In his first State of the Union address, Ursula von der Leyen has warned this Wednesday that the EU is going through a moment of maximum “fragility” and “uncertainty” due to the health and economic crisis caused by Covid-19. The president of the European Commission calls on Member States to overcome their divisions and unite to accelerate the recovery, using as a lever the reconstruction fund of 750,000 million agreed in July and the double digital and green transition.
The annual Rite of State of the Union address, which copies the United States model, was established in 2010 by Jose Manuel Durao Barroso when he directed the community executive. Every September (in Washington it is in January), the president of the Commission appears before the plenary session of the European Parliament to take stock of the previous year, diagnose the health status of the European project and present your program for the following year.
Von der Leyen’s first speech, just 10 months after his appointment, could not have been more rugged. To get started, did not take place in Strasbourg as planned, but in Brussels due to travel restrictions due to Covid-19, which have also limited the capacity of deputies and journalists. The pandemic has also forced the president to completely change her agenda of priorities.
“A virus thousands of times smaller than a grain of sand has revealed how delicate life can be,” Von der Leyen told MEPs. “The people of Europe are still suffering. It is a period of deep anxiety for millions of people who are concerned about the health of their families, the future of their jobs or simply making ends meet. “
A new vitality
“The pandemic – and the uncertainty that goes with it – is not over. And recovery is still in a preliminary phase“, has highlighted the president of the Community Executive.
In his opinion, the solution to the current crisis goes through more Europe. European leaders have already shown that they are capable of overcoming the chaos and lack of coordination that presided over the initial reaction to the pandemic and taking ambitious measures such as the July agreement on the reconstruction fund. “We have the vision, we have the plan, we have the investment, now we have to get to work,” he said.
“This is the time for Europe. The time for Europe to lead the way from this fragility to a new vitality“, claims the president of the Commission in what has been the central message of her speech, which has lasted just over an hour and a half.
Next, Von der Leyen has gone on to list in detail the initiatives that he plans to promote in the coming months. In health matters, Brussels proposes that the EU assume new competences, which are now fully in the hands of the Member States.
The powers of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) will be strengthened and a new Biomedical Research Agency will be created. In addition, the EU will organize a world summit on health next year in Italy.
Green bonds and a European digital cloud
As regards the ecological transition, the President of the Commission has confirmed that she will propose increase the emission reduction target from 40% to 55% by 2030relative to 1990 levels. A goal he has said is achievable and shared by community industry and will pave the way to climate neutrality by 2050.
The Community Executive wants 37% of the fund of 750,000 million euros to be spent in the fight against climate change. In addition, 30% of the financing (that is, 225,000 million) will be raised through the green bond issuance.
Regarding the digital transition, Von der Leyen intends to build a European cloud, create a secure European digital identity that can be used in any Member State and drive the deployment of 5G, 6G and fiber infrastructures.
In social matters, the president has confirmed that in the coming weeks she will present a law to guarantee a decent minimum wage in all member states. Another of her priorities is the new Asylum and Migration Pact, scheduled for September 23. It has also announced an initiative to combat racism and hate crimes.
Comply with the agreement of brexit
At the international level, Von der Leyen is committed to reforming and strengthening cooperation organizations, such as the World Trade Organization or the World Health Organization. The president of the Commission has criticized the authoritarian drift of China, Russia or Turkey And he has said that whatever happens in the November elections, his priority will be to rebuild the transatlantic link with the United States.
Regarding the brexit, Von der Leyen has warned that with each passing day the chances of reaching a trade agreement with London diminish before the end of the transition period on December 31. In addition, he has demanded the Government of Boris Johnson to comply with the divorce agreement that he himself signed last year in relation to Northern Ireland.
“The agreement cannot be unilaterally changed, ignored or ceased to apply. It is a matter of law, trust and good faith. And it is not just me saying it, I remind you of Margaret Thatcher’s words: The United Kingdom does not break Treaties. It would be bad for the UK, bad for relations with the rest of the world and bad for any future trade deal“, the president insisted.