The president of the European Commission (EC), the German Ursula Von der Leyen, has advocated this morning, in her speech on the State of the Union, for expanding vaccination against the coronavirus worldwide, because without global protection there will also be no security in the Twenty-seven. “Our highest and most urgent priority is to accelerate global vaccination,” he emphasized in a speech in which triumphalism shone at times for what had been achieved “among all of us” and, at times, the dark clouds that still threaten Europeans were evident. for the pandemic, but without self-criticism.
“In the biggest global crisis in decades, we have decided to move forward fairly, as with vaccines (…) together as a Commission. From the bottom of my heart I give thanks. We have done it together as one Europe and we can be proud of it ”, he began his speech, first back at the headquarters of the European Parliament in Strasbourg (France) thanks to the relaxation of control measures against the coronavirus. Europe has achieved in recent months “an ideal and the political soul to serve this ideal”, after standing together on various fronts in the fight against the pandemic and climate change, he says.
“It was Robert Schuman who said that Europe needs a soul, an ideal and a political soul to serve this ideal. Europe has brought these words to life in recent months, ”said Von der Leyen.
“The times of the crown are not over, there is still a lot of pain in society, hearts that we can never repair, vital stories that we cannot conclude and time that we cannot give back to young people,” he acknowledged, launching a very affectionate message to the Europeans of the new generations.
“We face global challenges, this year will be another test of a European character, but I think that when one must put oneself to the test is when one’s own spirit, one’s soul, shines. When I see our union, I know that Europe will pass the test ”, for which he finds“ inspiration ”in the“ young people of Europe ”, who have given“ meaning to empathy and solidarity ”with their sacrifices in the face of covid-19, or in their fight for the environment, “although they are concerned about the future, they are determined to improve it”. “Our union will be thoughtful, concerned about others, bold in action and based on values, if we become more like them,” he defends.
In fact, later in his speech, he proposed that 2022 be the year of youth, citing for example his behavior against climate change, a role model. “The EU will be stronger if it is more like the next generation,” he notes. As a first concrete step, it announces a new European program, called ALMA, which allows young Europeans to have professional experiences abroad.
Ursula von der Leyen, during her speech in Strasbourg, this Wednesday. (Photo: YVES HERMAN / .)
The president of the EC has looked back and acknowledges that a year ago she could not even imagine that we would have a vaccine, which already protects 70% of Europeans, although with “worrying divergences”. “Today, despite all the criticism, we are in the lead. We have been the only ones who have shared half of our production to the rest of the world, more than 700 million vaccines to Europeans and as many more to the rest of the world, to 130 countries. The only region in the world that has achieved it ”, he emphasized, achieving the greatest applause in the morning.
In the face of the rush, the calm. “A pandemic is not a speed race, it is a marathon, we follow science, we have complied with Europe and the rest of the world, in the European way, and it has worked,” he says. He complains that science has not reached the whole world, he has spoken of “injustice”, so “there are no reasons for complacency.” “Our highest and most urgent priority is to accelerate global vaccination,” he confirmed. It is, he says, “one of the geopolitical problems of our time.”
He has announced the purchase of 200 million more doses for Africa, for next year, in addition to the 150 already delivered, for “solidarity and global health.”
The second priority, he maintains, is “to continue our efforts” in the Twenty-seven, “that it does not become a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” he indicates. It has claimed, once again, the community health competencies, consolidated in these months, and has proposed “a new mission of preparedness and health resilience for the entire EU”, endowed with 50,000 million by 2027 channeled Team Europe, so that “no virus converts a local epidemic into a pandemic ”.
“We were divided and we were slow”
On the economic level, the forecast is that 19 countries will return to pre-pandemic economic levels this year and the rest, next year. Von der Leyen maintains that the economic recovery has been a success, but because it was learned from mistakes, when “we were divided and we were slow.” “In the previous crisis, it took eight years to recover the GDP, but this year 19 countries will already be at the prepandemic level,” he repeated.
The president has been hurt by what she has called “scars of the crisis”, such as bad jobs and low salaries, because she has expressly mentioned the social pillar. “If the pandemic taught us anything, it is the value of our time , and there is none more valuable than what we spend with ours, “he says. He has promised, then, a new European care strategy to strengthen this network between parents, children, “community”.
In his speech, he has advanced that in “the next few weeks” he will begin the review of the community rules for controlling the deficit and debt in order to find consensus before 2023. “We have to reflect on how the crisis has affected the shape of our economy, from the increase in debt to the uneven impact between sectors and new forms of work. To this end, the EC will relaunch the discussion on economic governance in the coming weeks. The goal is to build consensus on how to proceed before 2023, “he says.
