The annual State of the Union address sets the agenda for Europe for the coming year. An important moment for Europe.
In 2019, the von der Leyen Commission set a new and ambitious course towards a greener, more digital and fairer European Union.
Through two historic world events — the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s cruel war against Ukraine — Europe has stood united both in its fight against the virus and beside Ukraine’s people. While doing so, we have not only held but also accelerated our bold course forward.
Together, we are shaping the future. The State of the Union speech is a moment of reflection and where we shape ideas for our collective future.
Some key quotes from the 2022 speech:
“Europe’s solidarity with Ukraine will remain unshakeable.
From day one, Europe has stood at Ukraine’s side. With weapons. With funds. With hospitality for refugees. And with the toughest sanctions the world has ever seen.(…)
So far Team Europe have provided more than 19 billion euros in financial assistance. And this is without counting our military support. And we are in it for the long haul.
Ukraine’s reconstruction will require massive resources. So today I am announcing that we will work with the First Lady to support the rehabilitation of damaged Ukrainian schools. And that is why we will provide 100 million euros. Because the future of Ukraine begins in its schools.”
2. Diversifying away from Russian energy
“We have to get rid of this dependency all over Europe.
Therefore we agreed on joint storage. We are at 84% now: we are overshooting our target.
But unfortunately that will not be enough.
We have diversified away from Russia to reliable suppliers. US, Norway, Algeria and others. Last year, Russian gas accounted for 40% of our gas imports. Today it’s down to 9% pipeline gas.”
3. Energy crisis
“We are putting forward measures for Member States to reduce their overall electricity consumption.
But more targeted supported is needed. (…) Millions of Europeans need support.(…) This is why we are proposing a cap on the revenues of companies that produce electricity at a low cost.
These companies are making revenues they never accounted for, they never even dreamt of.
In our social market economy, profits are good.
But in these times it is wrong to receive extraordinary record profits benefitting from war and on the back of consumers.
Our proposal will raise more than 140 billion euros for Member States to cushion the blow directly.(…)
Major oil, gas and coal companies are also making huge profits. So they have to pay a fair share — they have to give a crisis contribution.
These are all emergency and temporary measures we are working on, including our discussions on price caps.”
4. REPowerEU and renewables
“(…)this necessary transformation has started.
It is happening in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, where our Member States agreed to invest massively into off-shore wind generation.
It is happening in Sicily, where Europe’s largest solar factory will soon manufacture the newest generation of panels.
And it is happening in Northern Germany, where local trains now run on green hydrogen.
And hydrogen can be a game changer for Europe. We need to move our hydrogen economy from niche to scale.
With REPowerEU, we have doubled our 2030 target to produce ten million tons of renewable hydrogen in the EU, each year.”
5. EU Solidarity during natural disasters
“The destructive power of extreme weather is too big for any country to fight on its own. But as disasters become more frequent and more intense, Europe will need more capacity.
This is why I can today announce that we will double our firefighting capacity over the next year.
The EU will buy another 10 light amphibious aircrafts and three helicopters to add to the fleet.”
6. Pandemic and recovery, thereafter
“The last years have shown how much Europe can achieve when it is united. After an unprecedented pandemic, our economic output overtook pre-crisis levels in record time.
We went from having no vaccine to securing over 4 billion doses for Europeans and for the world.
And in record time, we came up with SURE — so that people could stay in their jobs even if their companies had run out of work.
We were in the deepest recession since World War 2. We achieved the fastest recovery since the post-war boom.”
7. Next GenerationEU
NextGenerationEU has been a boost of confidence for our economy. So far, 100 billion euros have been disbursed to Member States. This means: 700 billion euros still haven’t flown into our economy.
NextGenerationEU will guarantee a constant stream of investment to sustain jobs and growth.(…) It is financing new wind turbines and solar parks, high-speed trains and energy-saving renovations.
8. Supporting small businesses
“It (SME Relief Package) will include a proposal for a single set of tax rules for doing business in Europe — we call it BEFIT.
This will make it easier to do business in our Union. Less red tape means better access to the dynamism of a continental market.
And we will revise the Late Payment Directive — because it is simply not fair that 1 in 4 bankruptcies are due to invoices not being paid on time.
For millions of family businesses, this will be a lifeline in troubled waters.”
9. Making 2023 the European Year of Skills
“We need much more focus in our investment on professional education and upskilling.
We need better cooperation with the companies, because they know best what they need. And we need to match these needs with people’s aspirations.
But we also have to attract the right skills to our continent, skills that help companies and strengthen Europe’s growth.
As a first important step, we need to speed up and facilitate the recognition of qualifications also of third country nationals.
This will make Europe more attractive for skilled workers.”
10. Critical raw materials and our industry.
“Lithium and rare earths metals are already replacing gas and oil at the heart of our economy.
By 2030, our demand for those rare earth metals will increase fivefold. (..) We need to update our links to reliable countries and key growth regions.
And for this reason, I intend to put forward for ratification the agreements with Chile, Mexico and New Zealand. And advance negotiations with key partners like Australia and India.
But securing supplies is only a first step. The processing of these metals is just as critical.
We will identify strategic projects all along the supply chain, from extraction to refining, from processing to recycling. And we will build up strategic reserves where supply is at risk.
This is why today I am announcing a European Critical Raw Materials Act.”
11. Strengthening democracies on our continent.
“This starts with those countries that are already on the path to our Union.
We must be at their side every step of the way. Because the path towards strong democracies and the path towards our Union are one and the same.
So I want the people of the Western Balkans, of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia to know: You are part of our family, your future is in our Union, and our Union is not complete without you!”
12. Strengthening our democracy.
“(…) disinformation is spreading from the internet to the halls of our universities.
We need to better shield ourselves from malign interference. This is why we will present a Defence of Democracy package.”
13. Global Gateway
“Our future also depends on our ability to engage beyond the core of our democratic partners.
(…)This is the main idea behind Global Gateway, the investment plan I announced right here one year ago. It is already delivering on the ground.
Together with our African partners we are building two factories in Rwanda and Senegal to manufacture mRNA vaccines. They will be made in Africa, for Africa, with world-class technology.
And we are now replicating this approach across Latin America as part of a larger engagement strategy. This requires investment on a global scale.
So we will team up with our friends in the US and with other G7 partners to make this happen.”
14. Listening to Europeans
“(…)the Conference on the Future of Europe was so important.
It was a sneak peek of a different kind of citizens’ engagement, well beyond election day. And after Europe listened to its citizens’ voice, we now need to deliver.
The Citizens’ Panels that were central to the Conference will now become a regular feature of our democratic life.”