State of the Union 2021: Time to go beyond ad-hoc solutions

Brussels, 14.09.2021


This State of the Union will show whether the von der Leyen Commission is ready to go beyond mere crisis management, and instead offer a more strategic vision for an ever closer union. “Short-termist policy band-aids are no fix for a Union in search of itself. It is the EU’s institutional framework as a whole which needs to be rebuilt from its foundations, towards a truly democratic and united Europe”, comments Leonie Martin, President of JEF Europe.

Ursula von der Leyen started her presidency of the European Commission in 2019 with an ambitious agenda, pledging to use her mandate as an opportunity to strengthen the EU’s capacity to deliver at home in order to step up its global leadership. While she has managed to initiate and turn into law several important proposals over the last year, we expect more to be done to go beyond ad-hoc solutions for European integration.

The Commission must step up its efforts to fully deliver on its priorities for a renewed European democracy. The Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE), although finally launched in spring, has been dramatically downsized in terms of scope, duration and ambition, due to insistence of some national governments. Still, it retains the potential to deliver in key areas, and the legislative follow-up on the Conference proposals will be a major test for the Commission.

So far, the EU’s executive has done a relatively good job pushing for a stronger and more independent fiscal capacity for the EU in the context of the recovery package ‘Next Generation EU’. This effort should be continued to implement the own resources roadmap in its entirety, while striving to maintain them as a permanent measure bringing us closer to a genuine Fiscal Union. 

The Commission has failed to implement the rule of law conditionality regulation for eight and a half months now, and may soon face legal consequences from the European Parliament for inaction. It has also ignored the Parliament’s calls to establish a comprehensive Mechanism on Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights for years, with no signs from President von der Leyen that this could be put forward as a new legislative proposal. This is disappointing, especially given the fact that the Commission’s President pledged support for the Parliament’s right of initiative at the beginning of her mandate. 

Despite President von der Leyen and High Representative Borrell’s ambitions to introduce qualified majority voting on human rights and develop a genuine Migration and Asylum Policy, nothing has changed in these areas. It is hard, however, to blame the Commission for the stubbornness of some national governments that block such efforts, partially due to their own disrespect for the Union’s fundamental values. 

“We look forward to hearing what the Commission President is going to say – and will be ready with our bingo sheets!”, concludes Martin.

About JEF Europe
The Young European Federalists (JEF) Europe is a non-partisan youth NGO with 10,000  members active in over 30 countries. The organisation strives towards a federal Europe based on the principles of democracy and subsidiarity as well as respect for human rights. JEF promotes true European Citizenship, and works towards more active participation of young people in democratic life. While the umbrella organisation JEF Europe was founded in 1972, its sections have been operating continuously since the end of the Second World War, making it the oldest pro-European and only federalist youth organisation.

JEF’s positions on the state of European integration

Contact information
Leonie Martin
President, Young European Federalists
Rue d’Arlon 53, 1040 Brussels