The State of the European Union (SOTEU) summit convened this week to discuss the future of the institution and the citizens within it.
It covered topics like equality, climate change, and the cost of living crisis that are dominating Europeans’ day-to-day lives.
Amid the meeting, President of the Commission Ursula von der Leyen delivered an hour-long speech which outlined her proposals to tackle the ever-increasing challenges facing the EU.
These proposals were put forth in front of the Commission, the Parliament, and the Council who subsequently debated their thoughts on von der Leyen’s framework.
Lovin Malta was present at the debate, where we compiled a list of the suggestions that the Commission President believes will help save Europe.
1. “No, means no”
Equality-related issues were some of the first highlighted during President von der Leyen’s speech. She spoke specifically about gender-based discrimination; placing a special emphasis on violence against women and admitting that while a lot has been done, European women need more protection.
“No, means no. I would like that cast into law this basic principle on combating violence against women. There can be no true equality without freedom from violence.”
2. Clean Transition Dialogues with industry
During her speech, von der Leyen stated that the EU will continue supporting industry during the decarbonisation of the EU as outlined in the Green Deal.
Moreover, to ensure that their voices are heard, von der Leyen announced these dialogues which aim to support every sector in building its business model for the decarbonisation of industry.
3. European Wind Power package
The wind industry is facing a unique cocktail of challenges, according to the president’s speech. Hence, the Commission will put forward a European Wind Power package
“We will fast-track permitting even more. We will improve the auction systems across the EU. We will focus on skills, access to finance, and stable supply chains.”
4. Anti-subsidy investigation
During her speech, von der Leyen touched upon global competition explaining that it can propel regional and local businesses only as long as it is fair.
“Too often, our companies are excluded from foreign markets or are victims of predatory practices. They are often undercut by competitors benefitting from huge state subsidies.”
Here, von der Leyen referenced China’s unfair trade practices which affected the EU’s solar industry, pushing out many young businesses, causing pioneering companies to file for bankruptcy, and driving promising talent to search for fortune abroad.
Moreover, something similar seems to be happening within the electric vehicles sector – which von der Leyen branded as “crucial” for the clean economy. Global markets are being flooded with cheaper Chinese electric cars with prices kept artificially low through state subsidies.
“This is distorting our market.”
Hence, the Commission is launching an anti-subsidy investigation into electric vehicles coming from China, along with plans to de-risk not de-couple with the major global superpower in the coming year.
5. Strategic dialogue on the future of agriculture in the EU
Agriculture undoubtedly plays an important role in the conservation of the environment, the fight against food insecurity, and the protection of biodiversity. And those who understand the sector best are those who work in it.
So, the Commission will be launching a strategic dialogue on the future of agriculture in the EU with men and women in farming to tackle the new and serious challenges facing the industry.
“We need more dialogue and less polarisation.”
6. Social Partner Summit once again at Val Duchesse
This summit will target the social and internal issues faced within the labour market such as, a lack of qualified and skilled workers, the struggle to cope with parenting and working, labour shortages, challenges stemming from AI, and more.
“We need to improve access to the labour market. Most importantly for young people, for women.”
“It is almost forty years since Jacques Delors convened the Val Duchesse meeting that saw the birth of European social dialogue. Since then, social partners have shaped the Union of today – ensuring progress and prosperity for millions.”
So, together with the Belgian presidency, a new Social Partner Summit will once again convene at Val Duchesse next year.
7. EU SME Envoy
An EU small and medium-sized business (SME) envoy which will report directly to von der Leyen will be appointed.
“We want to hear directly from SMEs, about their everyday challenges.”
Meanwhile, for every new piece of legislation the commission conducts, there will be a competitiveness check conducted by an independent board. And next month, they will make the first legislative proposals towards reducing reporting obligations at the EU-level by 25%.
8. STEP platform
European companies need access to key technologies to innovate, develop, and manufacture in order for emerging technologies preserve an EU edge and is not diluted with foreign alternatives.
Therefore, the Commission proposed the STEP platform which aims to “leverage and steer EU funds to invest in everything from microelectronics to quantum computing and AI”.
9. Critical Raw Materials Club
Later this year, the first meeting of the Critical Raw Materials Club between the EU and a host of other international regions and states will convene.
Australia, Japan, and the United States have supported this concept.
Many countries are too dependent on a single supplier for critical minerals, meanwhile, others want to develop local industries for processing and refining rather than just shipping their resources abroad.
Hence, the idea of the Critical Raw Materials Club was borne. It will further aid the establishment of new free trade agreements.
10. Report on the future of European competitiveness by Mario Draghi
Some of the above challenges outline economic challenges that are reliant on competitiveness within the global market: labour, inflation, and business environment.
Such challenges also come at a time when the EU is asking the industry to lead the clean transition.
So, one of Europe’s “great economic minds”, Mario Draghi, will prepare a report on the future of European competitiveness.
11. Opening the EU’s high-performance computers to AI start-ups
To satisfy the EU’s vision of leading the way on a new global framework on AI, von der Leyen announced an initiative to open up the EU’s high-performance computers to AI start-Ups to train their models.
12. New strategic approach for the next EU-AU Summit
The Commission will work on a new strategic approach to take forward at the next EU-AU Summit which will focus on cooperation with legitimate governments and regional organisations, along with the development of a mutually beneficial partnership between Europe and Africa.
Von der Leyen explained that such a partnership is necessary to show the same “unity of purpose towards Africa as we have shown for Ukraine.”
13. International Conference on fighting people smuggling
Within the issue of migration lies the fight against human smugglers which the EU has been tackling with legislation that is over 20 years old.
It needs an update.
So, the Commission will organise an International Conference on fighting people smuggling.
14. Extention of temporary protection to Ukrainians in the EU
The EU has provided over €12 billion this year alone to help keep services running within Ukraine.
However, the war is not over. So, the EU has proposed an additional €50 billion over four years for investment and reforms which will help rebuild Ukraine into a modern and prosperous country.
14. Pre-enlargement policy reviews
EU enlargement is a major element on the agenda at the moment – while it may cause some division, both the Parliament and Commission presidents are committed to expansion.
However, a state’s accession to the EU is merit-based; therefore, it must satisfy certain criteria to ensure that it will work cohesively with the EU according to its norms and values. Additionally, the EU will have to reform and reboot to make the union one fit for more than 27 states.
So, the Commission will start a series of pre-enlargement policy reviews to see how each area – the institutions, budgets, etc. – may need to be adapted to a larger Union.
Of course, these were not all received with open arms by the whole chamber, however, many MEPs were welcoming to von der Leyen’s proposals.
Stay tuned for some of the reactions and opinions from the MEPs regarding Commission President von der Leyen’s SOTEU speech.
Which proposal do you agree with most and least?