On 13th September 2023, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen delivered the State of the Union address during the plenary sitting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Green transition, digital economy and enlargement policy were among the main topics discussed during her speech.
The President opened her State of the Union address, by recalling the EU’s flagship projects such as the European Green Deal, the NextGenerationEU and the Health Union. She also emphasized the progress that the EU made in the field of gender equality with the adoption of the Women on Boards Directive and the Directive on pay transparency as well as the EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention.
As for the European Green Deal, the European Commission’s President reminded that while this project was born out of the necessity to protect the Earth, the agenda has shifted from a climate to an economic one, with the promotion of sustainable investment and innovation. At the same time, the President of the Commission promised that the EU will support European industry throughout the climate transition, especially SMEs. The Net-Zero Industry Act and the Critical Raw Materials Act are examples of this support.
Subsequently, the President moved on to the field of the fair competition within the internal market. She reminded China’s unfair trade practices affecting the EU’s solar industry, as a result of which many European businesses were pushed out of the market by heavily subsidized Chinese competitors. She pointed out that similar risks are emerging in the electric vehicles sector with cheap Chinese electric cars produced by companies receiving state subsidies. This is why, the President announced that the Commission is launching an anti-subsidy investigation into electric vehicles coming from China entering the EU market.
The EU will also continue its Global Gateway strategy. According to the Commission’s President, this strategy is transparent, sustainable and brings economic security to the EU. The recently signed India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor, which she described as ‘the most ambitious project of our generation’ is an example of the implementation of the Global Gateway. The Corridor will be the most direct connection to date between India, the Arabian Gulf and Europe, with an electricity cable and a clean hydrogen pipeline – to foster clean energy trade between Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
In respect to the digital economy, the President recalled that the recently adopted Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act create a safer digital space where fundamental rights are protected. In a similar vein, the EU’s priority is to ensure that artificial intelligence (AI) develops in a human-centric, transparent and responsible way. For this reason, the Commission put forward a proposal for the Artificial Intelligence Act.
Ms von der Leyen then turned to the topic of migration. She thanked in particular Bulgaria and Romania for leading the way in border protection – showcasing best practices on both asylum and returns. Having said so, the President urged that these two Member States swiftly accede to the Schengen area. She also promised that the EU will continuously support Ukraine. For this reason, the Commission will propose to prolong the temporary protection to Ukrainians in the EU.
Lastly, the President of the Commission tackled upon dealt with the Enlargement policy. She announced that the accession to the EU will always be merit-based and that the rule of law and fundamental rights will always constitute the foundations of the European Union. This is why, the Commission will open the Rule of Law Reports, which so far concerned only the Member States, also to the accession countries.
This was the last State of the Union address in the current’s Commission five-year mandate. Next European elections will be held in May 2024.
Reproduction autorisée avec la référence suivante : Mateusz Miłek,Some highlights of the 2023 State of the Union2023 State of the Union Address by President Ursula von der Leyen, actualité n° 30/2023, publiée le 19 septembre 2023, par le Centre d’études juridiques européennes, disponible sur www.ceje.ch