SOTEU 2021: Europe still under construction
Paris, 15th September 2021
On September 14th, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, gave her second “State of the European Union'' outlining the ideas for the coming year and listing ambitious projects on a wide array of topics. Contrary to the United States however, the speech of our European Commission President has more of a symbolic character for Europe. Like pointing in a direction without explaining why and without being in the capacity to go there, the way the European Union is currently constructed will leave it up to member states to decide which of the proposed projects will receive their backing and how many of the lofty goals defined yesterday will actually be achieved.
This is by design. The European Union has national weights attached to its feet: Internally, where the democratically elected Parliament doesn’t have the right of legal initiative, while the European Council decides both with unanimity and often in anonymity. And externally, where Europe would need to speak with one voice and be able to stand on its own 26 feet. Europe is work-in-progress and until we reform the European Union to become an actor on the political stage without member states pulling the strings in the direction of their interest, the state of the union should come with a “still under construction” subtitle.
Committing is easy. Delivering is hard.
The speech also included several commitments which follow a similar pattern: As in the fight against Covid, for which the EU and member countries have committed 250 million doses of vaccines for poorer countries, actual vaccine deliveries are falling way short with France being a notable exception. The same holds for climate change, where we committed to limiting global warming as per the Paris Accord but falling way short based on the latest GIEC report: Committing is easy, but delivering on your promises is hard.
Delivering results would again require the EU to have more autonomy and to be an actor that can both coordinate efforts and hold member states accountable. It requires member states to grant more authority to European institutions instead of undermining their legitimacy as we’ve seen not only in Poland, but also here in France.
The role of Europe in the French presidential elections
France will take the rotating EU presidency on January 1st 2022 and Ursula von der Leyen already announced a summit on European Defense. It will be interesting to see how much France is willing to commit and deliver to playing a leading role towards more European autonomy and competence not only in the defensive realm. Our president, in his bid to get reelected, will certainly try to appeal to a conservative and nationalistic electorate, that seems rather intend to undermine Europe’s authority than leading the way to more European integration and federalism. And on the left, challengers are either openly anti-European or avoid the topic altogether pretending the world is a hexagon. In a time where more cooperation with our neighbouring countries is essential and Europe needs an actor on the global stage, it remains to be seen which of the candidates will make Europe a real priority rather than resorting to more symbolism or straight-out denial.
Eric Galéra - Responsable Relations Médias Volt France
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Charlotte Barsky - Co-Responsable Communication Volt France
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À propos de Volt France
Volt France est le chapitre français du mouvement politique paneuropéen Volt Europa, fondé en mars 2017 et présent dans tous les pays de l'UE. En 2019, il a récolté plus d'un demi-million de voix sur le continent aux élections européennes et a remporté son premier siège au Parlement européen. Depuis lors, ses candidats ont été élus dans divers organes municipaux de plusieurs pays. Volt souhaite s'attaquer à des problèmes urgents tels que le changement climatique, les inégalités sociales et les crises économiques à travers une Europe plus démocratique et unifiée.