the host’s priorities. But changing the membership or changing the format on a permanent basis is not a prerogative of the G7 chair.
Q. Quel sera le montant de la facilité de soutien à la paix? Sera-t-il de 10,5 milliards d’euros comme initialement proposé ou de 4,5 milliards d’euros comme il était apparu dans la proposition de la présidence finlandaise ?
Well I hope the Finnish presidency’s proposal is not going to be the one adopted by the Council because it is very, very low compared to the needs. I hope the Council will understand the importance of this Peace Facility and will increase the allocation compared to the Finnish presidency’s proposal. By how much, I do not know, but I think the Finnish presidency was presenting a severe cut which falls below the needs for which we have created this facility.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-191661