Von der Leyen spoke on Green Deal, China, competitiveness on State of the Union

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen focused on what was achieved in her term, during her last State of the Union address to the current plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Von der Leyen focused in particular on the European Green Deal and its economic dimension, presenting a number of new initiatives, such as the appointment of an envoy on the problems of small and medium-sized enterprises, and the assignment of Mario Draghi to draft a report on Europe's competitiveness. In her speech, the Commission President said that when she presented her priorities for a green, digital and geopolitical Europe in 2019, some had doubts, but added that today the Commission has delivered on over 90% of those political guidelines. She paid particular attention to the progress made on gender equality, through the agreement on the Women on Boards Directive and the Directive on pay transparency. She also referred to the Commission proposal on combating violence against women, and said that she wants to cast into law the basic principle that "no means no". Regarding the European Green Deal, Von der Leyen said that this summer's natural disasters in Greece and Slovenia were a reminder of "the reality of a boiling planet", but also stressed that the Green Deal was designed as "an opportunity to preserve our future prosperity", demonstrating that decarbonisation and modernisation can go hand in hand. The Commission President stressed that the EU will continue to support European industry during the transition, announcing the launch of a structured dialogue with industry representatives on the green transition, as well as the promotion of a legislative package on wind power. Von der Leyen also linked the effort to green growth to global competition issues, noting that global markets are flooded with cheaper Chinese electric vehicles, whose prices are kept artificially low through huge state support, and announced an investigation into these practices by the Commission. Speaking on economic and social issues, Von der Leyen referred to three challenges: labour and skills shortages, inflation and making business easier for European companies. She announced that she will convene a new Social Partner Summit with the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU during the first half of 2024 and the appointment of an EU SME envoy that will report to her directly. The President also announced that she has asked Mario Draghi to prepare a report on the future of EU competitiveness. On digital policy, and in particular AI, she said that there should be a global approach on three pillars: guardrails, governance and guiding innovation, firstly through promoting the adoption of the EU's AI Act, secondly through creating a single governance system in Europe as well as a global approach similar to the work of the IPCC on climate change, and thirdly through a new initiative to open up the EU's high-performance computers to AI start-ups to train their models. Taking again the floor at the end of the debate, von der Leyen said that we need to broaden and deepen the EU. Initially, the President of the Commission said that "we will not rest", adding that "we live in an uncertain world, but Europe will face it". She also said that "we are preparing the European economy for the future", noting that bureaucracy will be reduced. "We need to proceed with broadening and deepening and changing the Treaties", she emphasised. Finally, von der Leyen expressed her belief that "we can improve our democracies", adding that "we will continue to be active".

Source: Cyprus News Agency