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Dear Chair, Honourable Members of the Parliament, it is with great pleasure that I speak to you at this Plenary debate.
I would first like to thank the European Parliament that we have the Instrument for Pre-Accession for the 2021-2027 period – IPAIII, as it is known - on the agenda of today’s meeting, in view of its adoption tomorrow. This paved the way for its final adoption after we reached a political agreement on 2 June. I would like to thank the Council – over several presidencies - and two co-rapporteurs, Ms Zovko and Mr Picula, for their commitment and determination, and their tireless efforts that contributed to this final positive outcome for the entire region.
Together, we shaped an instrument that has a great potential and sends a strong signal that the European Union is committed to support the enlargement region.
With IPA III, we are now equipped with an instrument set at over € 14 billion to provide assistance to the candidate countries and potential candidates in transforming their societies, legal systems and economies on the path to EU membership.
This is a key moment: all leaders that I met have called for a swift kick-off of the pre-accession financial assistance, most importantly for the implementation of the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans.
The Plan sets out a substantial investment package mobilising some € 30 billion for the region over the next seven years, amounting to one third of the region’s GDP. This is comprised of € 9 billion in grant funding and € 20 billion leveraged by the new Western Balkans Guarantee Facility.
IPA III will provide the basis for this plan to happen and to contribute to the long-term recovery, boost economic growth and convergence as well as support reforms needed to move forward on the EU path.
What is new? IPA III increases steering and ensures better alignment with the EU’s priorities faster by having a more thematic focus. The IPA programming framework, our unique strategic document, will be based on needs put forward by the region and will ensure funding for a more integrated region, catching up much faster with the EU.
Due to its structure, IPA III will also establish more synergy with a wide range of EU internal policy programmes to maximise impact on key priority sectors such as connectivity, energy, digitalisation, security, migration, research and innovation, environment and climate action.
The Commission is fully committed to the respect of rule of law, human rights, justice and values as a continued priority. Such strong commitment was already fully reflected in the IPA III proposal.
The External Action Guarantee of up to € 53.4 billion, set up in the NDICI Global Europe, ensures that more investments and leverage of funds, crowding in private investments will benefit the IPA III partners.
The new IPA III will be clearly positioned in the context of the Western Balkans and enlargement strategies, which signals the Commission’s support for the enlargement perspective of the region and so it is from both co-legislators.
The Commission will also provide the much needed financial assistance for Turkey, to support actions boosting people-to-people contacts, support to civil society and the post-COVID socio-economic recovery across the board, as well as key priorities of the EU.
IPA III is definitely an investment into the future. Thank you!