Political hotspot September 2020 newsletter
September marks the start of many things: the new school year, Autumn, or, if you frequent the EU bubble, the State of the Union speech.
This American tradition was brought to the EU for the first time by Mr Barroso in 2000, and Commission Presidents after him followed suit. In 79 minutes and 8.179 words, Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen outlined her first, rather broad in scope, State of the Union speech on 16 September (read the full text). Ms. Von der Leyen touched upon a variety of issues; some of the main environment and health-related points were:
- 37% of NextGenerationEU, a new recovery instrument of 750 billion euro, will be spent directly on the European Green Deal objectives. Also, 30% of NextGenerationEU will be raised through green bonds;
- By next summer, the Commission will revise the current climate and energy legislation to make it “fit for 55”, i.e. fit to reach the 2030 target for emission reduction which increased from 40% to 55%;
- Building a European version of the U.S. BARDA, i.e. an agency for biomedical advanced research and development., which will support the EU’s capacity and readiness to respond to cross-border threats and emergencies.
Agriculture was only mentioned in the context of precision farming and artificial intelligence, specifically detailing that the use of technology needs rules. Food was mentioned in the context of unsustainable consumption.
Ms. Von der Leyen also touched upon other important points, ranging from migration policies to Covid-19:
- “Migration is a European challenge and all of Europe must do its part”. She referred to the painful images of the Moria camp and stated that the Commission will put forward its New Pact on Migration;
- Ms Von der Leyen highlighted that in the “last months we have rediscovered the value of what we hold in common” and that “as individuals, we have all sacrificed a piece of our personal liberty for the safety of others”. She added that the EU joined the COVAX global facility and contributed 400 million euro to help ensure that safe vaccines are available for everyone who needs it;
- On Brexit, Ms Von der Leyen quoted Ms Thatcher’s powerful sentence “Britain does not break treaties” as a rebuttal to Mr Johnson’s intention to break international law by going against the Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and the UK;
- On LGBTQIA+ rights, she clearly stated that “LGBTQI-free zones are humanity free zones. And they have no place in our Union”. In this context, the Commission will put forward a strategy to strengthen LGBTQIA+ rights;
- Fighting racism is as important as ever. In this context, the Commission will appoint the “first-ever anti-racism coordinator to keep this at the top of our agenda and to work directly with people, civil society and institutions”.
She ended her speech by saying that “The future will be what we make it. And Europe will be what we want it to be. So let’s stop talking it down. And let’s get to work for it. Let’s make it strong. And let’s build the world we want to live in. Long live Europe!”
The day following the State of the Union, IFOAM Organics Europe, along with many other signatories including 21 MEPs, signed a letter on EU Green Recovery for Agriculture initiated by Slovenian politician Potočnik, Environment Commissioner from 2009 to 2014 and chairman of the RISE Foundation. The statement published on 17 September endorses the EU Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies as the blueprint for sustainable agriculture, and comes one month before the future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is voted on by the European Parliament and national Agriculture Ministers. The signatories of the statement call for EU tax payers’ money to be used for ecological resilience, and for the future CAP to be geared towards implementing the Green Deal principles and their associated strategies, in order to help farmers’ transition to a long-term sustainable model.
Finally, the signatories commit “to work together to mainstream agro-ecological practices in Europe, and help farmers to transition, building a more resilient model that contributes to preventing—but can also better withstand—future ecological and other shocks”.
For a rundown on the CAP negotiations, read our article ‘EU Parliament and Council close to adopt their position on CAP regulations‘.