Statement by President von der Leyen on Slovakia's recovery and resilience plan

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC) i, gepubliceerd op dinsdag 22 juni 2021.

Thank you so much Prime Minister, dear Eduard,

Let me begin by thanking you and the Slovak people for this very warm welcome, and for bringing me here to the Science Park. It was fascinating to hear, in too short time, all these impressive innovations you presented to me and this spirit and this talent that is behind the researchers, but also the Science Park. It is fantastic to see that. It is the talent of the Slovak people. I was glad to hear that a lot of EU i funding is in there, let us continue that with NextGenerationEU.

I know that Slovakia has been hit very hard by the crisis and the virus. And I remember that you endured a very severe second wave, here in Slovakia. It tested the health system, it tested the society at large. I want to let you know how impressed I have been by the solidarity of your people to go through these difficult times. And we are not out of the woods yet, but there is hope and there is confidence for the future. We are getting better at vaccination, the progress is now tangible. We are slowly but surely getting a grip at the virus. We know there is still the delta variant where we have to be careful. But with the progress of vaccination, there is more protection and recovery is underway - as you have just outlined.

With NextGenerationEU comes the necessary investment for our economy that has been so hardly hit by the pandemic and the lockdowns. And with NextGenerationEU, we will reshape Europe for decades ahead of us. Indeed, we are digitising our economies like it has never been done before. We are making the European Green Deal i a reality - we know it is necessary but now comes the investment that we need for it. And we are equipping our societies, so that they are more resilient and that they have the better tools for the future. Our plan, NextGenerationEU, is worth EUR 800 billion in today's prices. It is one of the largest recovery plans ever in Europe.

And indeed today, I am very happy to announce that the European Commission has decided today to give green light to Slovakia's recovery and resilience plan, worth EUR 6.3 billion. My compliments. And I commend you for the speed you have shown - indeed you were the fifth fastest Member State out of 27 - and the quality. Because speed is good but there has to be quality too, and there is a lot of quality in that plan. And therefore, I really want to thank you for the excellent cooperation with your administration. I really want to thank also Maroš Šefčovič, my Vice-President, for the bridge building. So it was an excellent work we have done together. Now we have a good result.

The reforms and the investments that this plan foresees will make Slovakia emerge stronger, more resilient, and better prepared for the future. Now, let us have a look at some of the details of the plan. 43% of Slovakia's plan will support our European Green Deal. In other words, it will help protect our climate and our nature, there are for example large-scale energy efficiency renovations of building - we see that today, heating, cooling, isolation of buildings - very important. 40% of the greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings that are not equipped with modern heating and cooling systems.

There will be a big package on clean mobility. So massive investments in railways, charging infrastructure for electrical vehicles, so that we build for the future already. And there will be a substantial investment in the decarbonisation of the industry, through clean innovative technologies and with increased use of renewable energies. We have seen this here in the Science Park, this entrepreneur spirit, this innovative spirit that is there. For us is important that if there are breakthrough technologies, that we support them right now with the investment, so that they are able to be market feasible and bring the progress that we need, all of us.

The Slovak plan has the same level of ambition on our other landmark goal - you mentioned it, it is digitisation. 21% of the plan are devoted to digitisation. I very much appreciate that you have a large programme for Slovak's pupils to be equipped for future jobs - the knowledge, the skills that are necessary in the age of digitalisation. And of course, that the Slovak businesses get a lot of support with this plan to get digital, that is needed for the Digital Decade we have ahead of us. And, as you mentioned, an enormous step forward will the precise and targeted digitisation of the administration. This is good for the people, it is good for the business. And this modernisation of the administration is a unique opportunity to really make a big step forward.

I was very glad that your plan foresees EUR 1 billion worth of investments to go in the healthcare system. We had here at least three examples for innovation in the healthcare system - prevention cancer, detecting cancer, early diagnoses, so many interesting topics. But here, of course, is way more of investment for the modernisation of the healthcare sector in the hospital sector - all the lessons we have learnt through this crisis. I think this is a really good decision to really reinforce the healthcare system.

In short, the plan clearly meets the demanding criteria we have established jointly. It is ambitious, it is far-sighted, it will help to build a better future for Slovakia. I want this plan also to be a motor to express the talents you have here, to be able to really go forward with Slovak's excellence and to shine on the world stage. We have seen a few examples and there is a lot more, as I have heard and as I know. So our approval today is an important milestone for the disbursement of EUR 6.3 billion over the next years. Once the plan is approved by the Council - which should be, if everything goes well, in July - the pre-financing can start.

As you have said, this is by no means the end of the journey. Now, it starts, the common journey, because now it is about implementing, implementing, implementing this plan. I want you to know that we, the European Commission, stand by your side every step on this journey. It will be a European success, it will be built on a Slovak success. So I am happy to hand to you now the official document, worth the EUR 6.3 billion for NextGenerationEU.