Thank you very much also on my behalf.

  • I have not counted how many events like this we have had. I have to say this is a good start, because we are still in the beginning of the process.
  • A couple of years ago when we adopted our strategy, or Action Plan, for the circular economy, we did not exactly know how fast things can evolve. I have to mention that industry and consumers have been in the driver's seat, when looking at how fast the circular economy has gone forward in Europe.
  • And we as a regulator have also done our bit and I hope that our proposals – the latest on being the Plastics Strategy will create a new favourable, interesting, exciting regulatory environment for businesses and consumers to bring the circular economy even further.
  • After having delivered more than 80 of the actions included in the Action Plan, it is now time to start thinking seriously about what happens next.
  • The Commission and the European institutions concentrate on implementing the existing Action Plan and hopefully the next Commission will introduce a new Action Plan on the circular economy, because the world is changing and technology is changing all the time and we have to try to look ahead of the curve.
  • So, as I said, the existing Action Plan is just the first start for shaping the European market economy from linear to circular.

The transition does not stop with the end of the Action Plan

  • The Circular Economy Action Plan has kicked off a transition that will not stop when all the actions it contains are delivered.
  • It has set Europe on an irreversible trend and helps turn the challenge of overconsumption of resources and waste generation into new opportunities.
  • The transition we witness today is built upon a mix of regulatory and voluntary actions and, above all, on the committed action and leadership of stakeholders themselves. What the Circular Economy Action Plan has kicked off, stakeholders must now fully seize and carry further.
  • It must translate into a stakeholder-driven transition, whereby new sustainable economic models spread throughout value chains, not so much because policy-makers say it is good, but rather because these new business models make economic sense, because there is a strong business case behind this transition.
  • Again, I want to thank all the stakeholders for the advising the European Commission on our work and also innovating and delivering new ways to shape the economy in Europe.

Some crucial aspects of the Action Plan need to be developed over the coming years

  • Making the effects of the Action Plan long-lasting will be a matter of long-term mobilisation and collective effort. Some crucial elements of the Action Plan will be implemented over the coming years and already show the way forward.
  • The Plastics Strategy is obviously one of those, and it has been extensively discussed today. This Strategy sets ambitious goals, e.g.:
  • making sure that, by 2030, all plastics packaging placed on the EU market is either reusable or recyclable in a cost-effective manner;
  • more than half of plastics waste generated in Europe is recycled.
  • In other terms, our aim is to create a Single Market for plastic waste and a Single Market for recycled waste.
  • This will of course require consistent and long-term measures going well beyond the Action Plan.
  • The same goes for a large number of the initiatives within the Action Plan: they will need consistent follow-up and deep engagement of interested groups, such as the analysis of the interface between chemicals, products and waste legislations which was discussed today.

The Action Plan embodies a new way of developing policies

  • Beyond the measures it includes, the Circular Economy Action Plan embodies an innovative way of developing policies: breaking silos and adopting an integrated approach, opening more widely to stakeholders' views and expectations.
  • Trends like the circular economy have a huge impact on investment decisions; it is only fair and legitimate that all affected stakeholders get a chance to have their voices heard.
  • This is the purpose of this conference and it should continue. The circular economy offers a landmark opportunity to combine economic development, social justice and environmental responsibility – to identify synergies between the local and global dimension. It reconciles views and interests which used to be antagonistic.
  • We have embraced the open approach to collaboration and established a number of platforms to keep the dialogue open. Tomorrow you will meet for the second time to share your experiences with each other within the European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform. Here, we are not competitors. Here we all win if we learn from each other, how to make the economy more circular.

Going beyond the Action Plan by seizing opportunities linked to the global context

  • We cannot frame the transition towards a circular economy if we do not integrate the global context.
  • It has to be seen in the wider international landscape, strengthening the European leadership in resource efficiency and competitiveness.
  • One of the tasks lying ahead is to further build on the European leadership on resource efficiency in order to keep and consolidate our competitive advantage:
  • be it on waste treatment, recycling technologies, where European know-how is in high demand all around the globe;
  • or on resource-efficient industrial processes, enabling our companies to lower their costs and dependency on raw materials;
  • or on circular products, which are increasingly at the core of consumers’ demand.
  • The Plastics Strategy obviously plays a crucial role in an international, multilateral effort to improve resource efficiency. Europe is in no position to craft any meaningful response to the challenge of marine litter on its own: that is why the EU will be fully involved in, e.g., the dedicated activities under the United Nations Environmental Assembly to tackle plastic pollution and will deploy specific attention to marine litter in the Mediterranean sea under the Barcelona Convention and in Southeast Asia.
  • The G7 Alliance on Resource Efficiency, launched at Elmau in 2015 and the UN International Resource Panel are other international fora that hopefully can help drive the circular economy forward.
  • Also the G20 Resource Efficiency Dialogue, which was initiated in 2017, will exchange good practices and national experiences to improve the efficiency and sustainability of natural resource use across the entire life cycle, and to promote sustainable consumption and production patterns.
  • Public-private initiatives, like the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy hosted by the World Economic Forum are also extremely helpful. I was glad to launch it in Davos last month together with Ellen MacArthur and other partners. These are concrete building blocks paving the way for global sustainability. We truly look forward to cooperating with this initiative, building in particular on the activities under the European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform.
  • Projecting the circular economy on an international scale is an occasion for multilateral cooperation: only with everyone’s willingness will we be in a position to address the global threat of resource scarcity and environmental degradation.
  • Global competition is tough and getting tougher. We feel the pressure of our competitors, but we don’t want to build fences. While fences protect us against the outsiders, they also restrict our freedom and keep us trapped inside. Therefore we believe in openness and integrating circular economy value chains based on the shared values and equal level of protection of the environment, workers and consumer rights.
  • Earlier this year, we were surprised by the introduction of a restriction of imports of a number of secondary raw materials and certain types of waste by the Chinese Authorities.
  • But let us consider this as an opportunity for our industry and for our policy to gain momentum to protect ourselves against unpredictable external shocks. And to create a better regulatory environment to boost the circular economy in Europe.
  • For this to become an opportunity for the EU industry, we need to work towards the integration of value chains. We need to strike the right balance between ensuring our security of supplies and self-sufficiency with the openness and collaboration to advance a fair and mutually beneficial globalisation.
  • The Commission stands ready to cooperate with China and other trade partners to achieve our common objectives and to lead global action towards achieving the Paris Agreement and 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
  • One practical platform to cooperate with our economic partners are the High Level Economic Dialogues, for instance with China and hopefully with Japan.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • Circular economy is not only an opportunity, but it is also a necessity. It is not only an alternative, but a logical shift towards more productive, higher added value and a more sustainable economy.
  • Thank you very much!