The European Parliament will host this Wednesday the State of the Union speech by the president of the Community Executive, Ursula von der Leyen, who will underline the achievements of her Commission in areas such as the joint purchase of vaccines against the coronavirus and will look forward with new initiatives in defense with the lessons of the Afghan experience.
The speech will begin at 09.00 local time (07.00 GMT) with a welcome from the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, and then continue with the traditional speech of the president, which is expected to last just over an hour and in which he will raise the political milestones at the European level of the past year and the priorities for the one that is starting, the third of the legislature.
Later the leaders of the political groups in Parliament will speak, to whom Von der Leyen herself will answer; then the Slovenian Foreign Minister, Anze Logar (whose country holds the six-month presidency of the Council), will intervene, and later a long list of MEPs who will extend the debate until almost 1:00 p.m. (11:00 GMT), at which time the debate will close the group leaders in reverse order.
The pandemic and vaccines
Among the chapters that the president is expected to address in her speech is the coronavirus pandemic, which has marked most of the European legislature and has forced unprecedented legislative proposals and actions in certain areas.
Von der Leyen will speak, for example, of the European Commission’s vaccine purchasing strategy, considered a success by Brussels after a somewhat bumpy start due to the initial slowness of vaccination and delays in deliveries from AstraZeneca, to whom the Community executive ended up taking them to court.
Despite this, the European Union as a whole reached 70% of its adult population vaccinated a few weeks ago, a milestone without comparison in other regions of the world of similar magnitude and exporting doses in quantities similar to those that have been reserved for European countries , an attitude criticized at the beginning of the campaign but which Brussels believes, in hindsight, that it was the right choice.
The president is also expected to refer to the extremely low immunity rates in many low- and middle-income countries around the world and the initiatives that have so far been carried out to alleviate the situation, such as the Global Access Fund for Vaccines. COVAX, as well as possible future proposals.
800,000 million euros in aid
Beyond the coronavirus, the pandemic was precisely the fuel needed to drive an unprecedented joint debt issuance to finance the post-pandemic recovery fund, which has already disbursed the first advances to several member states, including Spain, and will carry the countries some 800,000 million euros in direct transfers until 2026.
Of these, almost 50,000 million euros in pre-financing have already reached the member states in the run-up to this first political course in which governments must begin to implement the reforms in exchange for which they will receive funding from the fund.
These investments should contribute to the ecological and digital transitions, which will foreseeably also have a prominent place in Von der Leyen’s speech after the presentation in July of the legislative package to realize the goal of reducing polluting emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 and reach climate neutrality in 2050.
Even within European borders, the president will foreseeably address the blockade to reach a consensus on a migration pact, particularly in view of the political use that actors such as Belarus have made of refugee flows in the direction of the European Union, and in the face of a possible increase in arrivals. after the Afghan crisis.
It will also highlight the situation of press freedom and the rule of law in the EU, although in this case without individually mentioning the usual suspects – Hungary and Poland – but in general, to emphasize that community values should be a fundamental issue in the whole block.
Beyond community borders, the Afghan crisis will serve as a link for Von der Leyen to raise the need for strengthened political will in defense initiatives and to revive proposals such as a rapid force of about 5,000 troops to intervene in situations of emergence, and new ideas in key areas, such as hybrid defense.