Speech: Prime minister Alexander De Croo addresses European Parliament (Jan. 16, 2024)

Sarhan Basem

Prime minister Alexander De Croo addresses European Parliament and presented the program of activities of the Belgian Presidency.

Here is the full speech text:

Debate European Parliament – Presentation of the program of activities of the Belgian Presidency
Jan. 16, 2024
Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear colleagues,
2024 will be a crucial year.
A lot is at stake for Europe.
A lot at stake for the West.
A year where our democracies and liberties will be put to the test.
Not only with election for this house, but equally for the US Congress and the American presidency.
If 2024 brings us “America first” again, it will be more than ever “Europe on its own”.
We should not fear this perspective. We should embrace it.
By putting Europe on a more solid footing.
Stronger, more sovereign, more self-reliant.
A Europe that delivers, and makes a difference in people’s lives.
Protecting them.
Strengthening the economy.
Preparing the common European future.
The Belgian presidency wants to contribute to this effort.
And we are grateful we can build on the efforts of the many successes of the Spanish Presidency.

Ladies and gentlemen,
In spite of all the challenges we face, Europe is a good place to live.
If not, the best.
The euro and the internal market are the cornerstones of our prosperity.
We managed to turn the COVID page faster than many others.
And we achieved unity and solidarity in the face of a Russian war of aggression against an innocent
Ukraine.
A solidarity we absolutely need to keep up, with the Ukraine facility and continued military support.
For America and our other allies, the support for Ukraine is a strategic question, a geopolitical
consideration.
For us, Europeans, the support for Ukraine is existential. It goes to the heart of our security and our
prosperity.
Ladies and gentlemen,
One of the biggest challenges ahead is keeping our European economy strong and vibrant.
Europe cannot become an economic museum.
If we want to remain that innovative, creative, capital-rich and productive continent, we will have to
switch into a higher gear.
The United States of America gave its industry a giant fiscal boost.
A 1.2 trillion dollar subsidy bazooka that is making even the biggest European member states flinch.
On the other side, we see China strengthening its grip over world market.
The only way not to get squeezed, is to revive the spirit of the great Jacques Delors.
Opening up the markets of the future for European competition.
Energy, digital, artificial intelligence, defense and capital markets.
The problem is: Europe is strong in innovation. But weak in scaling up these innovations.
Our young entrepreneurs struggle today to bring their ideas to market.
They struggle finding risk capital and venture capital, to grow their business and conquer new markets.

We need to help them to go from “invented in Europe”, to “developed in Europe”, all the way to “made
in Europe”.
To do that, we need more than just a few pockets of capital in a handful of European cities. We need
the whole of Europe – every corner of our continent – to turn into one big capital market; accessible
to all young entrepreneurs from Stockholm to Naples, from Dublin to Sofia.
That is why the Belgian presidency has asked former Italian Prime Minister, Enrico Letta, to come with
a report, to give the European single market a new momentum.
And need to make a similar shift when it comes to our industry.
To keep industrial investments strong.
To keep industrial production here with us, in Europe.
We need an Industrial Deal alongside the Green Deal.
This is not only vital for our prosperity.
But also crucial to win the fight against climate change.
The climate policies of China and the US contain an abundance of carrots for their industry. While we,
here in Europe, all too often grab for the stick.
By not merely fixing the climate goals, but also nailing down the way in which these goals need to be
achieved.
Leaving too little room for our companies, too little room for innovation and creativity.
In order to prevail in the fight against climate change, we need a Europe with focus.
To focus on bringing down Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
To support companies who develop and use these clean technologies.
To become more technologically neutral in our policies.
And let us not forget: to create the necessary social support for these climate policies.
By making green investments accessible for all, not just the happy few.
That is why our Presidency wants to give a new impetus to our social agenda.
On the initiative of the President of the European Commission, we will bring together social partners to
discuss the future of social dialogue to confront the challenges that we face.
To discuss how disruptive changes in our social and economic models, such as artificial intelligence,
can be best addressed.

This initiative goes hand in hand with the Belgian Presidency’s ambition to ensure a strong
implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights as we prepare for the next institutional cycle.

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Sarhan Basem is Brussels Morning's Senior Correspondent to the European Parliament. With a Bachelor's degree in English Literature, Sarhan brings a unique blend of linguistic finesse and analytical prowess to his reporting. Specializing in foreign affairs, human rights, civil liberties, and security issues, he delves deep into the intricacies of global politics to provide insightful commentary and in-depth coverage. Beyond the world of journalism, Sarhan is an avid traveler, exploring new cultures and cuisines, and enjoys unwinding with a good book or indulging in outdoor adventures whenever possible.