Charles Michel, who has just premiered as president of the European Council, will put the "energy" of his 43 years at the service of the European project, of the 500 million citizens of the European Union (EU), to ensure the unity of the Twenty-seven and defend their interests in the world with a "strong" voice with the High Representative of Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, with whom he is, he says, "on the same wavelength".
"There is a strong complementarity between us, we will work effectively together. I have learned to meet Mr. Borrell, we have talked a lot in recent months and we are on the same wavelength," says Michel in an interview with Efe in Madrid, on the occasion of the inauguration this Monday of the COP25 climate summit, which will take place until the next day 13.
A summit, whose inauguration was also attended by the new president of the European Commission (EC) and the president of the European Parliament (EP), Ursula von der Leyen and David Sassoli, respectively, to launch an "important" message of the "strong" European ambition in the face of the climate challenge: making the EU a climate-neutral continent in 2050 and raising the European targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 by 40%.
"Europe can become the world leader in the green economy," says the former Belgian prime minister, a liberal who with his "own style" will try to be "a president who unites" and listens to different "sensibilities."
QUESTION: This is your first official visit to Spain as a newly released president of the European Council and coincides with the inauguration of COP25. The photo of the three presidents of the main European institutions in Madrid for this reason is a strong symbol on the part of the new top European authorities.
ANSWER: It is an important message because I just assumed my duties as president of the European Council and because the ambition we have is to make the European Union a climate-neutral continent in 2050. It is a very, very strong ambition. It is necessary for European leaders to send a very important message to citizens, to companies. I think that Europe can become the world leader in the green economy, bet on science, bet on technology, bet on innovation, guarantee jobs, guarantee social welfare and, at the same time, reduce the climate threat.
Q: The new European Commission has made the fight against climate change its main political promise. Complying with it will require huge investments and design an ecological transition that does not penalize the competitiveness of European companies or leave workers in certain regions, especially coal mines, abandoned. There are analysts who warn about the effects of inequality, unemployment and poverty that may involve the application of certain green policies. Share that scenario, are you worried?
A: We are facing a challenge that is indeed complicated because the transition involves changing the way we move, consume, produce … That means ending that war against nature, achieving a peace agreement with nature, involves making decisions that have It takes into account social needs, employment needs and thanks to innovation, science, technological transformation, we must boost the ability to create supplementary jobs and protect in the coming years that ability to support economic and social development.
Q: Climate geopolitics is very, very complicated. Some 70 countries have announced that they will review their emission cut plans upwards. But without a strong commitment from China and with the United States withdrawing from the Paris agreement, the fight against climate change seems complicated. Do you think it is bound to fail?
A: The EU has long taken the lead in trying to make the world aware that there is an extremely important challenge. We are not alone, within the United Nations, the headquarters is extremely mobilized to carry out this battle against the climate threat and it is equally important that the great regions of the world put that climate urgency on the agenda, to encourage all the world show responsibility. Next year there will be an important EU-China summit, surely the climate issue will be at the heart of the negotiations, of the discussion between the EU and China.
Q: We are seeing revolts, in many cases, initiated against transport tax measures, as in France with the "yellow vests". Do you fear that some European countries will take a step back from ambitious measures? In fact, his first summit as president of the Council on December 12 and 13 will be marked by the division of the States on the emission reduction objectives. Poland, among others, prevented the agreement in June.
A: One or two years ago there were many more countries that were against the idea of going towards climate neutrality in 2050. We have made great progress, now many countries are favorable to climate neutrality in 2050, but they remain, it is true, still some with whom we negotiate, with whom we speak. In the European Council I will respect your sensibilities, we have to take into consideration the fact that all countries do not have the same starting point in terms of their economic situation. We must take into account the different sensitivities, the different interests in the different countries without renouncing the fundamental objective that is to convince the whole world to go towards that climate neutrality in 2050 and give Europe a role as a global leader in green economy because We are going to need that technology tomorrow, and if Europe develops that cutting-edge technology and its expertise can sustain its prosperity and protect our Planet.
Q: Spain has been in political instability for five years and four legislative elections in four years. And we still have a functioning government. Is Europe concerned about this situation?
A: We respect the functioning of democratic institutions, the elections have been held, a process (of negotiation for the formation of a Government) is ongoing. Spain is represented by the President of the Government (Pedro Sánchez) to bring the voice of Spain to the meeting table.
Q: You and the EU High Foreign Policy Representative, Josep Borrell, will share the leadership of the EU international agenda. Is there a harmony between you and who has been one of the greatest critics of Catalan independence?
A: There is a strong complementarity between us, we will work effectively together. I have learned to meet Mr. Borrell, we have talked a lot in recent months and we are on the same wavelength. We think that Europe must speak louder at the international level to defend European interests more, European values. Not to be aggressive but to have more confidence in ourselves. Europe is 500 million citizens, with strong democracies, with values that are essential, of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. And we must defend our interests at the international level and we will do it together.
Q: And speaking of complicated problems, do you really believe that on January 31 we can say, finally, that "brexit" is going to be a reality or we can still expect some surprise?
A: We have to wait for the elections in the United Kingdom (day 12) to be held and based on these results in December we will see which direction we are going.
Q: And finally, what style do you intend to print to the position you just occupied?
A: I go with my own style and my character to try to be a president who unites, which guarantees unity between the different European countries, to also try to make decisions, that is what will mobilize me. I believe that in the coming months there will be unique opportunities for the future of the European project, with the new European Commission, the new European Parliament and with a new leadership in the European Council. We share the same positive agendas for the future of Europe: bet on the fight against climate change to achieve more development to achieve more employment and more innovation. Develop the digital agenda, defend security in Europe, speaking with a stronger voice and synchronizing ourselves better at the international level in all these matters. I will try to work to serve European citizens. I will put my energy into the European project.
By Catalina Guerrero
. (tagsToTranslate) Michel (t) President (t) European Council (t) (t) Borrell