6th Dec 2023


Von der Leyen's State of the Union address This WEEK

  • This could be the last annual State of the Union speech of European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen - here seen last year, wearing the national colours of Ukraine (Photo: EC - Audiovisual Service)
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The EU's political season is back in full swing after the summer break, with the EU Commission president's annual State of the Union address setting the scene for the coming year.

Ursula von der Leyen will deliver her address on Wednesday (13 September), in what could be her last State of the Union speech, where she is expected to outline her commission's priorities.

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The Russian war in Ukraine, EU enlargement, and the upcoming 2024 EU elections are likely to be key focal points of the address.

In preparation for the crucial address, von der Leyen will meet with EU Parliament president Roberta Metsola on Monday (11 September).

Also on Monday, EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders will join a Council of Europe meeting in Riga to discuss accountability concerning the Russian aggression in Ukraine, war crime investigations, and efforts to combat the abduction of Ukrainian children by Russia.

Meanwhile, small island nations on Monday will pursue justice at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, holding industrialised countries accountable for their carbon emissions.

Apart from the State of the Union address, MEPs' plenary session has a packed agenda.

Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya will address the European Parliament on Wednesday — marking the third anniversary of the fraudulent presidential election in Belarus.

On the same day, MEPs will vote on new rules for an anti-corruption code of conduct as a response to last year's 'Qatargate' corruption scandal.

EU-Tunisia deal

A plenary vote on the revision of the EU Renewable Energy Directive, which sets a 40 percent target of renewables in final energy consumption by 2030, is expected on Tuesday (12 September).

Also on Tuesday, the EU parliament will also have a debate on the controversial EU-Tunisia agreement. The deal, which was signed in July, includes €100m to Tunisia this year for border management.

"Externalisation of migration does not work," Slovenian socialist MEP Matjaž Nemec has criticised, denouncing the lack of transparency regarding the allocation of EU funds.

How to better protect people from heatwaves, floods and forest fires, which have hit this summer countries including Greece, Spain, Slovenia, and Bulgaria, will also be discussed on Tuesday. MEPs will also have a debate about the working conditions for firefighters on Thursday (14 September).

Russia's decision to cease its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative will also be discussed by the parliament on Tuesday.

A vote on a report on revised EU air quality rules is scheduled for Wednesday. Air pollution kills over 300,000 people in the EU per year.

Additionally, the European Commission is set to introduce a fresh corporate tax proposal on Tuesday.

Unwanted kiss and prostitution

MEPs will have a debate on Thursday about the events that took place after Spain won the Women's World Cup, when Spanish football chief Luis Rubiales kissed star footballer Jenni Hermoso on the mouth. Rubiales faces charges of sexual assault and coercion.

On the same day, MEPs will have a vote on the report on the regulation of prostitution in the EU — which calls for the decriminalisation of those engaged in prostitution and more support services.

A report about critical raw materials, such as lithium or cobalt, will be subjected to a plenary vote on Thursday. If approved, it will constitute the parliament's position for negotiations with EU member states.

Meanwhile, the ban on Ukrainian grain imports in five frontline countries — Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia — will expire on Friday (15 September).

On the same day, the eurogroup will look into the summer interim economic forecasts and the European Central Bank will brief ministers about its monetary policy.


The State of the Union speech - digested

The 61-year old former German defence minister, who only narrowly won the backing of MEPs last year, outlined not a vision, but an ambitious list of policies to tackle - including more health care competencies to the EU.


What von der Leyen's 'State of Union' didn't mention

Ursula von der Leyen barely noticed that European democracy is under attack not only from external threats, but from within. Two of the world's leading autocratic countries are EU member states.

EU-China summit and migration files in focus This WEEK

This week, EU and Chinese leaders will meet in Beijing to discuss how to cooperate in the international area despite their rivalry. Meanwhile, a marathon trilogue on the five migration files takes place on Thursday.

UN climate talks and passengers' right in focus This WEEK

The two-week UN climate talks (#COP28) will kick off on Thursday. Earlier this week, the EU Commission will unveil a proposal to improve passengers' rights and Nato foreign affairs ministers will meet in Brussels.


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