Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very proud that the Connecting Europe Express has reached Sofia.

Three trains, 20 000 kilometres, 26 countries: What an exciting journey across Europe!

The European Year of Rail is the occasion for us to say loud and clear that railways should play a prominent role in the transition towards a climate-neutral Europe.

The train symbolises in many ways what we stand for in Europe, our core values: wellbeing, innovation, European integration based on our strong cultural roots and diversity, and better perspectives for the European youth.

As European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, I strongly support all initiatives accelerating the modernisation of European rail transport.

Rail transport is crucial in the fight for a clean urban mobility and for the clean transport of goods. Rail transport also provides climate-neutral alternatives to longer distance travel. If Europe is to reach our climate ambition and the Green Deal objectives, we must incentivise rail transport.

Fighting climate change is one of my key priorities and at the heart of Horizon Europe. We will dedicate at least 35% of the €95,5 billion budget to this objective.

We are ready to contribute to the strengthening of investments in innovation.  

We have reserved €600 million of Horizon Europe funding for a new rail research and innovation partnership, Europe’s Rail.

This will be the biggest initiative of its kind in Europe ever. Its launch is planned before the end of the year.

The partnership will mobilise all major actors of the European rail industry, including several national railway operators and rail infrastructure managers.

This is also an opportunity to develop regions, supporting innovation and promoting new job opportunities that will require investments in education and new skills.

I invite the research and innovation community driving the partnership to contribute actively to shape ambitious Horizon Europe Missions, like for instance the one on Sustainable Cities.

It will be an inclusive initiative, open to all. I would also like to invite the Bulgarian rail sector to make use of the opportunities to be offered by this partnership. 

And for young Europeans, we will offer special opportunities. All 18-year-olds have the chance to win a travel pass for the DiscoverEU rail experience.

We have already awarded 70,000 travel passes, including to about 1000 Bulgarians. I invite all young citizens to join our initiative.

Another new initiative will be the Green Erasmus. One of the new elements is that Erasmus students will be encouraged to travel by train to their destination.

The students will have more days to travel and will receive a financial incentive when they travel by train.

I encourage all of you to join the various opportunities offered by our programmes and initiatives. Together, we can help to change the mind-set essential for realising the Green Deal objectives.

I wish the Connection Europe Express a safe journey to their next destinations. May it be a symbol of steady-fast innovation, social development and cohesion in Europe. 

Thank you for your attention.