MEPs were waiting “Concrete”, “lucidity”, “employment”. Everyone had their own word, before entering the hemicycle, where they came to listen to the speech of the head of the European executive, Ursula von der Leyen, on the state of the Union.
The exercise, the first for the German to take office on 1is Last December, was an opportunity to take stock of a year totally turned upside down by the global pandemic, but also to outline perspectives, in response to the growing anxiety of European citizens.
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The future will be green, promised the President of the Commission, after paying tribute to caregivers and workers on the front lines facing the coronavirus. Ursula von der Leyen began by clarifying an expected target, proposing to aim for a 55% reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to the 1990 level, against a target currently set at – 40 %.
Too much or not enough ?
This is a maximalist proposal for Brussels which, until then, had fluctuated its course between 50 and 55%, without further clarification. By deciding, Ursula von der Leyen knew she was doomed to generate frustrations: the European Parliament had voted a 60% target a few days earlier, on Thursday, September 10. The objective is “Too important for some and insufficient for others”, admitted the President of the Commission.
Incidence study in support, it nevertheless maintains that the ambition is sufficient to respect the Paris Agreement, and contain the global increase in temperatures to + 1.5 ° C. According to the calculations in his document, the trajectory to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, as promised in the European climate law adopted last March, would indeed be respected.
Ursula von der Leyen also had to reassure the business community, faced with the upheavals announced. “Our economy and our industry can cope with it”, she insisted, referring to the open letter from 150 CEOs (EDF, Apple, Google…) received this week to defend the 55% target.
A strategy and means
The Commission is walking on eggshells. An entire economy remains to be remodeled, in a context where 40 million Europeans have had to be placed on short-time work. Ursula von der Leyen promises great resources: 30% of the 750 billion of the recovery plan for ecological conversion. “We are breaking new ground in developing a strong EU standard for green bonds”, said the German.
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One of the priorities of the ecological transition will be the thermal renovation of buildings (40% of our emissions), with the promise of an eco-sustainable architectural style, “A new European Bauhaus”, assures the leader, in reference to the artistic movement born in 1919 in Weimar.
To replace fossil fuels with other sectors that will make us less dependent on imports, massive investments will be made to create “European hydrogen valleys”, in the wake, why not, of a pilot project of manufacturing“Clean steel”, in Sweden.
A new energy tax is also to be expected for 2021. From this “Systemic modernization”, Ursula von der Leyen attend une « halving of air pollution “, and the creation of “Millions more jobs”.
A social disaster to avoid
To support the revolution in progress and leave no one on the side, the leader highlights two European devices put in place during the health crisis. The “SURE” mechanism currently guarantees partial unemployment benefits in 16 countries, from Lithuania to Spain, to the tune of 90 billion euros.
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And, on the other hand, the “Just transition fund”, to come to the aid of regions highly dependent on carbon, which could suffer from this green revolution. Its wingspan, reduced by the heads of state last July to 17.5 billion euros for 2021-2027, nevertheless remains to be adjusted.
The other strengths of the State of the Union discourse
Vaccine against the Covid. “We must ensure that European citizens and those around the world have access to it”, asserted the former doctor, warning against
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Migrations. All of Europe “Must take its share”. A migration and asylum pact must be presented by the European Commission on September 23. It is planned to revisit the Dublin regulation concerning the country of entry of migrants.
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Company / family. Ursula von der Leyen will advocate for the rights, especially family rights, of sexual minorities: “If you are a parent in one country, you are a parent in all countries”.
Brexi. The President of the Commission recalled that the divorce agreement between London and Brussels could not be changed unilaterally.