Opening remarks

The EU was instrumental in shaping the global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. And I see several of the key players before me here today. But New York was only the start; and Europe has a duty — to itself, and to the international community — to lead in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Commission is committed to delivering its part in an integrated way, and we have made our response to the SDGs one of the priorities of the 2016 Work Programme. 

We will present to you an initiative in the course of this year on "Next steps for a sustainable European future" to map out the EU contribution.

Delivering on the SDGs is deeply entwined with our objectives under the ten priorities of the Juncker Commission. Vice-President Katainen and I are coordinating this, while working closely with HRVP Mogherini for the external side.

This work builds on a solid basis. Through the Europe 2020 Strategy, and through a wide range of EU policies, from climate change to skills and innovation, the EU is already delivering on many SDGs.

One of the challenges – in our institutions, in our member states – will be to prevent dividing up implementation between an international, a national and a European strand. What we do at home needs to be consistent with what do in Europe and internationally.

If we are serious about the SDGs, we need to understand the philosophy behind them; namely that it is an integrated and universal agenda, and no longer the 'developed world' telling the rest of the world what they need to do. It is also us telling ourselves what we need to do.

Externally, the SDGs are already playing a big role in shaping our development cooperation but also more broadly. The Commission will present later this year a proposal to revise the European Consensus on Development in the light of the SDGs and changing global trends.

We need to address all three dimensions of sustainable development - economic, social and environmental. Eradicating poverty, eliminating inequalities and combating climate change are not competing objectives: they go hand in hand.

This means change in Europe too. And 2030 is the day after tomorrow, if not already tomorrow.

I strongly believe that if we take a hard look at our prospects as European society: in a business as usual scenario if we do not step up our efforts over the next generation, what we can hope to achieve in terms of structural economic growth is not encouraging; an annual average of perhaps 1 to 1.5 percent if we are lucky.

With our demographic realities, that is simply not sufficient to sustain our social model, our European way of life. This is a very uncomfortable truth, but it is nonetheless true.

If we want to be in a position to provide for our parents, our children, for everyone in need, if we really want a sustainable, social model for our societies, we need to move much more quickly to a sustainable economy, to a low-carbon, resource-efficient, circular economy. We need to make sure we enable people to fully participate in society. This is not about something 'nice to have': it something that is urgent and something we need to have. This is about competitiveness in the widest sense of the word. This is about the future of the European way of life.

It will not happen all by itself. I'm deeply convinced that new forms of governance and smart regulation are increasingly going to play an important part in that respect. To make this transition from where we are now to where we need to be tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, you need governance; you need broad alliances with businesses, NGOs and society at large.

This is what we need to create in Europe, and I count on working with you hand in hand. The European Parliament will lead on this. If we fall in the trap of only defending the past, all we will find ourselves able to do, is to slow down decline. This is about shaping the future. A prosperous future for all Europeans.

So the Commission sees the global 2030 Agenda as a tremendous opportunity — for Europe, for the international community at large. An opportunity also for us all to overcome our own silos – whether they are between services,  between countries or institutions.

Our intention is to make the implementation of the SDGs, like the circular economy, a team effort. We encourage you to do the same, and I look forward to work closely with this House on this Agenda over the months and years to come, and with the Council of course.

Thank you very much Madam President.