European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Luxembourg prime minister Xavier Bettel at their first joint press conference on Monday
Photo: Delano staff
Ursula von der Leyen on Monday had her first working visit to Luxembourg since taking over the reins as European Commission president.
There were, perhaps as expected, no revelations when Ursula von der Leyen shared a platform with Xavier Bettel after almost an hour of talks in the Luxembourg prime minister’s office. The press conference they held, starting almost 30 minutes later than scheduled, was full of platitudes. “If there is one country that is European, then it is Luxembourg,” von der Leyen told her audience of, chiefly, Luxembourg-based journalists.
Ahead of a more detailed address on the financing of her keynote policy, the so-called European Green Deal, on Tuesday, von der Leyen said that it was her commission’s aim to invest one trillion euros over the next decade as the EU strives to implement the United Nation’s 2030 sustainable development goals. Bettel reiterated Luxembourg’s aversion to allowing countries to choose nuclear power as an “alternative” energy source, which he had vehemently opposed at a summit last December.
The prime minister became even more animated when talking about the multiannual financial framework for 2021-27. He said the European budget needed to be ambitious, modern and reformed. “The proposition before us at the moment is neither realistic nor ambitious,” Bettel said. Both the prime minister and von der Leyen also defended the administration and personnel costs of the commission. Von der Leyen compared the 32,000 civil servants working for the commission with the 60,000 admin staff she had under her command as Germany’s defence minister. “So, you can imagine how hard these people work, and what a brilliant level they achieve at work. That’s why we should invest in those people who actually work to meet the demands that we, justifiably, put on the European Union.”
As for Brexit, the commission president said it was up to the British government to decide what sort of trade relationship it wanted with the biggest single market in the world. “The closer they are, the so-called level playing field, the more strongly they are prepared to meet EU regulations, the easier it will be for them to have access.”
Von der Leyen later had an audience with Grand Duke Henri and along with her commission team then visited the European Court of Justice for the “solemn undertaking” at which they pledged to honour EU treaties.