A stronger defense
Afghanistan forces all western countries to rethink their defense policies. The hasty departure, leaving the country in the hands of the Taliban, causes embarrassment and sadness for what has been invested and fought in recent years. As expected, Von der Leyen has opted for more defensive autonomy for the EU, less dependence on the US and NATO and more of his own voice wherever things that concern the Union happen.
“There will be missions where NATO or the UN is not but Europe must be,” says Von der Leyen, “what we need now is a Defense Union.” “What has held us back is not a lack of capacity but of political will,” says the former German defense minister.
It has announced a conference on European defense, with the impulse of the president of France, Emmanuel Macron (France assumes the rotating presidency in January and, in addition, the French is a great defender of the creation of a European army). “It is now time for Europe to rise to a higher level,” he defends.
“We support the Afghan people. We must do everything possible to avoid the real risk of a great famine and a humanitarian disaster. That is why we will once again increase humanitarian aid for Afghanistan by 100 million euros, as part of a new package of broader Afghan support ”, he has advanced.
The president of the European Commission has dedicated a notable part of her speech to green policies, “essential” in today’s world. He began by announcing that the EU will allocate an additional 4 billion euros to finance the climate fight of poor countries and has called “the United States and other partners” to follow the same path. A warning to the greats. You have spoken of “getting up” to these environmental needs.
Von der Leyen, who also advanced that the EU will double its aid to biodiversity in low-income countries, pointed out that the international community has a “duty to the least developed and most vulnerable countries”.
And he recalled that the 2015 Paris Agreement against climate change foresaw that rich countries would finance with 100,000 million a year until 2026 the climate policies of the poorest. There are commitments, but it is time to fulfill them. he COP26 climate summit in Glasgow (United Kingdom) next November, conceived to take stock after Paris and evaluate the specific policies deployed by the international community, is “the moment of truth” to see how far everyone is committed. Von der Leyen recalled that the EU is now starting the legislative path to reduce its emissions by 55% in 2030 compared to 1990 as a halfway point to decarbonize its economy in 2050.
A socially just Europe
The German woman thanked private companies for their efforts in these tough times, but also sent them a message about tax evasion: “It is good that companies have benefits but if they do, it is because of the infrastructures, because of the educational system. The least we can ask for is that they make a fair contribution ”.
Regarding the migratory pact, one of the great touchstones of the months to come and that accumulates a long year of delay, he has affirmed that the text “gives us everything we need”, “we know that we can find consensus but progress since that we presented the pact has been painfully slow ”. The president says that reaching an agreement is a matter of trust: trust between member states, that migration can be managed, that the EU can assume its responsibility with the most vulnerable.
In social matters, two legislative proposals have been applauded: the first, for this fall, on violence against women, which has been reviewed, for example, the drama during the months of confinement. “The torturers have to be brought to justice,” he says firmly. “Freedom also means being free from fear. And during the pandemic, too many women were deprived of that freedom, ”she insists.
The second is legislation for the freedom of the media, after the cases of persecution, harassment and even murder that have occurred within the EU itself. “We need a law that ensures protection. If we defend the media, we defend democracy ”, he says. It has not yet given details about the content of those rules.
Although he has not expressly mentioned China, he has also announced that he will propose to ban in the EU the sale of products that have been made with forced labor: “Human rights are not for sale,” he notes.
The slap on the wrist to Poland or Hungary has been missed for their laws that attack the props of the EU, such as freedom, charging against homosexuals, for example. Nor has he expressly cited them, but he has defended values such as freedom, the rule of law or equality before the law. He has done it in German (the third language he has used in his speech, after English and French) and remembering the embers of the Second World War. The nod has been to Frans Timmermans, vice president of the EC, who has brought a rainbow mask to the chamber.
The president of the EC had a final firework, a guest so admired by all that consensus was guaranteed: it is the Paralympic athlete and Italian gold medalist Beatrice Vio, with whom she was talking for a long time before the start of her speech . The young woman, who in April faced a danger of death, recovered, “an example of struggle and effort”, went to Tokyo and won. Von der Leyen has used the title of Vio’s book as the motto to close his speech, in Italian: “Sembra sembra impossibile, allora si può fare”. “If it seems impossible, it can be done. Long live Europe ”.
This article originally appeared on The HuffPost and has been updated.