While the party she herself is a member of praised the speech, other parliamentary groups remained sceptical about Ursula von der Leyen’s priorities.
Members of the European Parliament had mixed reactions to Ursula von der Leyen’s State of the European Union speech on Wednesday.
Von der Leyen received good marks from her own political group, the European People’s Party (EPP) but other political groups criticised the speech.
EPP chief Manfred Weber expressed support for the implementation of the Green Deal and welcomed the investigation into Chinese electric carmakers’ subsidies.
“With China, we have to see the unfair behaviour on the markets, the subsidies the Chinese are paying. And that’s why we have to protect ourselves,” he told Euronews.
“We have to use our methods, our tools. We have to protect our market. And what we see currently in the electric vehicles field is obviously financed by subsidies by the Chinese… yes to trade, but let’s not be naive,” Weber added.
The second largest group, the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), were critical of what von der Leyen had to say in relation to migration, in particular when she stressed the need for more agreements like the one signed with Tunisia.
For the group’s vice-chair Pedro Marques, this practice not only leads to human rights violations but also helps to finance an authoritarian regime in Tunis.
The S&D group also missed any meaningful reference to current social issues, as Marques told Euronews:
“For us, what was bluntly absent from this speech were all the social dimensions of the current situation. There are millions of families suffering with inflation, with the cost of living, with the cost of housing. And we had no word from von der Leyen on concrete policies towards these European families,” he said.
Liberals from the Renew Europe Group, like its vice-chair Katalin Cseh said von der Leyen should have highlighted the fight to save democracy and rule of law in Poland and Hungary much more.
But their group leader Stéphane Séjourné welcomed the Commission’s call for a renewed effort at enlargement, and von der Leyen’s coupling of the issue with internal reforms of the bloc.
“I really want us to make progress on enlargement,” he told Euronews.
“But that also means that the European Union has to work on its institutions, its capacity to decide at 32 (or) 33 (states) and also all the rules on the rule of law.”
“There are still countries with a fair amount of corruption that need to be dealt with first, and there are countries where we still need to reform the judicial system,” he added.
Unsurprisingly, the eurosceptic far right in the chamber rejected the speech altogether.
Gerolf Annemans, a bureau member of the Identity and Democracy Group told Euronews:
“After Brexit, there could have been a European Union that would have been more modest and reluctant. But we saw a European Union ever since that is more radical and more extremist than ever before.“
The speech was the last such grand self-reckoning from President von der Leyen before Europeans go to the polls in June 2024.
Journalist • Andreas Rogal