🇪🇺 What to Expect from #SOTEU
Ukraine, energy and cost of living crises, strategic autonomy, CoFoE and NextGenEU: the State of the European Union is a moment to reflect on the challenges we face and will face in the future.
This coming Wednesday will see Commission President Ursula von der Leyen give the annual State of the European Union (SOTEU) address from the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
With many people criticising the EU’s relevancy to the modern world, as well as its inability to act, the SOTEU has become a key tool in the fight against misinformation and disinformation about the EU, and has been used to legitimise the Union as a political institution at the supranational level.
Here are the key things that I believe we will be seeing during the speech:
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With the ongoing Russian invasion, and the incredible successes that have been had by the Ukrainian military, Ursula von der Leyen will want to highlight the successes of European action and capitalise on this success.
From the almost crippling sanctions on Russia, to the historic provision of weaponry, equipment and materiel by the European Union, the EU has a a lot to be proud of, and plenty of room to increase its support and already close work with the country.
We will also see a mention of the Ukrainian accession process to the EU, and a discussion on the upcoming steps, and the hard road that it will have to take in order to finally reach the status of EU Member State after what is likely to be years hard negotiations.
⚡️ The Energy Crisis
Of course, one of the big consequences of EU support for Ukraine has been the backlash from Russia, which has opted to cut off all gas and oil supplies to Europe in an attempt to blackmail the continent into submission, alongside the cost-of-living crisis.
However, this has forced the EU to push forward on several fronts: finding alternative suppliers for gas and oil, developing alternative terminals in the major EU countries to produce these, and above all else, putting limits on Russian sources and the ability of Putin’s authoritarian state to generate funds through sales to the EU.
This is something that is guaranteed to feature in the SOTEU alongside some new announcements, with a potential mentions of new sanctions packages being on the horizon, the need to reform the EU energy market through measures such as the decoupling of electricity prices from the price of gas, and the need for EU wide measures to put downward pressure on prices and to provide concrete support for the average European citizen.
🔫 EU Strategic Autonomy
What will undoubtedly be a keystone of the SOTEU speech, strategic autonomy covers almost every facet of international and domestic affairs, including everything supply chains, intellectual patents to security, agriculture, and provision of IT equipment.
Alongside the need to compete with China and the United States, you can expect this to take up a large part of the speech, and to be combined with the need to take the existing Strategic Compass, and to develop it further in order to reinforce the EUs ability to act.
You may also see a hint towards the need to develop the EU military structure as well as the need to reinforce the ability of the EU to be more geopolitically active, mobile, and influential on the global stage, particularly to compete with an increasingly bold Russia and China.
🌐 The European Cyber Resilience Act
A feature from the 2021 SOTEU speech, this will likely feature prominently in tomorrow’s speech. With the increased risk of cyberattacks due to the ongoing war in Russia, who have recently targeted Montenegro, Estonia, as well as a several satellite internet network, the need for this piece of legislation is growing urgent.
What we can expect to here is the need for the ECRA, its goal of reinforcing the EUs security, a potential highlight of who the lead member states could be in the initiative, and the form that this could take.
👧 Next Generation EU
One of the largest stimulus packaged produced by the EU, and currently standing a €2.018 trillion in current prices, you can expect Ursula von der Leyen to discuss the success of the programme, and potentially even give an update on the progress of all member states in implementing the programme.
What could be possible is the announcement of further financial support if the Commission for whatever reason deems it necessary, and sees a need for certain member states to receive additional support.
One thing that would be very interesting to see would be whether or not a reinforced link to Rule of Law will be announced, but we do know that the link to the ecological transition and the digital transformation will be added as they form a core part of the package.
🌳 Ecological Transition
Naturally, no major political speech would be complete without a mention of the ecological transition, and we will likely see the need to push forward in this domain take centre stage.
From discussions on the need to better insulate houses for the upcoming winter, the need to find more sustainable fuel sources to avoid the blackmail of rogue warring states, and the need to reinforce the European railways across the continent and increase connectivity, I’m personally curious about what will be the big announcement in this domain.
📹 The Media Freedom Act
One of the final things to look out for is the new Media Freedom Act, and from this we can expect to hear about how this will impact editorial independence, media regulators, economic revenues, as well as the role and behaviour of public service media in the media ecosystem.
We may even see some initiatives put forward to reinforce the fight against misinformation and disinformation, however, one of the things we will likely not hear about is media ownership due to the complication of the subject, which will be a lightning rod for criticism.
👨👨👦👦 Conference on the Future of Europe
An often forgotten topic as of late, you can expect SOTEU 2022 to cover the events of CoFoE and the impact that it has had, as well as what participation was like and how it all panned out.
Currently, the jury is out regarding the successes of the Conference, and people are unsure of what the next steps could look like or what may take place in the future, but we could see the announcement of a follow-up, as well as the need for further work on developing the democratic foundations and institutions of the European Union.
We may even hear an announcement regarding how the recommendations from the conference will be used, and how they will look.
Last, but not least, and something that I’m more hopeful will be mentioned than expecting it to be, is a revision of the EU Treaties.
A necessity for many of the recommendations, such as the end to unanimity voting, it would make sense for this to be a part of the announcements today, but due to its tricky nature, if it is mention it will likely be in the form of a recommendation for discussions on the topic.
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