“Our Union will be stronger if it resembles our next generation: thoughtful, determined and caring, based on values and bold in their actions. This spirit will be more important than ever in the next twelve months.” Ursula Von der Leyen
In the plenary hall of the European Parliament in Brussels, Ursula Von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, gave the members of Parliament present, and, by extension, all European citizens, her State of the Union Address 2021. The event, which this year was held on 15 September, sought to establish the lines that the Commission will follow at the same time as an annual assessment was made regarding transparency and democratic practice.
Ursula von der Leyen’s words underlined how the COVID-19 pandemic is having a decisive impact on the population and, especially, on young people. The lives of such people have been directly affected in a period of personal growth he said. Faced with this, they have been able to respond with empathy and solidarity, values that should guide the European Union to make it more reflective, determined and with unrepeatable its focus set on those outside it. This is an example of strength that the President of the European Commission linked to the spirit of the European Union’s recovery plan, NextGenerationEU.
With the aim of protecting the future of young people and to avoid creating new gaps that accentuate inequalities, Ursula von der Leyen announced the launch of the Alma programme, which seeks to give a future to young Europeans who do not have a job but are not students either. This measure is in addition to the announcement by the president of the European Commission to establish 2022 as the European Year of Youth in recognition of the value of the young people who will lead the Conference of the Future of Europe.
Other areas which Von der Leyen’s address touched on included the need to give special protection to the European Pillar of Social Rights, establishing a new European care strategy that links social justice with tax justice.
She highlighted the strong awareness that there is currently regarding the climate crisis, describing a fair transition as provided for in the European Green Pact as necessary. She also announced that the creation of a new social fund to address energy poverty would be a priority.
The State of the Union Address by the President of the European Commission also delved into the idea of societies based on democracy and democratic values as being ones founded on solid foundations, in which citizens play a fundamental role that allows new ideas to be developed and injustices overcome. This requires a confidence in the common values of the European Union that supposes the defence of the rule of law and democracy in Europe, said Von der Leyen.
Finally, the president urged all members of the European Union and their societies to protect women against gender violence, providing ways out to those who suffer it and decisively pursuing abusers. She announced that her intention is to present a law by the end of this year on effective protection and defence in order to combat violence against women.