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  • Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure for me to open this important conference today.

  • I think it was Jacques Delors who once said: 'Nobody falls in love with a single market'. However, the Single Market is, one of the most profound examples of EU's added value for economic growth. It is the basis for our open and rules-based trade policy and for investment, which in turn create prosperity and welfare for our societies. Without growth, you do not have a welfare society.

The achievements of the Investment Plan

  • I think it is true to say that the Investment Plan's approach was a game-changer. It was in many ways a risk we took, an experiment, as a strong response to the crisis. It is a highly innovative approach, unique in the world.

  • The idea is simple, and still many did not believe it would work. Today, it is a clear success and becoming the new standard for investment support, both in- and outside the EU.

  • Through a budgetary guarantee to our partner, the European Investment Bank Group, we were able to attract significant amounts of private investment back into Europe.

  • Today, the European Fund for Strategic Investments is on track to meet the target of unlocking additional investment of at least 500 billion euros from 2015 to 2020.

  • The Plan also has a strong transformative power, modernising our economy and creating jobs. It supported almost 900,000 start-ups and SMEs. And we brought investment to research and innovation projects, the energy transition, circular economy, digitisation and social infrastructures.

  • What I want to say is that the Investment Plan has helped us channel private investment towards the public good, towards areas that are important for our future. And we even exported that successful model outside Europe, through the External Investment Plan.

  • The Investment Plan is a game changer. Not only because of the financing part, but because all strings pull in the same direction: investment support, advisory, transparency, and last but not least: reforms. You certainly remember that the Investment Plan was not only about financing, but also about triggering a structural change. Let me explain in a bit more detail.

  • First, we have put in place advisory services and increased transparency on investment opportunities. In addition to financing, the Commission and the EIB Group are working together to help projects get off the ground and to enhance the project pipeline in Europe.

  • More specifically, the European Investment Advisory Hub offers a single access point to advisory services for any type of project. It has already dealt with more than 700 requests from all Member States. For example, it supported the creation of the URBIS platform, an initiative providing tailored assistance to cities and regions to unlock urban investment projects.

  • The Investment Project Portal – maybe the best kept secret of the Investment Plan – is the EU's online matchmaking portal, connecting promoters to investors worldwide. It shows in a transparent way the pipeline of investment-ready projects available across Europe. It already contains almost 500 investment projects from all Member States and 80% of projects have been contacted by investors.

  • Second, we made significant advancements to make sure Europe is and remains an attractive place for investment. One obvious starting point is to deepen and modernise our Single market, the EU's main asset, which celebrated its 25th anniversary this year.

  • As you know, the Single Market provides more than ever opportunities for consumers, businesses and citizens. It has brought resilience to the European economy and strengthened the competitiveness of European value chains. As such, the Single Market has also been a key tool to harness globalisation and allow the EU to benefit from its opportunities.

  • But in too many instances, the Single Market does not work seamlessly. This situation, coupled with persistent red tape, discourages those who want to develop their activities across borders. This is also why the Commission has placed particular emphasis on the correct application, implementation and enforcement of Single Market rules.

  • During this mandate, the Commission has made a number of proposals to modernise the Single Market and tackle many of these issues, to strengthen the existing regulatory framework in support of growth and competitiveness.

  • I am referring here for instance to the Single Market Strategy, the Capital Markets Union and the Digital Single Market Strategy, all of which will have a significant impact on how the Single Market will function and attract new investments.

  • The Commission has also made proposals in the area of circular economy, energy, transport and climate policies which will deepen the Single Market while fostering sustainable development.

  • However, many of our legislative proposals are still on the table of the co-legislators. Therefore, the adoption of the pending proposals would already be a necessary first step towards eliminating existing barriers and seizing future opportunities in our Single Market. We will very soon report in our upcoming communication on the Single Market what has been achieved and what remains to be done, as requested by the European Council.

  • On the side of Member States, good progress has been made in providing favourable investment conditions, although some have been more active than others. We also need to make sure the reform momentum is upheld.

  • During this mandate, the Commission reinforced the focus on investment in the European Semester, resulting in targeted country-specific recommendations and action by Member States. We also created the structural reform support service to help Member States design and implement reforms upon their request.

  • The upcoming Annual Growth Survey will assess in more detail the progress made and remaining challenges to the business environment in each Member State.

The EU's openness to trade and investment

  • Last but not least, I wish to say a few words about the global outlook. Once cannot, obviously, look at investment in isolation.

  • Open and rules-based trade is Europe's trademark. It enables us to connect to growth generated elsewhere and to attract foreign investment.

  • This is why under this mandate we have so far finalised and started implementing seven well-calibrated trade agreements with 12 countries, including Canada, Ukraine, Singapore, Vietnam and several African nations. These bring the overall number to 39 EU trade agreements with 69 partners across the world. It is also worth highlighting the recently signed Economic PartnershipAgreement with Japan — the biggest trade deal ever negotiatedby the European Union.

  • But the EU is not a naive free trader. We do everything to defend European producers and workers against unfair trading practices. This is ever more important at times where in other parts of the world; we see an increasing number of protectionist policies for short term domestic gains. This is very worrying. Protectionism does not protect.

  • I also hope that before the end of the year we will have an agreement on a new set of rules to better monitor and screen foreign investments into the EU, to defend our essential interests better. At the same time the EU will remain one of the world’s most open investment regimes.

  • But trade is not an end in itself: it is one of the tools to increase our prosperity. And to reap the benefits of trade we need to link it with our broader work on helping our societies and economies making the most of the fast economic and technological transformations.

The priorities looking forward

  • Ladies and gentlemen, I will conclude by briefly introducing our priorities looking forward.

  • Investment rates have picked up since the launch of the Investment Plan. While part of the explanation lies in the broader recovery of demand, the measures under the three "pillars" of the Plan clearly played a role.

  • Whilst, on the one hand, there are therefore reasons to see the glass half full, it is important to establish priorities to make this recovery long-lasting and provide solid foundations for the future.

  • Building on the experience of the Investment Plan, the Commission has put forward for the next multiannual financial framework a single, multi-policy investment support instrument: the InvestEU Programme.

  • InvestEU will continue to mobilise public and private investment in the EU. It will address market failures and gaps in investment that hamper growth and will have to reach key EU policy goals: sustainability, scientific excellence and social inclusion. We propose to double support to social investment, which also brings opportunities to work with new actors such as the philanthropic community.

  • The Fund will bring together under one roof the multitude of EU financial instruments currently available. This way, it will provide simplified and streamlined investment support under one strong brand. Our priority now is to get it adopted before next spring.

  • At Member State level, the European Semester will continue to be the key tool to identify policy priorities and to monitor progress, which is still uneven across Member States and policy areas.

  • To further support the implementation of structural reforms, the European Commission has proposed the creation of a reform support programme, which will provide incentives to Member States to carry out reforms under certain conditions.

  • At EU level, fully functioning and future-proof Single Market remains a key priority on the EU agenda. Our overarching reform efforts require immediate action. It is also of utmost importance for the removal of bottlenecks across the EU and is essential to get the highest impact of the Investment Plan.

  • Thank you for your attention. Your discussions today will inform our thinking for two upcoming Communications on the Investment Plan and the Single Market implementation. So I wish you good discussions and look forward to the conclusions of the day.