Ursula von der Leyen © EPP official Flickr

Interview with Ursula von der Leyen

Ursula von der Leyen is the President of the European Commission and the Spitzenkandidat of the CDU and the European People's Party for the European election campaign. In an interview with the BDI, she explains her motivation for competing as a Spitzenkandidat in the European elections, names the biggest challenges for European companies in the upcoming years and outlines her priorities for making Europe an attractive place to invest and do business again.

What motivates you personally to compete as a Spitzenkandidat in the European elections?

The world has changed fundamentally since I became President of the European Commission in 2019. In these five years, not only has my passion for Europe grown - but also my experience of how much this Union can do for its people. Just think of the pandemic. With solidarity and great medical performance, we successfully guided a continent of 450 million people through this difficult time. Together, we have overcome the biggest energy crisis in 40 years and at the same time regained our energy independence. And together we are standing up to Russian aggression and Putin's contempt for all democratic values.

At the same time, we still have a lot of work to do. We must significantly improve the location factors in Europe in order to increase our competitiveness. This involves core issues such as sufficient skilled labour, secure and affordable energy and reducing the burden on our businesses. But we must also guarantee Europe’s security. I am fighting for Europe to continuously support Ukraine with determination. At the same time, we must strengthen our own defence capabilities. And above all, what has characterised Europe since day one: our democracy. We must protect and strengthen it. I want to continue working towards this.

What are according to you the biggest challenges that European businesses will be facing in the upcoming years?

Europe's companies are world class. Many of our companies are at home on the global markets. And they have been aware for some time that things are changing. Competition is becoming tougher. We can all sense that our geopolitical environment is evolving rapidly and radically. One thing is very clear to me: no matter how big the challenges are, whether we are talking about peace, freedom and democracy, climate change or digitalisation - as a community of 450 million people, we have the better answers to offer. Because we can only solve these challenges together.

To remain competitive internationally, we need to become simpler, faster and cheaper here in Europe. Our climate targets are clear, and they are the right ones. But in order to achieve these goals, we must proceed with a sense of proportionality and in close co-operation with companies. Because we know that there is no competitive economy without climate protection. At the same time, there is also no climate protection without competitive companies. And we want European companies to continue to lead world markets in the future.

How to #PowerUpEurope: How do you plan to make Europe an attractive place to invest and do business again?

To ensure that our European companies remain as strong and internationally competitive in the future, we need to make life easier for them. Keyword: Improving the location factors in Europe: We need more skilled labour. Lower energy costs. More digitalisation. And better access to capital. A better integrated capital markets union could generate up to 470 billion euros more investment per year.

I also believe we need to dictate less to our companies and trust them more. That means less bureaucracy, simpler procedures and faster decisions. We are already making progress in cleaning up EU regulations. In the last two years, we have reduced administrative costs by 13.6 billion euros through the ‘one-in-one-out’ principle. We will reduce the reporting obligations for companies by 25%. The first steps have been taken with cost savings of 4 billion euros in total. We have also launched a reform of the Customs Code, which will save companies that operate in the single market another 2 billion euros. And all this is just the beginning, much more must follow. We want to create a framework in which our companies can concentrate on their strengths - being innovative, creating competitive products and good jobs.

The issue of trade is central. It is the European Union that gives companies access to the global market. No region has more trade agreements around the world than Europe. We are the world's first address for foreign direct investment. We know exactly how important openness is for our success. That is why we are working on new trade agreements with South America and Asia.

What counts now is a clear course and answers that work for our companies on a day-to-day basis. We Christian Democrats are providing these answers - in Germany and in Europe.