“Today is 9 May, Europe Day. This time, we are celebrating it in circumstances that are very serious, with the coronavirus pandemic still posing a threat to Germany, Europe, and almost every country in the world. This is what sets this 9 May apart from earlier ones. But it is precisely this commemoration of the early beginnings of European unification 70 years ago that can help us find a quicker and more successful way out of the crisis together. Back in those days, European cooperation made it possible to rebuild Europe after the war and establish freedom, peace and economic prosperity. Today, we also need a Europe that is robust and strong and pools all of our strengths to prevent this acute crisis from turning into permanent decline and, eventually, failure. We need more Europe than we have seen in the recent months, so that Europe can emerge from the crisis with fresh vigour.
Germany, which will take over the Presidency of the European Council in July, feels that it has a special responsibility and needs to actively contribute to paving this difficult way in solidarity with the other Member States. Our internal market is still the EU’s economic backbone and the envy of many other countries in this situation. We in Europe also urgently need to strengthen the global competitiveness of our industry. Digital transformation, a stronger industrial basis and stronger SMEs, and robust international trade rules are key elements for a forward-looking, modern, global European economic area. These also form the roadmap for our exit from the crisis. A road map with three key elements: the current crisis has shown us that we need to avoid any unilateral dependency and must further diversity our international supply chains. For this, we need a European Industrial Strategy that will strengthen Europe’s industrial base, and we need to combine it with the right framework that particularly works for small and medium-sized companies. At the same time, we also need a strong WTO and rules-based international trade. The current crisis does not mean that we bid farewell to globalisation. On the contrary – this crisis shows just how important it is to have clear international trade rules in place, that are binding on everyone.
The crisis has clearly shown us that digitisation is a must, and it has even given it a boost. We must establish Europe as an innovative hub for business that is digitally autonomous and a society that is also digitally autonomous. At present, however, we are far from having achieved this and are lagging behind our competitors from the U.S. and China. We must build our digital autonomy by fostering our own skills and capacities in the key-enabling digital technologies. After all, the key to maintaining our long-term competitiveness is not in battling it out with individual companies, but in developing our own competitive digital structures in Europe.
Post-crisis Europe must be even better than pre-crisis Europe at hatching ideas for structural change that is socially fair, for an economy that is climate-friendly, and for an energy transition that is successful. Technologies that were already on their way out before the crisis will be totally out after it. We must harness the European Green Deal as a growth strategy for our economy that will enable us to access growth markets and safeguard jobs with the help of innovations and new clean technologies.”