Let me first start by commending the Official Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and Luxembourg, for having launched this magazine a year ago with the explicit aim to promote the already excellent and growing relations that our two countries share in the field of finance. I would like to take this occasion to reflect on the state of play in Europe, the importance of a strong European economy and the role financial centres like Luxembourg play to help channel the investments we need for a more sustainable future.
War has returned to Europe, and with it the world seems to have entered into an age of “permacrisis”. The illegal and unjustified war in Ukraine is not only a human tragedy, but also an additional crisis on top of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. And all the while, the climate crisis has lost none of its urgency.
A major blow to the global economy, the conflict is driving inflation and energy prices. Governments have to act to support households and companies in these dire times. This is exactly what we have done in Luxembourg. In spring, we initiated support measures to the tune of 1.4 billion euros, while a further package of more than a billion euros has just been agreed to specifically fight inflation by curbing energy prices and offering a sustainable relief for our economy as a whole, including the financial sector.
National efforts are essential, but we also need a strong common response at the European level. I am pleased to see that European solidarity has remained steadfast during the pandemic and cooperation is still strong in the face of the Russian aggression of Ukraine. Our answers have to inevitably be European, whether we provide humanitarian aid, financial and emergency assistance; or work together for energy security, drive forward the energy transition or fight climate change.
However, helping others and fighting common challenges will require a strong European economy. The EU has learnt the right lessons from the financial crisis and the sovereign debt crisis: its answer to the pandemic has been to focus on growth-enhancing investments, especially in the green and digital transition, rather than austerity. Achieving the dual transition will make the European economy not only more resilient, but also more competitive.
This also means fostering a strong pan-European financial sector to support our companies in financing their growth and investing in innovation. The financial sector will be key to the EU’s ambition to become a net-zero economy by 2050, which will require trillions in new investments. In order to succeed in these efforts, the EU will need to promote cross-border financial services within the internal market, while at the same time remaining open to the rest of the world.
We need international financial centres like Luxembourg to help channel investments and finance the EU economy across national borders. Luxembourg is already today a leading financing hub when it comes to mobilizing the required private capital to finance sustainable projects.
During recent exchanges with some of the major financial players in Madrid, I have been delighted to see that sustainability is a top priority on their agenda and that they are already using Luxembourg as a key hub in Europe for their sustainable investment products.
The financial centres of our two countries are in many ways complementary and as Minister of Finance, it is one of my priorities to keep developing common avenues and build bridges that will strengthen our economies and help finance the world of tomorrow.