Von der Leyen asked to close the trade agreement between the European Union and Mercosur before 2024

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, delivers a speech in the European Parliament on the state of the European Union and its plans and strategies for the future. Photo: Philipp von Ditfurth/dpa (Philipp Von Ditfurth/dpa/)

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyenhe claimed this Wednesday from the plenary session of the European Parliament an effort to accelerate the trade agreement that the EU is negotiating with Mercosur.

We should aim to complete the agreements with Australia, Mexico and Mercosur before the end of the year“, he expressed in the Speech on the State of the European Union (SOTEU, for its acronym in English), with which he has taken stock of the management of the Community Executive that he directs and pointed out some of the pending issues before his term ends in June of next year.

The European Union presented its last offer to the countries of the Southern Cone before the summer with a proposal to unblock the agreement with stricter guarantees regarding the protection of the environment and guarantees against deforestationa document to which the other party has not yet formally responded but about which they expressed discomfort at the summit of leaders of the two regions last July.

In any case, the head of the Community Executive has insisted, during her speech before the plenary session of MEPs meeting in Strasbourg (France), on the importance of the European Union keep betting on “promote open and fair trade.”

For this reason, he continued, the bloc has new free trade pacts with Chile, New Zealand and Kenyabut it must strive to conclude before the end of the year those that are still on the table with Australia, Mexico and Mercosur“and shortly after those of India and Indonesia.”

“Smart trade is the source of quality jobs and prosperity,” the conservative politician has reasoned.

Ukraine joining the EU

On the other hand, the president of the European Commission announced this Wednesday that The Community Executive will propose reforms at the beginning of 2024 to the leaders of the European Union to face the future integration into the block of Ukraine and the Balkans.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers the State of the European Union address to the European Parliament, in Strasbourg, France, September 13, 2023. REUTERS/Yves Herman
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers the State of the European Union address to the European Parliament, in Strasbourg, France, September 13, 2023. REUTERS/Yves Herman (YVES HERMAN/)

This has been pointed out in Strasbourg, in which he has defended tackling internal changes in the bloc with an eye toward a European Union with more than 30 members. “The future of Ukraine, Moldova and the Balkans lies in our Union”he proclaimed, ensuring that the EU must be “completed.”

Despite stressing that accession is a path based on the merits of the candidates that requires “hard work and leadership”, the head of the European Executive has valued the “big steps” that Ukraine has taken since it received candidate status and the “determination” to reform of other candidate countries.

Before welcoming new members, practical questions about the functioning of the EU must be answered in order to guarantee that the bloc acts with firmness and unity, Von der Leyen has defended, after citing the agreements for recovery funds as an example or the joint acquisition of coronavirus vaccines.

“We will be guided by the conviction that completing our Union is the best investment in peace, security and prosperity for our continent. “It is time for Europe to think big again and write its own destiny.”he stressed.

The president of the European Commission has set the calendar for launching this debate in the first half of 2024, coinciding with the Belgian presidency of the Council, when she has said that she will present “ideas” to the leaders of the EU.

“We need to look more closely at each policy and see how they would be affected by a wider Union. Therefore, the Commission will begin to work on a series of political reviews prior to enlargement to see how each area would have to adapt to a broader Union,” he explained.

Specifically, the German conservative has pointed out the need to study the impact that EU enlargement would have on the European budget and to guarantee security commitments “in a world in which deterrence matters more than ever.”

Protection for Ukrainian refugees

Likewise, regarding the war in Ukraine, the head of the European Executive has assured that she will propose extending the temporary protection that the European Union offers to Ukrainians who fled the war and are on the continent, in an announcement that has raised the applause of the MEPs.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers the State of the European Union speech before the European Parliament, in Strasbourg, France, September 13, 2023. REUTERS/Yves Herman
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers the State of the European Union address to the European Parliament, in Strasbourg, France, September 13, 2023. REUTERS/Yves Herman (YVES HERMAN/)

However, it has not clarified what deadlines it is considering for a mechanism already activated until March 2024 and on which the extension had already advanced the Interior Commissioner, Ylva Johannsonlast July.

In an intervention without new announcements on the military level despite the fact that Ukraine is immersed in a counteroffensive to recover territory occupied by the Russian Army, Von der Leyen has stressed that Europe is “answering the call of history” by providing unprecedented support to Kiev.

“Our support for Ukraine will last,” he stressed, recalling that the EU has provided 12 billion euros in macro-financial support so that Ukraine can pay salaries, pensions and keep hospitals, schools and other services in operation.

Investigation against China

Von der Leyen announced this Wednesday that will launch an investigation against China for the illegal aid it grants to the production of electric vehicles, as it considers it an “unfair practice” that distorts the European Union market.

The program to which Von der Leyen has referred grants tax exemptions to consumers who purchase electric vehicles until 2027 and has an estimated value of 72.3 billion dollars.

“It is a crucial industry for the clean economy, with enormous potential for Europe, but world markets are flooded with cheaper Chinese electric cars,” Von der Leyen stressed in her State of the Union speech this Wednesday, in addition. to warn that its price “is kept artificially low thanks to enormous state subsidies.”

The German leader has warned that this “is distorting the market” and recalled that “Europe is open to competition” but “not for a race to the bottom”, as she highlighted that the EU’s ‘clean’ industry is ready to be competitive.

Von der Leyen in Strasbourg.  REUTERS/Yves Herman
Von der Leyen in Strasbourg. REUTERS/Yves Herman (YVES HERMAN/)

However, while encouraging Europe to be protected from “unfair practices”, he has pointed out that it is “vital” to keep the lines of communication and dialogue with China open because there are also issues on which both actors “can and should cooperate”. .

“Competition is only true as long as it is fair”, he stressed, although “too often”, European companies are excluded from foreign markets or are victims of “predatory” practices, since he has not forgotten how the unfair commercial practices of China affected the EU solar industry.

However, he has reiterated his motto of “reducing risks, but without dissociating”, an approach that he will also take to the leaders at this year’s EU-China summit.

Regulation of Artificial Intelligence

The president of the European Commission has claimed that Europe plays a leading role to, together with international partners, create a global framework to regulate artificial intelligence.

“It is a general-purpose technology that is accessible, powerful and adaptable to a wide variety of uses, both civil and military, and is evolving faster than even its developers had anticipated,” Von der Leyen noted in her State of the Union speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

In front of the MEPs, he recognized that the window of opportunity “is increasingly narrower” if Europe wants to regulate and guide this technology to guarantee its responsible use, although he has asked to move forward on the path towards a new global framework based on barriers. of protection, good governance and in the orientation of innovation.

Firstly, the head of the Community Executive has defended an anthropocentric, “transparent and responsible” artificial intelligence, ensuring that the European legislation already approved must serve as a model for the world.

Von der Leyen has also defended joining forces with international partners to ensure that there is a common global approach, being in favor of the creation of an international body that teaches about the benefits and risks of this technology and can provide world leaders with the knowledge most recent scientists.

As a third leg, he has asked to take advantage of Europe’s advantage in supercomputing so that this leadership serves to forge a dialogue with the sector and thus guide the debate to converge on global minimum standards for the safe and ethical use of artificial intelligence.

(With information from Europa Press)