EU chief Ursula von der Leyen will deliver her first landmark state of the union address on Wednesday. The speech, delivered to MEPs, traditionally sets out the European Commission’s priorities for the coming year. The coronavirus lockdowns also devastated Europe’s economies, many are dealing with record recessions, unemployment is rising and some businesses may never reopen. The latest forecast from the European Commission projects an 8.7% contraction in the eurozone.However, the EU did do a deal, significantly agreeing to share debt for the first time with a €750 billion recovery fund to help those hardest hit.
The EU recovery package is currently going through rounds of talks between the European Commission, Council and Parliament. While MEPs and the Commission are seeking a bold proposal including rule of law conditions and new own resources to finance it, European capitals are unlikely to budge on the issues. As fire took hold in the Moria refugee camp last week, some suggested the EU’s migration policy had gone up in flames with it. It is the persistent crisis that will never go away, 2020 has not been 2015 but numbers have been rising this year and an agreement on migration policy appears as far away as ever.
The European Commission has brought forward the release of its new migration pact from the end of the month. However, gaining consensus on a politically toxic issue will prove challenging. Far and near, the EU is facing hostile actors and foreign policy challenges: from an emboldened China and Russia to crises in the East Mediterranean and Belarus. Part of Team Ursula’s mission statement was to make the commission more “geopolitical” and more agile to act on foreign policy issues, despite the powers remaining within the remit of EU countries.
One of the new president’s flagship policies, the European Green Deal was announced with much pomp and fanfare. The Commission wants the EU to be carbon neutral by 2050. Ursula is expected to announce a further reduction in emissions. Currently set at 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, it will be set at 55%. This shows dedication to climate change challenges, but the devil may be in the detail.