EU Commission President von der Leyen delivers State of the Union speech

Reading Time: 12 minutes


Thank you for following us today. Below, you can find a round up of the key points raised by Ursula von der Leyen in her State of the Union speech and the key reactions by the different political groupings in the European Parliament.

Updated 1050:

Reactions by Political Groupings

Manfred Weber (EPP Group) called for a “Winter of solidarity” as the solution to the current situation. Millions of people, have lost their home, their future, their livelihoods. It is the brutal reality of Putin’s war. At the same time in our countries businesses are closing because of the high energy prices,” he said. This solidarity would take place as further support to Ukraine, through more funds and more weapons, ensuring that Ukraine wins the war, as well as solidarity among Europeans. “We need to ensure no one is left behind. We need to give an answer to soaring energy prices”, he said.

He also called for stronger investment in defence. “The EPP stands for a more ambitious Europe”, calling for more leadership on the matter. Weber also referred to the rule of law, which he said should be better enforced across the EU. “Identifying the problems is not enough. We finally need to use the best tool we have to prevent European money from sponsoring autocrats”.

Iratxe Garcia Perez (Socialists and Democrats): We are facing historic challenges. Putin is threatening our values and international balance. “We need to strengthen our unity. We have to act quickly, with ambition and solidarity in order to reduce the social and economic impact of the war”, she said. She added that inflation, especially food, was going up with no limit. Increase in interest rates were putting pressure on mortgages, she added. We need to take decisive action now. She expressed support to energy price caps and a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies.
Garcia Perez noted that the state of the democracy is fragile as the economy, noting how Hungary and Orban are becoming more ‘autocratic’, and hinting at the possibility of fascist parties winning elections in the near future. She called on the EPP Group to take action on the matter. “We have a shared responsibility, Europe is counting on us”.

Stephane Sejourne (Renew)
For 200 days, Ukrainians have been fighting for their freedom and ours. It’s a fight of freedom against oppression. War is having important consequences on our daily lives, that is why a stronger and response is imperative. He thanked Von der Leyen for the proposals made by the Commission today, particularly on the energy cap, expressing support for the European energy shield including both a windfall tax and price caps. He call for further solidarity between Member States through joint purchasing, and investing in renewables. “Let’s make Europe the first continent to abandon fossil fuels”. He dismissed calls from populists to remove sanctions. He also called on the EP and other institutions to deal further against foreign interferences, as autocratic states keep trying to influence European democracies.

Ska Keller (Greens)
“Altogether we must face this atrocious aggression of Putin by courage and determination”, Ska Keller said. “Europe needs to scale up its support to Ukraine. Ukraine is able to withstand the attack and thus Europe remains on its side. There are also consequences for the EU. We must be ready for the tough times ahead. We must ensure that the heaviest consequences must be carried by the strongest shoulders”, she said.
Keller called on political leaders not to ignore the most vulnerable people: “People are afraid of the months ahead, so we must ensured that the greed and profit of a few don’t lead to the misery of many”. She also expressed support to the proposal of a windfall tax on fossil fuel crisis. Keller also said that Europe must use less energy and produce more sustainable energy. “Fossil fuels create dangerous dependency and an ecological disaster”, insisting on the need of a new era of sustainable European production. She also called for stronger defence of values within the EU, expressing support to Von der Leyen’s words on the rule of law. Keller said that Europe has strong tools but ‘these must be used’, calling on von der Leyen to respect to the conditionality of mechanism. She said no EU money should go to Poland and Hungary before these two countries rectify their ways. She also called out EPP’s Manfred Weber for his party’s ties with Italian political groupings, which she says that were friends with Putin until a few years ago and display neo-fascist logo.

Marco Zanni (ID Group)
Mr Zanni took exception to comments by the representatives of the Greens and the Socialists on risks posed by Italian parties. He asked them to speak to people on the streets – people are not worried by the emergence of fascism but rather of those who implemented policies which have put citizens struggling to cope with the cost of living, struggling to feel secure in their towns and cities. Zanni said that Von der Leyen’s speech consisted of important proposals and words, which he felt that many times are not translated into action. He called on the Commission to look back at its proposals made back in 2019, and rethink with pragmatism the changed situation, policies such as the Green Deal, which are not achievable given what has happened in Europe in the past two years.

Raffaele Fitto (European Conservatives and Reformists Group)
Mr Fitto also shared his grouping’s political support to Ukraine as well as to the sanctions being imposed against Russia. Fitto said Europe needs to be really united to support businesses and families to face the energy crisis. Gas price caps were crucial, he added. He also called for unity between countries, and made it a point to thank Poland for its role in welcoming refugees. “Let’s avoid confrontation within Europe, collaboration is the way forward”. Fitto also called on European leaders to respect democratic election results in countries.

Manon Aubry (Left) presented a number of gas bills given to her by what she described people worried not to be able to heat their homes this winter. She welcomed the taxation of excessive profits on energy, which the grouping had long been call for. Aubry said that this should not be on just fossil fuels but on all companies that have benefited from the crisis, including banking, shipping and luxury. The MEP said that the EU is having to cross its collective fingers that there will be no blackouts this Winter, suggesting that the measures taken so far were not enough. “We have to stop prices from rising further. Aubry said that despite the hottest climate in history, the SOTEU speech made little reference to climate change. “The planning is burning and you want to import milk from the other side of the world”, Aubry lamented, saying that Europe could do better.

