A Quick Summary: the EU State of the Union Address

Missed President of the European Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen’s EU State of the Union Address? Here’s a quick summary of the 10 need to knows:

1. A green(ish) tilt – A lot of time in the speech was given to the Green Deal, including the announcement of a series of Clean Transition Dialogues. However, many will be disappointed by the lack of reference to COP28 or plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.

2. Caution on China – Von Der Leyen was vocal in her critique of China’s ‘unfair trade practices’ and announced an anti-subsidy investigation into electrical vehicles from China. There is now a clear push from the EU for businesses particularly to be more cognisant of the security challenges China poses.

3. EU expansion? – Von Der Leyen heavily endorsed enlarging the EU to 30 members, specifically referring to EU candidates Ukraine, Moldova and Serbia, but made clear that accession would be contingent on a number of key reforms in these countries.

4. AI Leadership – Von der Leyen sought to position the EU as a leader in AI – giving high-performance computers to AI start-ups and advocating for minimum global standards for safe use of AI. With the UK hosting a global AI Summit in November this could present an opportunity for UK-EU collaboration.

5. Ukraine still a priority – Von der Leyen emphasised that ‘the future of the Ukraine is in (the European) Union’. On Ukraine she focused on refugees and reconstruction, announcing plans to extend temporary protection for Ukrainians in the EU, but the lack of focus on military support for Ukraine was notable.

6. Legislation to tackle legislation – Von der Leyen highlighted that next month she will introduce legislative proposals towards reducing European level reporting obligations by 25%.

7. Focus on food security – Von der Leyen announced a strategic dialogue on the future of agriculture in the EU as it looks to shore up the long-term sustainability and security of the EU’s food supply. This mirrors the strong focus on food security at the G20.

8. Social Partnerships – A ‘Social Partner Summit’ was announced together with next year’s Belgian Presidents to work with social partners to address gaps in the labour market. Draghi (former Italian PM) will also prepare a report on European future competitiveness.

9. Getting tough on migration – Von Der Leyen was keen to look tough on migration reiteraitng her ‘steadfast conviction that migration needs to be managed’. Particular focus was placed on human smugglers, with Von Der Leyen announcing the Commission will organise an International Conference on fighting people smuggling.

10. VDL’s Second Term? It would have been too political VDL to use the speech to announce her intentions to re-run as President, but her heavy courting of farmers and unions in her speech and the very strong focus on the future suggest that it’s certainly not off the cards.

Evie Aspinall

Evie is the Director of the British Foreign Policy Group