Our European Parliament members comment on Ursula von der Leyen’s speech: “The right emphasis on resilience, however...”

15 September 2021

President of the Commission Ursula von der Leyen rightly put the emphasis at the opening of the new parliamentary year on the resilience the EU must demonstrate after the pandemic. At the same time, MEPs Geert Bourgeois, Johan Van Overtveldt and Assita Kanko have reservations about the intentions of the President of the Commission. “The Union must respect the competences of its Member States and federal states more than ever. Unity in diversity continues to be paramount.”

Complete the internal market for prosperity and jobs

The EU must deliver results more than ever, says N-VA delegation leader Geert Bourgeois. He is calling for the completion of the internal market, the best lever for prosperity and jobs. “The internal market must once again be at the heart of decision-making. Completing our internal market with a digital, transport, energy and capital markets union is the best guarantee for our prosperity and jobs.” Geert Bourgeois warns against a European “Passe-Partout”, however. “The Union must respect the competences of its Member States and federal states more than ever. Unity in diversity continues to be paramount.”

No European one-size-fits-all approach or social straitjacket

An entirely different question is whether the European Union should impose a European one-size-fits-all approach on the Member States. The N-VA’s answer to that question is clear: no! There is no question that we need to work on upward social convergence, but the N-VA regrets that the EU increasingly wants to force its Member States into a social straitjacket. Social and labour market policies are competences of the Member States and federal states, and for good reason. After all, the needs, challenges and expectations are strongly localised.

Geert Bourgeois emphasises that the labour market and social policy must be conducted as closely as possible to the citizen. “Member States must also retain sufficient scope to set their own socio-economic priorities. We do not want a Transfer Union, let alone a Debt Union. The internal market is the best lever for upward social convergence.”

HERA: yet another new European institution

President of the Commission Ursula von der Leyen also announced the setting up of a new European institution. HERA, the authority for health emergencies, would have to keep vigilance over any future health crises. Johan van Overtveldt is wondering about HERA. “The EU was not ready for the pandemic that hit us. The impact on citizens and the socio-economic consequences were significant. Lessons must obviously be learned from this. The question, however, is whether yet another new European institution is the answer. This new institution would come with a price tag of EUR 6 billion. Where will those funds come from? I am calling for existing institutions such as the European Medicines Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control to be strengthened. We must strive for greater efficiency in the European house, rather than building more outhouses again.”

The EU must be a global player in trade, peace and stability

Finally, the EU must be a Global Actor on trade, peace and stability more than ever before, Assita Kanko says. In addition to ensuring our prosperity, it must protect its citizens and jobs with, among other things, a migration pact, strong cybersecurity and anti-dumping measures. “The EU’s critical undertone towards China or Russia is good. Unfortunately, this only exists on paper and rarely translates into concrete actions and results. A strategy without an action plan is a wish. That will not change anything. It is therefore imperative that the EU strategy not only involves means of action but also leads to real action. An open strategic autonomy of the EU must allow cooperation with geopolitical players such as Russia or China while defending our European core values.”

How valuable did you find this article?

Enter your personal score here
The average score is