EconomyThe most important conclusions from von der Leyen's speech...

The most important conclusions from von der Leyen’s speech “On the State of the EU”

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It’s a fact that causes a stir in Brussels, but for those outside EU politics, it’s usually not even noticed. But this year may be different, as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s annual speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg covered a number of important and topical issues: Russia, war in Ukrainean energy crisis and a long winter ahead. Here are six suggestions for what it all means.

So far, there are no new sanctions against Russia

With rising inflation, high energy prices and rising voter discontent, the president of the European Commission sent a strong message to those who might have been toying with the idea that it might be time to ease EU sanctions against Russia: “I want to I make it clear that the sanctions remain. It is time to show determination and not appeasement.”

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But it was also clear that there was no question of new measures against the Kremlin. After seven EU sanctions packages, agreed after much wrangling among EU member states since war broke out in February, there appears to be little desire or unity in Brussels ahead of what many expect to be a long and politically bitter winter. Proposed sanctions on Russia’s remaining oil and gas flows to the EU, as well as Russia’s nuclear industry, may just have to wait – if not.

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Ukraine came up left, right and center in the speech. First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska she was the guest of honor in Strasbourg and von der Leyen, dressed in the blue and yellow colors of Ukraine, announced that she was traveling to Kyiv later on September 14 to meet with the Ukrainian president. Volodymyr Zelenskyi.

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There have been no serious political statements regarding Ukraine, which has been waging a full-scale war against aggressive Russia for more than six months. The EU and its member states have already provided Kyiv with 19 billion euros ($18.9 billion) in financial aid, Ukraine’s electricity grid was connected to the EU in March, and the country has already been granted candidate status in the EU.

In her speech, von der Leyen pledged 100 million euros in support to rebuild damaged Ukrainian schools and promised that the European Commission would work with Ukraine to ensure unhindered access to the EU’s single market – a step that is already underway , but it will take time.

Perhaps the most interesting promise from von der Leyen’s speech was the proposal to permanently bring Ukraine into the European free movement zone. At the start of the war, EU and Ukrainian telecommunications companies provided Ukrainian mobile phone users with free or reduced roaming in the bloc.

According to some EU officials I spoke to, making it permanent would be “similar to digital visa liberalization”.

There was a time when European Commission presidents avoided talking about future expansion of the club in case it bothered some EU member states, particularly in the western part, who preferred to talk about reforms with existing members. This is no longer the case!

“The road to strong democracies and the road to our union are one and the same. Therefore, I want the people of the Western Balkans, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia to know: you are part of our family, your future is in our union and our union is not complete without you,” said von der Laien with thunderous approval. by the European Parliament, the EU institution most supportive of the idea of ​​an enlarged EU.

Of course, some countries are still skeptical and there is still a long way to go. (Von der Leyen, for good reason, did not mention time frames.)

Let’s take the Western Balkans. It was the only sentence in her hour-long speech that mentioned the region. The countries of the Western Balkans started their journey towards EU membership more than ten years ago and were placed here together with Ukraine and Moldova, which received official candidate status only this year. While this may make sense, there is a new, renewed interest in EU enlargement that probably would not have existed without the war in Ukraine.

Many in Central and Eastern Europe have for years warned their Western European counterparts of the grave danger of Putin’s Russia, only to be labeled hysterical and Russophobic. Perhaps the most striking sentence in the entire speech was von der Leyen’s admission that these countries had been right all along.

The lesson of this war is that we should have listened to those who know Putin

The president of the European Commission and former German defense minister does not mince her words: “The lesson of this war is that we should have listened to those who know Putin. Anna Politkovska and all the Russian journalists who exposed the crimes and paid the highest price. To our friends in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and the opposition in Belarus. We had to listen to the voices within our union – in Poland, in the Baltic countries and across Central and Eastern Europe. We have been told for years that Putin will not stop. And they acted accordingly.”

It may have been too little, too late, but it was perhaps one of the most striking admissions of failure of Western policy since the start of the war.

Perhaps the biggest talking point in recent weeks has been whether the EU will impose restrictions on Russian gas (or, for that matter, all gas) entering the EU. EU member states remain divided on the issue.

While von der Leyen discussed measures to lower energy prices for consumers in the coming months, from mandatory consumption targets to reducing energy consumption and introducing windfall taxes for electricity producers that do not use natural gas to produce of electricity, such as nuclear and renewables, away from announcing outright total restrictions.

Here is part of the speech on Russian natural gas: “We need to ensure our security of supply and, at the same time, ensure our global competitiveness. Therefore, we will develop with the member countries a set of measures that will take into account the specifics of our relations with suppliers – from unreliable suppliers, such as Russia, to reliable friends, such as Norway.” This discussion will continue through the fall.

The EU can target any human rights abuser in the world with sanctions – and they must not be linked to a particular state. The EU first implemented these individual human rights sanctions in 2021, when it froze assets and banned visas for some people from China, Eritrea, Libya, North Korea, South Sudan and Russia.

One of the main criticisms of EU sanctions has been that corruption is not a criminal offense

One of the main criticisms of EU sanctions has been that corruption is not a criminal offence. This is different, however, from America’s Magnetsky Act, which allowed Washington to attack oligarchs, businessmen and officials in countries it believed were involved in large-scale corruption.

Now the European Commission will propose to the European Parliament to strengthen sanctions similar to the Magnitsky Act. However, the question remains: will it become a reality? Changing the sanctions law would require unanimity, and it is doubtful that it currently exists among the 27 EU member states. Hungary is almost certain to voice its disapproval, having previously expressed reservations about the sanctions regime and some of the its catalogs.

source: radio svoboda

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Justin
Justin
I am a news writer at 24 Happenings. I have worked as a copywriter, storyteller, and content creator for several companies. In my spare time, I like to read and play video games.

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