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Evropská komise: Projev předsedkyně Evropské komise von der Leyen na Green Deal Summitu v Praze

26. září 2023 | Evropská komise
Prime Minister Fiala, dear Petr, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, it was the beginning of November of 1989, when a young student from Bohemia took to the streets to protest against the Communist regime because the air in his hometown was simply unbreathable. It was the first spark of the Velvet Revolution. 35 years on, we all understand that fossil fuels are poison for both our individual health and for our climate. Just a month ago, I was in Greece, as the country was ravaged by the worst wildfires in Europe in living memory. And only a few weeks later, the same country was hit by three years' worth of rainfall in just three days. And the same is happening from Libya to Slovenia, from Spain to the Philippines. That is the reality of a boiling planet.

The European Green Deal was born out of the necessity to protect people and planet. But it was also designed as an opportunity to build our future prosperity. And since its inception, it has delivered on its promise. Last year, for instance, greenhouse gas emissions in Europe went down by roughly 2.5%, while the economy went up by 3.5%. We have successfully reduced our emissions while growing our economy. Right here, in Prague, for example along bus line 170. Buses on that route start to be powered by hydrogen. They make almost no noise and have zero emissions. And crucially, this new generation of buses is produced by Škoda – the Czech automotive champion. And this is not the only example of hydrogen innovation made in Czechia. Tatra Trucks will present in November its first hydrogen-powered heavy-duty vehicle. It has been designed together with a host of Czech research institutions, for difficult terrains and extreme tasks, including firefighting and rescue operations. This was unthinkable until just a few years ago. Tatra is already a Czech national pride, as the third oldest motor vehicle company in the world. And they are now exploring the frontier of clean innovation. There is an immense potential of Czech industries. This country of inventors and innovators has been for centuries the beating heart of European manufacture. And you are now bringing your great history into the future.

And with the European Green Deal, Europe is at your side. European businesses are developing new ideas and solutions. What they need to scale up is predictability to plan their investment. A clear route that sets the direction of travel. And this is exactly what the European Green Deal is delivering. When we embarked on this journey four years ago, we set a clear vision for Europe to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. We cast this vision into our Climate Law. And we gave ourselves targets with a reliable roadmap. This was also possible thanks to Czechia. Under your Presidency of the Council of the European Union, dear Petr, you played a critical role in passing our Fit for 55 legislation, the main pillar of our Green Deal. This is what European companies were waiting for. A strong sense of direction from Europe, so that they could invest and innovate. Thank you so much for your contribution in making this happen.

But the European Green Deal was never only about rules. It was backed by massive investment – NextGenerationEU and REPowerEU – to speed up the transition to the clean economy of tomorrow. And we have seen the transformative power of these investments in our energy sector. When Putin tried to use natural gas to blackmail us, the European Green Deal was Europe's answer. Here in Czechia, for instance, you have used European resources to make your buildings more energy efficient. And in the first year of the war, you have installed almost four times more solar capacity than the year before. It is because of this impressive progress that your government has rightly decided to double your solar energy target for 2025. Today, Europe, for the first time in our history, generates more electricity from wind and sun than from gas. Renewable energy is not only good for the planet, but it is home-grown, it creates good jobs here and it is good for our energy independence.

And the European Green Deal is transforming well beyond our energy sector. Since the very outset, one of our key principles was to bring everyone on board. Let me give you two examples from right here in Czechia, on energy-intensive industries and coal-mining regions. Glass production is a national Czech pride. And rightly so. Europe cherishes these great national industrial treasures. And today, with the Volta project, we are investing in cleaner glass production. We are supporting the electrification of existing flat-glass furnaces so that they can cut emissions by more than 75%. And this is vital to make the European flat-glass industry competitive, also in the clean economy of tomorrow.

The second example has to do with those regions that need greater investment before they can embrace a cleaner future. Like the three coal regions of Czechia – Karlovy Vary, Ústí and Moravia-Silesia. I know that many local communities are concerned about their future. Because thousands of people work in lignite mines and in the coal sector. This is why we have made our utmost priority, under the European Green Deal, to invest in those regions. Our Just Transition Fund is investing EUR 1.6 billion here in Czechia, with a strong focus on creating new hydrogen valleys in the very same regions that now rely on coal. We are investing all along the clean hydrogen value chain, from production to storage, from transport to industrial applications. And these investments will create thousands of future-proof jobs for Czech workers. This is the essence of the European Green Deal – to deliver as our new growth strategy, for all industries and all regions in Europe.

But our job is far from done. European business is still grappling with a set of challenges that hamper innovation. Allow me to briefly touch upon three of them: First, high energy prices. In summer 2022, at the height of the energy crisis, gas prices were ten times higher than today. Today, energy prices in Europe are back to pre-war levels. That is an achievement due to our unity. But the price we pay for energy is structurally higher than in other continents. And this is an issue for our global competitiveness. The solution is within reach. It depends on the energy mix of each country. To be very clear: This is and will remain a national prerogative. We know that nuclear plays a central role in Czechia's energy system. It is important as a baseload. And we know that it will continue to require investment to play an important role in the Czech energy transition. The same goes for renewables. If the share of renewables in our energy mix continues to rise at the current pace, we will soon be protected against the high prices of imported fossil fuels. So we must stay the course, to make cheap and clean energy available for all Europeans.

Second, on unfair competition. Too often our European companies face the competition of heavily subsidised foreign players. Think about the auto industry. Czech carmakers are now investing heavily in new lines of electric vehicles. But at the same time, global markets are flooded with cheap Chinese electric cars. And their price is kept artificially low by huge state subsidies. This is why we are launching an anti-subsidy investigation into electric vehicles coming from China. European companies will always be ready for competition. But it has to be fair.

And finally, each economic sector faces specific challenges in its own clean transition. Some industries struggle with the slow pace of permitting. Others with excessive reporting obligations. Most industries are facing difficulties in the access to raw materials or to a skilled workforce. With our Green Deal Industrial Plan, we are addressing these challenges across economic sectors. But the time has now come to engage with each and every industrial ecosystem. This is why we are launching a new series of Clean Transition Dialogues with industry. And this includes of course the Czech industry. We want to address the specific issues that individual sectors are dealing with. We are in this together.

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Czechia is a country of reformers and pioneers. It is the birthplace of electric trains and of the word ‘robot'. Czechia is a place where tradition and modernity, past and future have always danced with each other. You have everything you need to be a European leader in the clean economy of tomorrow: a solid industrial base; the ingenuity to leap forward. Let us seize the opportunities of the European Green Deal. The future of Czech industries is in your hands.

Many thanks.

Ursula von der Leyen

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