the health crisis and the ecological transition

Under normal conditions, the State of the Union Address would have been held in Strasbourg, but the COVID-19 pandemic has moved all events to Brussels and there, in the European Parliament, the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has delivered his first speech after almost eleven months in the position.

The speech, of just over an hour, has revolved around the coronavirus and the economic, health, political and social consequences that it has had on the continent, in addition to issues such as Brexit, transatlantic relations and compliance with the rule of law.

“People in Europe continue to suffer,” said Von der Leyen, who has called on countries to “continue to treat this pandemic with extreme care, responsibility and unity”, and has proposed the creation of a “strong European Health Union ”, Through the celebration of a world summit on health and rethinking the distribution of powers with the States in health matters. The president urged to start a debate on whether to give the European Union on health, and he assured that “it is not the moment to withdraw support for the economy due to the pandemic.”

Protecting Europeans has been the argumentative thesis of the intervention, and for this the president announced the proposal on minimum wages, a new strategy for the future of Schengen, and promised to “leave no one behind in our great transition”, on the EU Green Deal, after informing that they will increase the emission reduction target from 40% to 55%, in order to move towards climate neutrality in 2050. That is why the Recovery Fund will allocate more than a third of the money to the energy transition, said Von der Leyen. Approximately 60% of the recovery fund will go to the sum of the Green Pact (37%) and the Digital Agenda (20%) so that the health crisis has not diverted the Commission from its two priorities of a year ago. The creation of a ‘European cloud’ on the internet and an investment of 8,000 million in European technology, are some of the announcements of the president of the Commission within the Digital Agenda.

An important part of the speech was based on the Next Generation Eu – an instrument to support the Member States for their recovery, proposed by the European Commission in May this year. Von der Leyen proposed that 30% of the 750,000 million euros of this program be raised through ‘Greenbonds’, and recalled that Next Generation does not consist only of economic fundsIt is also a cultural movement.

The crossroads of Brexit

Citing Margaret Thatcher, Von der Leyen stressed that the United Kingdom cannot “unilaterally” change or breach the Brexit agreement. “Britain does not break treaties. It would be bad for Great Britain, bad for its relations with the rest of the world and bad for any commercial treaty ”, said the ‘Iron Lady’ on April 16, 1975 and the President of the Commission has repeated.

Von der Leyen recalled that, despite the United Kingdom’s departure from the Union, affection for the British people “will never be extinguished”. The EC president indicated that the UK withdrawal agreement took three years to be negotiated and that the result guarantees citizens’ rights, financial interests and the integrity of the common single market, as well as being “crucial” for the Good Friday agreement, signed in 1998 to end the conflict in Northern Ireland. So Boris Johnson’s decision to break international agreements has not been liked at all in Brussels.

Foreign policy

On the foreign policy of the European Union, Von der Leyen showed his intention to reinforce the transatlantic agenda with the United States “Whatever happens” in the November elections. “We are prepared to build a new transatlantic agenda, to strengthen our multilateral partnership, in trade or in taxation, and work together to reform the international system that we have built together,” the president told Parliament.

“We may not agree with recent White House decisions, but we will always appreciate the transatlantic alliance based on shared history and values, and the unbreakable bond between our peoples,” said Von der Leyen, althoughí showed his opposition to the nationalist stance on the United States vaccine: “We know that a nationalism in the vaccine puts lives at risk, only a cooperative vaccine will save lives.”

Beyond the relationship with the United States, Von der Leyen discussed the relationship with China: “The relationship between the EU and China is both one of the most strategically important and one of the most challenging”, noting that both “ they promote very different systems of society ”.

Russia also had a mention by the president of the Commission, who addressed “those who ask to strengthen ties with Russia” and warned that the poisoning of the Russian opponent Alexei Navalani it is part of a way of acting that has been seen before in Ukraine or Georgia.

The territorial conflict between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean also had a brief reference and recognized that, although Ankara “will always be an important partner”, “nothing justifies attempts to intimidate its neighbors”. Von der Leyen wanted to show his support to “our member states, Greece and Cyprus”, who “can always count on full European solidarity when it comes to protecting their legitimate sovereign rights.”

On the same day, Parliament approved a resolution calling for the EU to strengthen its missions in Africa and West Africa, in addition to calling for a new approach to the region and greater coordination in North African countries to promote peace. and reconciliation in Libya

Human rights

“Being yourself is not your ideology: it is your identity, and no one can take it away from you. Zones without LGTBI are zones without humanity, and they have no place in our Union ”, said Von der Leyen, referring to Poland and its homophobic and discriminatory drift.

The president of the EC also emphasized the need to combat racism and announced the implementation of “an action plan” that will propose to extend the list of “hate crimes”, including those motivated by race, religion, gender or sex.

On the immigration issue, I announce that progress will continue on the plan that is expected to be presented next week. Migration management is an area that has caused divisions among member countries since the 2015 crisis. “Saving lives at sea is not optional,” stressed Von der Leyen, who mentioned the EC’s willingness to help build a new refugee camp in Moria after the fire last week.