“It is the moment to show to the young generation that we can build a continent where you can be who you are, love who you want, and aim as high as you want. A continent reconciled with nature and leading the way in new technologies. A continent that is united in freedom and peace. This is Europe’s moment to once again answer the call of history.” – Ursula von der Leyen, 2023 State of the Union speech.
On the 13th of September, Ursula von der Leyen, serving as the President of the European Commission, delivered the State of the Union (SOTEU) address. This speech [PM1] marked the last SOTEU before the 2024 European Elections and was characterized by a comprehensive focus on central thematic areas of interest for the union.[GU2] [PM3] These included the European Green Deal, matters pertaining to the economy, social and competitiveness factors, digitalization, and the advancement of artificial intelligence. Additionally, the address covered the enduring commitment to providing support to Ukraine, strategies for enlargement, and addressing pressing concerns related to migration and security.
President von der Leyen addressed the political accomplishments achieved during her tenure. This retrospection signified her readiness to confront forthcoming challenges that the European Union would encounter, even hinting at the possibility of a second mandate.
“Once again – this is Europe’s moment to answer the call of history.” – Ursula von der Leyen, 2023 State of the Union speech
A central policy initiative championed by von der Leyen during her first year of presidency has been the European Green Deal. Although met with scepticism within the European Parliament when initially presented in 2019, it has evolved into a flagship policy under her leadership. In her address, President von der Leyen accentuated the preeminent importance of the European Green Deal in combating climate change. She also articulated a clear directive to organize Clean Transition Dialogues in collaboration with industry stakeholders, aiming to formulate customized approaches for each industrial ecosystem. The European Wind Power package and contemplation of a strategic dialogue concerning the future of agriculture and the rights of the farmers within the EU featured prominently in her discourse.
Moreover, President Ursula von der Leyen addressed the rapid progression of artificial intelligence (AI) and the inherent risks it poses. She underscored the necessity for Europe to assume a leadership role in the realm of digital transformation, which encompasses investments in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. President von der Leyen emphasized the indispensable requirement for responsible governance of AI technology, given its accelerated development, exceeding initial expectations, and its extensive utility across civilian and military domains. Her address informed initiatives such as affording European AI startups access to high-performance computing resources for model training.
With regard to the youth, President von der Leyen reaffirmed her commitment to fostering a continent where every individual can pursue their aspirations within a free and peaceful society, with an overall focus on climate neutrality. She announced a substantial allocation of 800 billion euros dedicated to job creation for current and future generations. This investment is designed to promote social stability and enhance social cohesion, underscoring the permanent significance of youth within the European Union. Furthermore, President von der Leyen emphasized a commitment to a just and green transition toward a sustainable economy, aimed at safeguarding the prospects of future generations and facilitating innovation.
Notably, President Ursula von der Leyen’s speech underscored the importance of upholding democracy and the rule of law as the foundational pillars of a just and flourishing society. She advocated for the preservation of media freedom, recognizing its pivotal role in sustaining a robust democracy. Besides, the President articulated the urgency of combating the pervasive menace of disinformation, acknowledging its deleterious influence on public discourse and the erosion of trust in institutions. In so doing, President von der Leyen unequivocally conveyed her dedicated commitment to safeguarding the fundamental principles that underpin a healthy and transparent society.