STRASBOURG, 13 September – European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, delivered a comprehensive address to the European Parliament on Wednesday, spotlighting the socio-economic challenges and the future direction of the EU’s Green Deal.
Despite facing the dual adversities of the coronavirus pandemic and the Ukraine conflict, the EU has impressively maintained an unemployment rate of 5.9% as of July. This is in part due to the SURE mechanism, a European initiative credited with preserving approximately 40 million jobs. Yet, von der Leyen highlighted a pressing issue: “Instead of millions of people looking for jobs, there are millions of jobs looking for people.”
To address these challenges, the Commission is set to convene a new Social Partner Summit, focusing on topics from skills shortages to the implications of artificial intelligence on the job market. Additionally, von der Leyen launched the “Clean Transition Dialogue”, aiming to collaborate with European industries on their journey towards decarbonisation.
Earlier this year, the Commission introduced the Green Deal Industrial Plan in response to the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act. This plan, which includes bills like the Net-Zero Industry Act, is currently under review. The primary objective is to support every sector in its decarbonisation journey, with von der Leyen assuring extensive benefits for various sectors, from steel to electric vehicles.
In her address, von der Leyen extensively discussed the EU’s Green Deal but notably avoided mentioning new or ongoing legislative efforts. This shift from regulation to implementation aligns with the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) stance, which advocates against burdening industries with new green regulations. “As we enter the next phase of the European Green Deal, one thing will never change: We will keep supporting European industry throughout this transition,” she affirmed.
In a significant announcement, von der Leyen proposed a new “European Wind Power package” to address the challenges faced by the wind industry, which she described as a “European success story.” The industry is grappling with issues like funding difficulties and slow permitting processes. The new package aims to work closely with industry stakeholders and member states to fast-track permitting, enhance state-backed auction systems, and ensure “skills, access to finance, and stable supply chains.”
Concluding her address, von der Leyen emphasized Europe’s ambition in the green tech sector, stating, “The future of our clean tech industry has to be made in Europe.” This combined focus on reskilling, green jobs, wind power, and a practical approach to the Green Deal underscores the European Commission’s commitment to a sustainable and prosperous future for all its citizens.