Ursula von der Leyen spoke at length about the values and principles of the EU in her State of the Union address on 16 September. The president of the Commission has also made a number of commitments concerning key issues.
The 2030 target for emission reduction will be increased from 40% to 55% of 1990 levels. Von der Leyen assured that climate neutrality will be achieved by 2050 and that the Paris Agreement will be honoured. She accentuated the need for the European Union to be a global leader in the climate crisis, encouraging others to follow suit and meet the goal of a global temperature rise not exceeding 1.5 degree Celsius. The EU will spend 37% of the budget of NextGenerationEU, the EU’s recovery plan in response to the coronavirus pandemic, to reach the objectives of the European Green Deal.
Migration and Refugees
Von der Leyen promised a new pact on migration, the details of which are to be revealed soon. She stressed the need for a common European solution with all members of the Union pulling together, a message aimed at Hungary and Poland who have for long opposed the introduction of a quota system.
It may be expected that the Dublin regulation will be replaced, and every country forced to take in refugees or risk to be penalised. Additionally, the commission wants to fight smugglers more effectively, strengthen the EU’s external borders and create legal pathways for migration. A new camp will be set up on the island of Lesbos, with the hope of ameliorating the conditions for refugees.
In relation to COVID-19, the commission aspires to build a stronger European Health Union with the help of the EU4Health programme. Current weaknesses will be addressed by creating stockpiles to lessen the dependency on foreign supply chains for medication. Furthermore, there are plans to discuss the health competencies for the EU in the future.
Von der Leyen has called out the 2020s to be the ‘digital decade’ and urged the EU to set the standards for the future with regards to the right to privacy, free speech, and cybersecurity. A secure European e-identity and improved fast broadband connections are on her agenda.
Moreover, the EU is to become an ‘anti-racist Union’. New measures to combat hate crime and hate speech, and to achieve racial equality will be proposed. The commission will appoint an anti-racism coordinator. In reaction to the declaration of LGBT-free zones in Poland, a programme to strengthen LGBTQI rights will be announced in the near future.
Mike Stebens – Politics Contributor