Ursula von der Leyen wants to strengthen the autonomy of the EU

    European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during her State of the EU address in Strasbourg on September 15, 2021.

    The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, unveiled on Wednesday September 15 her priority projects, calling for strengthening the industrial autonomy of the European Union (EU) while accelerating the construction of a “Defense Union”.

    While the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan by the US military revived the reflection on the military autonomy of the Twenty-Seven, “We need a defense EU”, hammered Mme von der Leyen in front of MEPs meeting in Strasbourg.

    “Now is the time for the EU to step up a gear” to “Defend against cyber attacks, act where NATO [Organisation du traité de l’Atlantique Nord] and the UN [Organisations des Nations unies] are not present and manage crises in time ”, pleaded the head of the European executive, on the occasion of her second annual speech on the State of the Union.

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    European Defense Summit

    A summit will be dedicated to this under the French presidency of the EU in the first half of 2022, she announced, while the project to create a European rapid reaction force of 5,000 soldiers, under discussion for several months, is far from being unanimous. “You can have the most advanced forces in the world, but if you’re never ready to use them, what are they for? “, tackled Ursula von der Leyen, denouncing a “Lack of political will”.

    To support the Afghans, she pledged additional humanitarian aid of 100 million euros. The EU had already quadrupled this aid for 2021, to more than 200 million euros. Brussels also wants to strengthen its tools to better face future health crises by committing by 2027 a European investment of 50 billion euros.

    Above all, the Commission intends to take advantage of colossal stimulus plan which it steers to build a greener and more digital European economy, while consolidating the industrial autonomy of the continent.

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    Ursula von der Leyen again called for boosting European production of semiconductors, a crucial technology for which the EU remains dependent on Asia. “It’s a question of sovereignty”, she observed.

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    Economic recovery and environmental concern

    Brussels wants to rely on its ambitious Green Pact and the European objectives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, to reconcile economic recovery and environmental concerns.

    “Europe cannot do everything on its own. Major economic powers, the United States and Japan, have set themselves climate neutrality objectives for 2050 or soon after ”, like the EU, but “These objectives must be supported by concrete plans” by the COP26 in Glasgow in November, nevertheless warned von der Leyen.

    The Paris agreement provided for the international community to provide 100 billion dollars (84 billion euros) per year until 2025 to finance “Climate action” of the most vulnerable countries. But if the EU gives 25 billion dollars annually, “The gaping hole left by others puts the global goal out of reach”, she launched, promising to strengthen the European contribution of 4 billion per year until 2027.

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    Fight against violence against women

    The head of the European executive also highlighted her concern for social justice, support for young people – in particular with a new cross-border exchange program – and for women, with the announcement of a bill for fight against violence against women.

    “We need to think about how the crisis has changed the face of our economy, from the deepening of debt to the unequal repercussions on different sectors, including new ways of working”, she also observed, announcing the launch of a debate in the coming weeks on the “Economic governance”.

    Faced with a still precarious recovery, the EU “Will not repeat the error” committed after the last financial crisis, when a hasty return to fiscal discipline caused the continent to relapse into recession, she promised.

    While the Commission has engaged in a standoff with Poland and Hungary over respect for the rule of law, which could condition the payments of the recovery plan, von der Leyen simply noted “The worrying development of certain States”, without naming them, specifying that “Dialogue is not enough”.

    Prohibit products of forced labor

    The European Commission will also propose that the sale of products of forced labor in the EU be banned, von der Leyen; which could concern Chinese production involving the Uyghur Muslim minority.

    “Twenty-five million people around the world are threatened or forced into forced labor. We will never accept that they are forced to manufacture products so that these products are then offered for sale here in Europe ”, she said. “We will therefore propose to ban products from our market that have been produced through forced labor. Human rights are not for sale at any price ”, she added.

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    The World with AFP

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