Earlier: Commission President Von Der Leyen – Key Points

Corruption must be eradicated – VdL

EU President Ursula Von der Leyen said that if Europe wants to be credible, “when we ask candidate countries to strengthen their democracies, we must also eradicate corruption at home”. She described corruption as the fhe face of foreign agents trying to influence our political system and the face of shady companies or foundations abusing public money.

She revealed that the Commission will present measures to update our legislative framework for fighting corruption. “We will raise standards on offences such as illicit enrichment, trafficking in influence and abuse of power, beyond the more classic offences such as bribery.  And we will also propose to include corruption in our human rights sanction regime, our new tool to protect our values abroad”.

Von der Leyen insisted that corruption erodes trust in our institutions, calling on all stakeholders to fight back with the full force of the law.

Updated 0953: Fighting disinformation is imperative

Von der Leyen appealed for a further strengthening our democracies, insisting that Europe should not lose sight of the way foreign autocrats are targeting our own countries. “Foreign entities are funding institutes that undermine our values”, she said, saying that their disinformation is spreading from the internet to the halls of our universities.

She recalled how earlier this year, the University of Amsterdam shut down an allegedly independent research centre, which was actually funded by Chinese entities. This centre was publishing so-called research on human rights, dismissing the evidence of forced labour camps for Uyghurs as “rumours”.

“We need to better shield ourselves from malign interference. This is why we will present a Defence of Democracy package”, she announced.

Updated 0945: Price caps, windfall tax on the cards

The European Union will propose measures to cap revenues from low-cost electricity generators and force fossil fuel firms to share the profits they make from soaring energy prices. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that “in these times it is wrong to receive extraordinary record revenues and profits benefitting from war and on the back of our consumers. In these times, profits must be shared and channelled to those who need it most,” von der Leyen said.

She added that the EU’s 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”, von der Leyen added.

Von der Leyen said the bloc was also discussing energy price caps, and working to establish a “more representative benchmark” price for gas than the Dutch Title Transfer Facility (TTF).

Updated 0930 – Putin will fail – von der Leyen

“This is about autocracy against democracy,” Ursula von der Leyen, wearing blue and yellow – the colours of both Ukraine’s and the EU flags – said in her annual address to the European Parliament. “With the necessary courage and with the necessary solidarity, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin will fail and Ukraine and Europe will prevail.”

She acknowledged that one lesson from this war is Europe should have listened to those who know Putin, including journalist Anna Politkovskaya and all the Russian journalists who exposed the crimes and Europe’s friends in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and to the opposition in Belarus, as well as inside the Union in Poland, in the Baltics, and all across Central and Eastern Europe.

Updated 0920 – EU commits 100m euro to rebuild schools in Ukraine

The European Union will help Ukraine rebuild its schools, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen revealed today. During the State of the Union speech, EU Commission Ursula Von der Leyen announced that the EU will allocate 100 million euros to support the rehabilitation to Ukrainian schools, insisting that the future of the country begins in its school. It is estimated that Russian strikes have damaged or destroyed more than 70 schools.

“Half a million Ukrainian children have started their school year in the European Union. But many others inside Ukraine simply don’t have a classroom to go to”, von der Leyen said.

The Commission President recalled how from day one, Europe has stood at Ukraine’s side, with weapons, funds and, with hospitality for refugees and with the toughest sanctions the world has ever seen”. She said that more than 19 billion euros in financial assistance.

Von der Leyen said that the sanctions were yielding the desired results, arguing that Russia’s financial sector is on life-support, with some three quarters of Russia’s banking sector cut off from international markets, while nearly one thousand international companies have left the country.

“The production of cars fell by three-quarters compared to last year. Aeroflot is grounding planes because there are no more spare parts. The Russian military is taking chips from dishwashers and refrigerators to fix their military hardware, because they ran out of semiconductors. Russia’s industry is in tatters”, the President said, describing Russia’s economy on the path to oblivion.

The Commission President also said that the EU wants to mobilise the full power of the Single Market to help accelerate growth and create opportunities in Ukraine. For this reason, the Commission will work with Ukraine to ensuring seamless access to the Single Market. And vice-versa. “Now it’s time to make it a success story for our Ukrainian friends, too.”.


European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will be presenting the State of the Union speech this morning at the European Parliament.

Her speech comes at a critical juncture for the EU. The heart of the European project – peace, democracy, and prosperity – is being challenged, and even attacked: peace, with a war leading to major international consequences – from millions of people fleeing their bombed homes and seeking refuge abroad to new alliance outlines – at the European Union’s border; democracy, with the unjustified invasion of Ukraine and, at home, interference in elections and public debate; and prosperity, through the domino effects of spiralling prices, with European citizens increasingly anxious about heating their homes this winter, having endured a climate catastrophe of record high temperatures, megafires, disappearing glaciers and drought during summer 2022.

Ursula von der Leyen is expected to outline the impact of the Commission’s work in the past year and its upcoming plans, particularly regarding EU solidarity with Ukraine, sanctions on Russia, the measures to ensure the EU’s energy supply and curb its dependence on Russian fossil fuels, and the current energy price spikes. She is also set to focus on the European Green Deal and the green transition, on digitalisation, the EU’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and planning for future pandemics, and Europe’s NextGenerationEU recovery plan.

MEPs will later assess in their responses the Commission’s work and its plans for the year ahead, alongside presenting their own views and proposals. The annual State of the Union debate allows MEPs to scrutinise the European Commission’s results and priorities and contribute to setting the EU’s policy direction.

Photo via EP Multimedia Services

Once you're here...

%d bloggers like this: