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SOTEU 2023: A Laundry List of Non-Legislative Proposals

This picture taken on February 1, 2017 in Paris shows a journalist reading the February 1, 2017 issue of French satirical newspaper "Le Canard Enchaine", with a headline relating to French presidential election candidate for the right-wing Les Republicains (LR) party Francois Fillon allegedly giving his wife fake jobs and reading "Francois Fillon protests in front of investigators: "But since I tell Penelope didn't do anything!"". Fillon on February 1 hit back at fresh claims he paid his family huge sums for doing "fake jobs", accusing the incumbent Socialist government of mounting what he called an "institutional coup d'etat". The scandal, which first erupted last week, is pulling down Fillon's campaign, with a new poll showing that the former PM, who for weeks was the frontrunner in the race, would now be eliminated in the first round of the election in April. The Canard Enchaine newspaper reported on February 1, 2017 that Fillon had arranged for his wife Penelope to be paid around 830,000 euros ($900,000) as a parliamentary aide for more than a decade. / AFP / CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images)

In her annual State of the European Union (SOTEU) speech delivered today, President Ursula von der Leyen set out to paint a visionary picture of Europe’s future; however, she missed her last opportunity to show young people that the EU genuinely cares about their future. 

  • The weakest of the four SOTEU speeches of President von der Leyen is a missed opportunity to show young people EU cares about their future
  • List of non-legislative proposals for the last year before the 2024 elections are disappointing 
  • We need urgent action for treaty change, to uphold democracy and rule of law

The laundry list of non-legislative ideas for the coming year simply hints at possible directions. It falls short of the decisive efforts necessary to address the cross-border concerns confronting Europe today.

Among those, migration stands out.

“President von der Leyen’s claims of a balanced Asylum Pact are concerning. The new pact prioritises border security over a human and fair management of migration phenomena, echoing old policies of mass detention, criminalisation and brutality we would hope to see buried in the past of the European Union. The creation of a fairer and more humane migration system will be the measure of the status of our democracy ”, said Franscesca Romana D’Antuono, President of Volt Europa.

Volt Europa acknowledges some positive aspects of President von der Leyen’s speech. Her clear statement on “No means no” in the context of gender equality is commendable and reinforces the EU’s commitment to fundamental values. The inclusion of Romania and Bulgaria in the Schengen area is also reassuring, a move that signifies the type of progress and unity within the EU that we are advocating for. 

We also welcome extending temporary protection to Ukrainians in the EU, recognising it as a crucial lifeline for our fellow Ukrainians who have had to leave their home country. At the same time, this also reminds us of the unfair treatment that other migrants fleeing war-torn nations often face. 

In a remarkable shift during her speech, President von der Leyen transitioned to German, adding a touch of drama to her words as she turned from discussing ecological diversity to expressing gratitude to farmers. She stressed the importance of fostering dialogue between the agricultural sector and nature conservation, a moment obviously meant to please the ranks of the EPP that had undermined the crucial Nature Restoration Law.

“The Commission’s President talked about ambition, but I don’t see any concrete steps to eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels and promote sustainable mobility beyond electric vehicles. We need a bolder EU approach, especially when our national governments fall short. This can only happen with a treaty reform that shifts the decision-making power over climate transition from a sovereignty model to a federal leadership model that is democratically shared.” said Duarte Costa, lead candidate for the European elections in Portugal. 

President von der Leyen began and ended her speech appealing to the future generations,  acknowledging that “young people have a burning desire to build something better,” but did not follow through on opening the door for treaty change, an important step towards that direction. 

Damian Boeselager, Volt MEP, underlined: “Our EU house is showing cracks, particularly when it comes to democracy and the rule of law. It’s not enough to request new member states like Ukraine and Moldova to address rule of law and anti-corruption . We must also ensure that existing member states, including Poland and Hungary, do not further deteriorate. Treaty change is the solution to these problems, as well as the essential reinforcement of our foreign policy, defence, and innovation – topics glaringly absent from today’s speech.”

It is not enough to say “Yes treaty change…if and when it is needed”. Future and present generations need treaty change now! It is time to stop the ambiguity and get into action.

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