Unofficial European election campaign kick-off.

IF – 09/2023

On 14 September, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen gave her annual State of the Union address (EU) at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, her last before the upcoming European elections in June 2024. It was anything but an ordinary speech. Seldom has Europe found itself in such a fragile political environment. Not surprisingly, the most pressing issues were reflected in Von der Leyen's address – the ongoing Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, the climate crisis, the handling of asylum and migration, and finally Europe's role in the world.

Green, greener and clearly European

Alongside this was the commitment to the major political project of the European Green Deal and its implementation. Europe is to become climate-neutral by 2050. The ongoing fight against climate change-related disasters and the goal of transforming the European economy and industry is not only a central task for the current European Commission. It will remain as such in the next legislative period. Von der Leyen hopes that this will lead to more investment by Member States, economic growth and the creation of new jobs. She does not find approval for this everywhere, especially not among the MEPs of her own parliamentary group in Brussels, the European People's Party (EPP). The latter increasingly attracted attention by voting against its President on individual initiatives of the European Green Deal. Von der Leyen has not (yet) been swayed by this.

Situation of people in the EU

It remained conspicuous that Von der Leyen neither presented solutions for the continuing inflation, nor announced aid plans for EU citizens, nor did she reveal a vision for the social situation. It is not only people on low incomes who are suffering from the rising costs of food, housing and mobility; people on middle incomes are also clearly feeling the heat. Although she mentioned the importance of the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, but it was not substantive. Rather in passing, she mentioned that the development and expansion of the European Health Union will continue to be pursued in the coming years.

Speculation on top posts

However, whether Von der Leyen still wants to have a say at the top rung of the European Commission and seeks another legislative term is currently still open. First, she needs the support of France and Germany to enter the election as a strong candidate by the heads of state and government. But she could also run a classic European election campaign in her home state of Lower Saxony in order to secure at least a mandate as an officially elected MEP. She herself has not yet positioned herself. So far, there are no opposing candidates for the top EU job.