Moving towards the circular economy: Opening remarks by First Vice-President Frans Timmermans
Thank you Mr President. First of all this Commission remains strongly committed to presenting to this Parliament towards the end of the year a circular economy package which has a holistic approach on the issue. Yes on waste, but also on reusing finite material, and also proposals that will help create the right environment for a new economy for Europe. Why do we need this, and why do we passionately believe in this? Because the future of the European economy is not in competing on low wages; the future of the European economy is not in competing on creating stuff with finite resources. The future of the European economy is in the circular economy, in reusing, in putting things back into the economic cycle, in thinking in terms of cradle to cradle. And funnily enough, businesses have got it better and more clearly than us as politicians. Businesses are leading on this and we should be leading as well as politicians. Why? Because we know where we are. We also know where we want to be which is in the circular economy. But we don't know well how to get from where we are to where we need to be — and here is where politics need to lead, here is where governments come in, and here is where the European Union is an essential link in getting us from where we are to where we need to be. I passionately believe in this transition. And I believe this year in presenting our package we can make the first important contribution to this transition, which is inevitable. The report we discuss today is an important building block to what we are going to do. Indeed we will look at the waste package and also at all the other issues we need for the circular economy.
I believe in this because this is a huge business opportunity for European businesses, this is a huge economy also for the European economy and for jobs. That is why Vice-President Katainen and I work on this closely with all our colleagues, Commissioner Bienkowska, Commissioner Vella and many many others. We take a holistic approach, and I would encourage Parliament to look at this not in silos but as something we have a common interest in.
Because the circular economy is not something we do just for the environment. Sustainability of course has an environmental angle. Sustainability has especially an economic and a social angle. And if we don't take the three elements into account – economic, social and environmental – we will not succeed in creating the right conditions for a circular economy.
And I want to stress this: why are business interested in this? Because it is the most interesting business model for the future, because they know it is sustainable, because they know it will lead to growth, because they know this is where Europe can lead worldwide. And we should use that opportunity to integrate the three elements of sustainability, economic, social and environmental. And then I believe we will be successful. You can count on the Commission that we will take this holistic approach, you can count on the Commission that we will work closely with you, and I'm sure that we can look at those elements especially starting with analysing the situation in Member States and having comparable analysis from Member States that we can take it from a zero situation to the higher levels in the next couple of years and the Commission will certainly be part of that transition.