A comment on Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen's (VDL) 'State of the Union' speech (16.9.) by the GUE/NGL (European United Left / Nordic Green Left) group in the European Parliament.
The lack of ambition shown over recent months in the context of the biggest crisis facing Europe in decades has been shocking. EU leaders’ scaling back of recovery plan grants and the curtailed proposals for the long-term budget presented in July will plunge countries deeper into debt and put even more pressure on working people. VDL did not distance herself or the Commission from this recklessness and while she seems to support a better solution than some governments, ultimately, under her watch, working people in Europe are paying the cost of this crisis.
GUE/NGL Co-President Manon Aubry highlighted this in her reaction to the SOTEU (State of the EU) speech: “We must be clear about the crisis of inequality, which is widening as the top 25 billionaires in the world saw their wealth increase by more than 200 billion between March and May.” While GUE/NGL Co-President Martin Schirdewan pointed to the lack of will to take on Big Tech on behalf of citizens: “The tech giants must be taxed fairly, and regulated in a way that takes on monopolies such as Facebook, Amazon and Google.”
Von der Leyen’s green image contrasts with a shortfall in ambition to tackle the climate emergency. The Commission is still committed to its beloved doctrines of privatisation, free trade and austerity. Meanwhile, we are facing an unprecedented climate emergency. With the current approach, Europe will never be able to put policies in place that adequately reflect the true scale of the climate crisis. As MEP Nikolaj Villumsen (GUE/NGL) said in the debate: “We know from science that a 55% reduction by 2030 is not enough. We need at least a 65% reduction if we are to live up to the Paris Agreement.”
People are dying as a direct result of Europe’s longstanding brutal approach to migration. The recent fires in Moria gave us a glimpse into the suffering people are enduring at EU borders. Behind those fires of course, is the lack of a humane migration policy: safe passage, family reunification, humanitarian visas, and sea rescue. Will Von der Leyen bring all her political might to ensure all EU leaders and member states stop the hypocrisy and start guaranteeing dignity for migrants? “The Moria tragedy is a disgraceful manifestation of the EU’s failures. We urgently need a European migration policy based on solidarity and human rights law”, GUE/NGL Co-President Martin Schirdewan.
Attacks on media freedom, rampant hate speech towards migrants and the LGBTQIA+ community, new kerbs on women’s reproductive rights are all a reality for many in Europe today. Moreover, since the spring, the pandemic has been used as an excuse for the further erosion of civil liberties in several EU countries. The Commission President offered some strong and very welcome words on the Polish government’s vile homophobia but gave no convincing indication that years of Brussels speeches, bluster, weak action and posturing on rule of law would significantly change. “We must be clear about the crisis of rule of law, which is fracturing the European Union as Poland and Hungary continue to sink into abject authoritarianism that puts minorities in danger”, Manon Aubry.
While EU leaders talk a lot about the origins of the European project as one of peace and international understanding, they continue to plan for its increased militarisation. This process is feeding insecurity, in Europe and around the world. While the Commission President refrained in this instance from serving up more of the same narrative about the EU’s militarisation, we needed to hear her stand up to the dangerous weapons industry and guarantee public money for positive research and investment into health or workers’ rights in the digital era.
Policy issues at the EU level are far too influenced by corporate interests. It would have been good to hear VDL announce some measures to check this in the policy-making process via proper rules on revolving doors and restrictions on the privileged access of business interests to top decision-makers in the Commission. We didn’t get anything.
Originally published on the website of the GUE/NGL