The EU has faced many challenges over the past year including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a growing energy crisis, the continued effects of climate change and the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic. These and others will likely feature in European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s annual State of the European Union address in the European Parliament in Strasburg on Wednesday 14th September 2022.
What is the State of the European Union address?
The State of the European Union, also referred to as the SOTEU address, is given annually by the President of the European Commission to the European Parliament plenary session in September, as outlined in the 2010 Framework Agreement. This aimed “to strengthen the political responsibility and legitimacy of the Commission” and improve the working relationship with the Parliament.
The SOTEU is specifically mentioned in Annex IV(5) of the Agreement where: “Each year in the first part-session of September, a State of the European Union debate will be held in which the President of the Commission shall deliver an address, taking stock of the current year and looking ahead to priorities for the following years.” This year’s SOTEU address will be the twelfth such address, with José Manuel Barroso having delivered the first in 2010.
Before MEPs, the Commission President will often look back at events, challenges and accomplishments that have taken place over the previous 12 months by the EU. The SOTEU will then look towards the coming 12 months by referencing the work programme that the Commission will be setting out for the year ahead, including legislative proposals or policy launches, initiatives and other items.
Following this, the Commission President will engage in a debate with MEPs on the contents of the SOTEU speech and other issues relating to the EU, all of which will be broadcasted live online and elsewhere.
What has Ursula von der Leyen said previously?
In her 2021 State of the European Union last September, President Ursula von der Leyen focused on the solidarity of the EU throughout the Covid-19 crisis, noting that Europe “chose to go it together” to ensure every part of the EU got the same access to Covid-19 vaccinations.
She stated that the EU’s main priorities were to increase global access to Covid-19 vaccinations, continuing Europe’s Covid-19 recovery through NextGenerationEU, and strengthening the EU’s pandemic preparedness through a European Health Union.
President von der Leyden reiterated the urgency of the climate crisis and reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to the European Green Deal, as well as closing the climate finance gap between developed and developing countries.
In her 2020 State of the European Union address she focused on the EU’s rapid response to the Covid-19 crisis, as well as the importance of the Single Market and the “essence of humanity”, quoting one of the “great Europeans”, the late John Hume.
What can we expect in 2022?
Both the 2020 and 2021 State of the European Union Addresses centred on the theme of unity and the solidarity of the EU in the face of adversity. It is likely that President von der Leyen will reiterate this call for solidarity within the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions the EU has taken against Russia.
EM Ireland published a Just the Facts explainer in June 2022 examining the several rounds of EU sanctions imposed against Russia in February, March, April and May.
President von der Leyen can be expected to address Europe’s looming energy crisis and outline further the EU’s emergency energy market intervention plans, first announced on Monday, 5 September. She will likely speak on the EU’s commitment to accelerate its green transition through the REPowerEU energy plan, which comes after the summer of several heatwaves across Europe.
An EM Ireland Just the Facts explainer on the REPowerEU plan can be read here.
Europe’s Covid-19 recovery plan, NextGenerationEU, is likely to feature in the address once again. President von der Leyen is also expected to discuss the first set of proposals arising from Conference on the Future of Europe, which concluded earlier this year. These proposals will be amongst those to be included in the 2023 Commission Work Programme.
Ireland’s National Report on the Conference on the Future of Europe can be read here.
Where can I watch the SOTEU?
The address will be broadcast live online from 8am (Irish time) on Wednesday, 14 September 2022. More information about how to follow and watch the SOTEU can be found here.
On Thursday, 8 September, the European Parliament Liaison Office in Ireland, European Movement Ireland and the European Commission Representation in Ireland held an online roundtable discussion with key stakeholders on the 2022 SOTEU address. The webinar is available to watch back in full here. The panel consisted of:
- Adam Lambe – Youth 2030 Committee of National Youth Council of Ireland.
- Billy Kelleher MEP – Fianna Fáil-Renew MEP for Ireland South.
- Danny McCoy – CEO of Ibec.
- Dominic MacSorley – CEO of Concern Worldwide.
- Frances Fitzgerald – Fine Gael-European People’s Party MEP for Dublin.
- Neil McDonnell – CEO of Irish SME Association.
- Patricia King – General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
- It was moderated by Emmet Ryan of the Sunday Business Post.