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SOTEU 2020: A Stronger Europe

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by KEITH ZAHRA

In her State of the Union address on 16 September 2020, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen presented her vision for a Europe that emerges stronger from the pandemic and leads the way towards a new vitality. 

With NextGenerationEU, Europe has a once in a lifetime opportunity to make change happen by design, she claimed. 

The President pledged the Commission’s determination to transition Europe towards digitalisation resilience, and a greener future, and will concentrate its efforts on: 

• Protecting lives and livelihoods in Europe, the health of its citizens and the stability of the European economy 

• Reinforcing the building blocks of the European Green Deal and raising its ambitions 

• Leading the digital transformation, particularly on data, technology and infrastructure 

• Improving the single market 

• Continuing to rally global response as the world awaits an accessible, affordable, and safe vaccine against COVID-19 

• Building a stronger European Health Union with various measures to strengthen cross-border coordination 

• Responding more assertively to global events and deepening relations with EU’s closest neighbours and global partners 

• Taking a new approach to migration, remaining vigilant on the rule of law, and building a union where racism and discrimination have no place

Von der Leyen described the pandemic as a painful and anxious period for millions, warning that authorities and the public must continue to stay vigilant as numbers rise again in some parts of Europe. However, the current situation also presents European nations with an opportunity to emerge stronger together. 

Touching the issue of migration, Von der Leyen said that the European Commission will come forward in the next days with a New European Pact on Migration. The Commission President said that this policy will take a human and humane approach and ensure that it is not only a European pact by name – but a common European solution by design. “It will be based on solidarity, both between Europeans and with refugees and on collective responsibility of national governments.” 

Transformation was a central theme in her address, insisting that with NextGenerationEU, Europe has the financial resources we need to take urgent and strategic action, from improving internet speeds to supporting industry. Most importantly, these funds will provide the opportunity to do more than simply repairing Europe economy, but rather they will help the continent shape a better way of living. In this context, the Commission President announced more ambitious climate targets, within the context of the European Green Deal which itself sets the goal for Europe to become climate neutral by 2050. The Commission is now proposing to increase its 2030 target for emissions reduction to at least 55% – up from 40% as it currently is. 

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