Press statement by President von der Leyen with UN Secretary-General Guterres ahead of the European Commission-United Nations Retreat

Secretary-General, dear António,

I am very glad to welcome you and your team here for the second time. Last year, when we had the first edition, we were at the beautiful Greentree Estate in Long Island. It was wonderful, it was insightful and useful. So it is a pleasure now to consolidate our joint meetings and I hope it is going to become a tradition. Our institutions, the United Nations and the European Union, both transcend national borders and national interests. We believe in the need for international consensus and action. We believe in this need mainly also because it is so necessary to address the major global challenges of our time. And indeed, the world faces unprecedented challenges. We had not even healed from the  effects of the pandemic when we were hit by the devastating consequences of Russia‘s aggression against Ukraine. There is of course the existential threat posed by climate change, but we also see the economic and social upheaval of the digital revolution – just to name some of the main issues. We both know that we can only tackle these through international cooperation, now more than ever. In other words, this means that the world needs the United Nations now more than ever. I want to emphasise the European Union‘s steadfast commitment to our strong partnership.

We have today and tomorrow a packed agenda. I want to speak about four topics that are standing out: The first one is of course UkraineWe will discuss our cooperation in support of Ukraine but also of those who are indirectly affected by Russia‘s invasion. Here, the big topic is of course the grain exports from Ukraine to the world. We have our solidarity lanes in place, and they are complemented by your Black Sea Grain Initiative. The solidarity lanes have made it possible for 45 million tonnes of grain and agri-food products to be brought from Ukraine via the European Union to the rest of the world. Now, we work very closely, hand in hand, to bring grain and other foodstuffs to those who need it badly. And Secretary-General, I want to thank you for your tireless efforts to prolong the Black Sea Grain Initiative. The world needs it. Russia has a responsibility to prolong it. Otherwise, global food insecurity will be the consequence. So now, the ball is in President Putin‘s court. And the world is watching.

Beyond the Black Sea Grain Initiative however, there is – in the context of Russia‘s war – one important topic, and that is the whole discussion around upholding the UN Charter and the respect for the international law. This goes to the core of who we are and what our institutions are built on. We do support President Zelenskyy‘s Peace Formula because it is based precisely on the principles of the UN Charter, and every single word is taken from UN resolutions. So I look forward to discussing that with you, also how we can gather wide international support for it.

The second big topic that we will be discussing is climate change and our preparations for COP28. The European Union is at the forefront of the clean energy transition and energy savings. We want to maintain our push for climate ambition. And we want to encourage the world to follow suit. This is why we propose to define global targets on renewables and energy efficiency. We will discuss that tomorrow. This is in preparation of COP28. Of course, climate finance is crucial for developing economies and emerging markets. The massive gap that we still see in climate financing cannot only be filled by public finances. We need the private sectorCarbon pricing could also play an important role. These are all topics that we are going to discuss in depth tomorrow.

And the third topic is the global digital transition and the increasing power of artificial intelligenceArtificial intelligence is a revolution, and this revolution comes with an enormous economic and social impact on our societies around the globe. On the one hand, we need to harness their potential, without any question, because it can increase prosperity and well-being. On the other hand, we also need to stay very vigilant regarding the effects of AI, its downside if you look at information manipulation and foreign interferences, for example – all the effects that artificial intelligence can have on our societies and the social cohesions.

Last but certainly not least, we will look at how we can re-energise global efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. This is a big topic. The European Union is acting very concretely on this already, in particular with our investment programme, Global Gateway. Here, our hallmark is that our investment comes with high standards of openness and good governance. And we think that these are crucial conditions for progress to benefit the population at large and to be sustainable over time. Here too, we share the understanding that public sector financing needs to be complemented by private sector financing. So here also, we need to develop innovative instruments, tools to promote this. And we need to continue addressing the increasing debt vulnerabilities of developing countries.

This was just a brief look at the big topics that we are discussing. We have a packed agenda. Once again, many thanks for coming here. I am very much looking forward to our Retreat.