SOTEU: von der Leyen advocates for an enlarged Europe

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European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

In her State of the Union address, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, strongly advocated for the expansion of the European Union. She emphasized that in a world where size and influence hold significant importance, it is in Europe’s strategic and security interests to expand the European Union.

Ursula von der Leyen, during her speech in Strasbourg, used the term “a Europe of more than thirty” multiple times, underlining the urgency of the matter, especially considering the upcoming European elections.

The enlargement of the EU is crucial for its future, and significant developments are expected in the coming months. The Commission is expected to provide its assessments by the end of October regarding whether to initiate accession negotiations with Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and the Western Balkan countries for their entry into the EU. The decision on the next steps will be made by the member states by the end of December.

Candidate countries have a limited time to make progress with the required reforms. While Ursula von der Leyen did not specify a timeline, she urged the EU to respond to the historical call and prepare for the substantial consequences of welcoming new member states.

The President of the Commission also stressed that waiting for a hypothetical change in the EU treaties, which would be challenging to achieve and not the preference of the member states, is not a viable option. She highlighted the need to move forward with enlargement without waiting for treaty modifications, emphasizing her belief that “the EU will work with more than 30.”

To facilitate this process, the Commission will initiate preparatory work, including pre-enlargement reviews of EU policies to determine how each policy area should adapt for EU expansion. This will involve examining changes in financial allocations between the EU and its member states, particularly in areas such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and cohesion, which account for a significant portion of the European budget.

Ursula von der Leyen also urged member states and the European Parliament to complete pending legislative texts within the 300 days leading up to the elections. She acknowledged the importance of not compromising the EU’s competitiveness while pursuing the “green deal,” a key agenda since 2019.

Additionally, the President mentioned various critical issues, such as trade agreements with Australia, Mexico, and Mercosur, the migration and asylum pact, the mid-term budget review with aid for Ukraine’s reconstruction, and the need to effectively manage migration.

During her speech, Ursula von der Leyen highlighted the evolution of the EU into a “geopolitical Union” since 2020. She pointed out the EU’s stance in supporting Ukraine, countering Russia, recognizing Africa’s importance, and asserting its interests, including addressing Chinese subsidies for electric cars flooding the European market. She emphasized that Europe is open to competition but not at the expense of compromising its values.

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