Leaders of the main European parties represented in the European Parliament reacted to the SOTEU speech delivered earlier today by the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen (details here).
Martin Weber – EPP Group said that the EU has made the right decisions in the last years, on vaccines, on setting up of a recovery fund, on being a front runner in the fight against climate change, in sanctions against Russia and in support in Ukraine. “Together we are stronger”, he insisted. Weber said that the biggest social question today is high inflation, and thus there is need for better prosperity, through better trade deals, competitiveness and innovation. “Competitiveness must be a priority”, he insisted. He also welcomed the extension of the Green Deal, saying that there is an oligation to deliver. Weber also said that the EU countries should not be selling technologies to China. “We do not want to see Chinese EVs benefiting from European subsidies”, calling for green jobs for European people. Weber also called on Parliament to finalise the migration pact, expressing hope that the “Von der Leyen majority” will achieve this.
Iratxe García Perez – Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, said that Europe need to push for a re-industrialisation and progress on the green transition, while curbing the effects of climate change. this is al legal but also moral obligation.
We need to hear more about the fight against inflation, social housing, the fight against poverty, with the Spanish MEP calling for legal benchmarks on the latter. She also spoke about women’s rights, calling for the incorporation of violence against women in the EU list of crimes. García Perez said that EU structures need to be streamlined by the use of more qualified majority voting, while adding that process for integration of new Member States should be facilitated. She also called for a permanent fiscal capacity to face future crisis, which could also be achieved through further tax justice and an ensure that business profits do not exceed what is beyond reasonable expectation.
Stéphane Séjourné, for Renew Europe, said that the challenges that Europe faced in the past four years brought Europeans closer together. He addressed some of the areas in which the grouping wanted to see more of Europe, including on defence and migration. He called for a reduction of bureacracy for companies and individuals, and ensure that investment reflected the overarching objectives. He expressed disappointment at the defence of the democratic model, saying that Council is dragging its feet in addressing the situations in countries such as Poland, Hungary and Italy. On the latter, he criticised Italy’s approach to the civil registration on LGBT persons. Séjourné railed at what he called the Orbanisation of Europe, in reference to the Hungarian PM, saying that this contradicts European DNA and should be rejected with force. “Democracy dies because of internal threats”, he warned in his concluding remarks.
Philippe Lamberts, of the Greens says that the EU was for a long time blinded by economic orthodoxy and ignore environmental needs, adding that therefore the significant change in the past couple of years was historical, complementing Von der Leyen for her leadership. He expressed disagreement against those who want to slow down the legislation of fighting climate change. “This is a question of survival”, he said, recalling the recent wildfires in Greece or flooding in Slovenia. “We need to act with all we have. We have waited for too long”, Lamberts added, as he called on Von der Leyen to pushback proposals at slowing down her initiatives related to the European Green Deal. He also called on the European Commission to double its efforts in defending European law. He also criticised EU migration policy, which made Europe a fortress and the Mediterranean a mass grave, while depending on autocrats on ensuring its implementation. Lamberts said that Europe’s morale reputation was on the line. He also criticised centre-right European governments in making alliances with the far-right.
Philippe Lamberts, of the Greens remarked that the EU was for a long time blinded by economic orthodoxy and ignore environmental needs, adding that therefore the significant change in the past couple of years was historical, complementing Von der Leyen for her leadership. He expressed disagreement against those who want to slow down the legislation of fighting climate change. “This is a question of survival”, he said, recalling the recent wildfires in Greece or flooding in Slovenia. “We need to act with all we have. We have waited for too long”, Lamberts added, as he called on Von der Leyen to pushback proposals at slowing down her initiatives related to the European Green Deal. He also called on the European Commission to double its efforts in defending European law. He also criticised EU migration policy, which made Europe a fortress and the Mediterranean a mass grave, while depending on autocrats on ensuring its implementation. Lamberts said that Europe’s morale reputation was on the line. He also criticised centre-right European governments in making alliances with the far-right.
Ryszard Antoni Legutko on behalf of the ECR said the EU is not in a better shape than 20 years ago, saying that “something is rotten in the state of the Union”, with the bloc facing recession and geopolitical tension. He expressed disappointment that the EU only acted against Russia after the invasion of Russia, letting the continent become dependent on Russian energy. He also described the migration policy as a failure, while the social fabric is disintegrating. He said that the Green Deal is a costly extravaganza with rising living costs and energy bills. He also said that common debt is an extravaganza, with the EU budget described as “in shambles”, saying that Europe had too much trust in how the markets would react to European loans as opposed to individual member states. He described as outrageous efforts to
President ID Group Marco Zanni said that Von Der Leyen’s speech sounded as an electoral campaign message which was not in tune with what the public was facing in a cost-of-living crisis. He called for Europe to be more pragmatic, and less utopia. The problem with climate change, he added, is not the EU, but countries such as China which was competing in a manner which is not fair, calling for the implementation of duties on similar countries. On migration, he said that it felt the EU was seemingly not ready to address this challenge which is being borne by just a few countries. “If we do not reduce the number of arrival, we cannot achieve a better re-distribution”, he added.
Martin Schirdewan, on behalf of the Left Group said that beyond the promises and commitments, workers were struggling with the impact of cost-of-living, adding that for people facing difficulties, facing higher energy bills or a 34% increase in food prices, will consider the President of the Commission’s speech as cynical. He said that a windfall tax on profits should have been introduced to help fight poverty. He said that many pensioners cannot enjoy a life with dignity in these circumstances. He also addressed the tragedies on EU borders, saying that there is no dignity and respect in the way Europe is addressing the situation.
Tiziana Beghin, a non-attached member, asked President Von Der Leyen to concentrate on the common good and to avoid hearing the ‘sirens’ from European capital city, as she called for a greener, technological and more social Europe. She said that war in Ukraine is the largest threat to the continent, and added that peace and dialogue should bring the war to an end, not weapons.
Metsola: More reforms needed to transform Europe into a place of prosperity
In her opening statement for the State of the Union debate, the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, conveyed that the European Union needed to continue its reform efforts. She remarked, “We must persist in our efforts to transform Europe into a place characterized by equality of opportunity, access, and prosperity, where everyone has the potential to realize their aspirations.”
Metsola greeted her colleagues and expressed her satisfaction in welcoming the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, to the European Parliament for the annual State of the European Union address.
She acknowledged the challenges the EU had confronted in recent years, including a financial crisis, a pandemic, Brexit, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Despite these challenges, the EU had grown stronger and more unified. Metsola emphasized the need for Europe to adapt to a changing world and maintain its commitment to reform. She stressed the importance of making Europe a place where equality, access, and prosperity prevailed, and where everyone had the opportunity to reach their full potential. She also recognized that while significant progress had been made, many people in the Union were still facing difficulties, particularly women and young people. Metsola emphasized the importance of prioritizing the concerns of the people in all EU actions.