MEP Manuela Ripa on Ursula von der Leyen’s speech on the state of the European Union

Ripa: “The ideas are good, but many important issues remain ignored”

(Strasbourg, 14/09/2022) Today, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen delivered her annual State of the European Union speech to the European Parliament. In the beginning, she welcomed the Ukrainian President’s wife Olena Zelenska, who was present in the Parliament. Von der Leyen pointed out that there is a lot at stake at the moment, for Europe and the world. At stake, she said, is the competition between autocracy and democracy. Manuela Ripa, Member of the European Parliament for the Ecological Democratic Party (ÖDP), welcomes the expressions of solidarity towards Ukraine: “Von der Leyen rightly highlighted that the sanctions against Russia are already considerably weakening the country. It is therefore an important sign that she noted that the sanctions will not be eased as long as Russian aggression remains. Also, Ukraine will be given access to the EU’s internal market which is important for the country’s economic stabilization.”


As far as the skyrocketing prices for energy are concerned, the announced harnessing of the excessive profits of energy companies is an important step to relieve the burden on companies and private individuals. This measure is expected to generate 140 billion euros for Member States. It is also intended to accelerate the shift toward renewable energies to break away from dependence on energy imports. However, Manuela Ripa points out that the EU Commission should have promoted renewables much more strongly much earlier: “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is now making possible what the threat of climate change failed to do, namely accelerate the energy transition. Von der Leyen rightly said in her speech that it was a mistake not to move more decisively away from fossil fuels after the oil crisis of the 1970s. However, one must wonder who has governed the past years and decades. In Germany, von der Leyen was part of a CDU-led government that slowed down the energy transition wherever it could. The ‘Club of Rome’ highlighted the problems of the massive waste of raw materials 50 years ago and called for reconsideration.”


The MEP hopes that politicians will not be ignorant again when it comes to green hydrogen, which is part of the energy transition. Therefore, it is positive that von der Leyen has announced that we will invest three billion euros in the expansion of the hydrogen infrastructure as part of a “Green Pact for Europe” and bring supply and demand into line by supporting the hydrogen bank. However, this promise should now be followed by actions.


As far as trade policy is concerned, the ÖDP politician welcomes the Commission President’s statement that the EU intends to step up its efforts to establish trade relations with other democratic states in the future. Regarding the negotiations on new free trade agreements, which von der Leyen has announced, Ripa notes that here we have to remain very careful to ensure that basic democratic values are not undermined, as a result, says Ripa: “In agreements such as CETA or TTIP, the rights of employees and consumers were decreased rather than endorsed. Environmental standards were also under threat of being worsened. This is unacceptable, as it is the establishment of a parallel justice system, such as the decisions promoted by the non-transparent arbitration tribunals. We should not allow to sacrifice our high standards, and in particular the precautionary principle, for the price of an allegedly beneficial free trade. We need fair trade instead of free trade!”


The MEP’s opinion on Ursula von der Leyen’s speech is therefore mixed: “The addressed indicated some good ideas, but many important topics were unfortunately ignored. The dangers of climate change, of which we became more aware this summer than perhaps ever before, were only mentioned sporadically. Moreover, she did not even address an essential issue such as species extinction. Even if the main focus is currently on Russia’s war against Ukraine and the associated energy crisis, we must not lose sight of the bigger picture. We need European solutions for a liveable and just society so that the EU and democracy as a whole do not lose their legitimacy,” said Manuela Ripa.