“When Europe is bold, it gets things done”,

but what does it mean to be bold?

Strasbourg, 13.09.2023

Key takeaways 

  • Boldness must defy our approach to common challenges
  • Industrial policy, fair trade and smart trade agreements will enable a prosperous future for Europe, but require a common fiscal union
  • Migration approach focused on fighting smugglers and not reforming the system
  • Enlargement will define the future of Europe, and it must also come with treaty reform
  • Without a common foreign policy and a political union we cannot fulfil the goals set in SOTEU 2023

In the State of the European Union speech (SOTEU), Ursula von der Leyen today appealed for European leaders to answer the call of history and make choices which will define our common future. Let’s be truly bold: to answer the concrete global issues we face, we need a political union based on our fundamental values to forge a sustainable, prosperous and democratic future for Europe. 

The industrial policy which was the focus of most of SOTEU, together with a just transition, should be paired with greater investments and facilitation of business in Europe to strengthen competitiveness and modernisation. To enable this in a sustainable way we also need a fiscal union. Without a larger and flexible EU budget, the investments towards a developed, digitised and future proof industrial complex in Europe will fall short. A fiscal union is paramount to serve the European Union as it grows and changes. 

While the President of the Commission called for continuous solidarity towards Ukraine, a fair global trade approach, smart trade agreements, partnerships with purpose towards Africa and other partners, what is missing is a clear reference to a common foreign policy to answer consistently to an ever changing world with a united European front based on our values. 

“Let’s say it in a fearless and clear way: we need a common foreign policy. Without a genuinely European foreign policy, it will not be possible to have a steady and adaptable  engagement with world partners and it risks sowing disunity in Europe” says Antonio Argenziano, President of JEF Europe.

Europe should always be a place of diversity and movement and yet the President of the European Commission framed migration as an issue, something to be managed focusing on fighting smugglers and pushing for a migration pact to be approved, but falling short in pushing for the dismantlement of an inhumane migration system and its reform. If European values end at the borders, then Europe becomes a place for a few and not for all.

SOTEU was also not sufficiently ambitious on social equality and fairness that is being called for across the Union, in particular by young people. A fair future cannot happen if we do not protect and uphold the rights of Europeans across borders through a common approach. The EU has a duty to make sure that wherever you are born, no matter where you are across our Union, you are equal and enjoy the same rights from Lisbon to Warsaw towards a prosperous future. 

JEF Europe welcomes the commitment during SOTEU to enlargement together with reforming the EU, making European values such as rule of law essential for these processes. As it is time for Europe to take ownership of its own history, treaty reform and a convention must be part of our near future to “complete our Union” Concrete progress and credibility for all countries getting ready to be part of our Union is crucial and so is the parallel launch of treaty reform to prepare us to become a larger, stronger and more diverse Europe. Moreover, Bulgaria and Romania should finally be welcomed into the Schengen area by the end of this mandate. 

Our common future will be defined by leading with boldness and by example and staying true and steady to the initial promise of the European Union of a political union, a federal union. The lines of the history of Europe still to come must be clear and fearless, and it is time to take a stand for that common story:  “Europe is bold and gets things done when it is politically united.