SOTEU 2022: Commission President calls for solidarity

14 September 2022

Every year, during the September Plenary Session, President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, presents her State of the European Union speech before the European Parliament in Strasbourg. During her annual speech, the President takes stock of the achievements of the past year and presents the Commission’s priorities for the year ahead. 

This year, in light of the unprecedented geopolitical situation Europe finds itself in, von der Leyen’s speech was dominated by topics such as Ukraine, democracy, energy and the cost-of-living crisis.  

Setting the tone for what was to come, President von der Leyen entered the Hemicycle this morning accompanied by Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska as her guest of honour. 

Von der Leyen opened her remarks by detailing the unprecedented situation the EU finds itself in today. Despite the enormity of the challenges the EU, and wider world is now faced with, however, the EU continues to respond with a united front. Compared to two years ago when it took the EU weeks to respond appropriately to the Covid-19 outbreak, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the EU responded quickly and with unity. Commending the immense courage Ukraine, President Zelensky, his wife Olena Zelenska and the Ukrainian people have shown in the face of Putin’s brutality, von der Leyen outlined how much is at stake today. Not just for Ukraine, but for the whole world. Democracy is under attack, and the EU is committed to continuing its support for Ukraine in its fight. Europe’s solidarity with Ukraine would remain unshakeable. To that end, von der Leyen announced a number of new measures including, a €100 million package to help rebuild schools across Ukraine, a plan to extend Ukrainian access to the EU’s Single Market and that Ukraine would soon be brought into the EU’s free-roaming area. 

Another major theme of this year’s State of the Union speech was energy and the cost-of-living crisis.  President von der Leyen acknowledged the EU’s naivety towards Russia in the past stating that European leaders should have listened more to those who know Putin, such as warnings from central and eastern European member state leaders, the opposition in Belarus and leaders in the Baltics. 

While last year Russian gas accounted for 40% of EU gas, this figure has fallen to just 9% today. And the EU’s efforts to diversify secure supplies will continue over the coming months. To that end, President von der Leyen announced a number of new emergency measures. These include a complete overhaul of the EU’s electricity market which will entail decoupling gas from electricity, measures to reduce the EU’s overall electricity consumption, a cap on revenues accrued by fossil fuel companies and those that produce electricity at low costs. Additionally, she announced the EU’s plans to support energy companies faced with severe liquidity challenges by amending rules on collaterals and, together with Norway, the creation of a new Task Force to ensure gas prices remain reasonable and competitive on the global market. 

President von der Leyen further explained how Russia’s aggression calls for a rethink in the EU’s foreign affairs outlook and how the EU must strengthen its ties with like-minded, democratic partners. This, she argued, starts with those already on the path to EU membership like Ukraine, Moldova and countries in the Western Balkans. Closer to home, the EU Commission will announce measures to update its rules to fight corruption in 2023. Von der Leyen also proposed including corruption in the EU’s human rights protection legislation. A move that is unlikely to be welcomed by all member states.

President von der Leyen spoke to a number of other fundamental issues for the future of the EU such as strengthening the EU’s economy and announced the Commission’s plans to present an SME Relief Package. On the importance of education, the President announced that 2023 would be the year of education and training. On trade policy, von der Leyen spoke of the need to strengthen EU partnerships abroad that help the union pursue its goals and values on a global level. New trade agreements with Chile, Mexico and New Zealand will soon be put forward for ratification. 

Well over her allocated time, Von der Leyen closed this year’s State of the Union speech by welcoming two young female citizens who she believes reflect the true meaning and mission of the EU. In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 

Magdalena and Agnieszka organised 3000 volunteers to help welcome Ukrainian refugees arriving in Warsaw’s main station. President von der Leyen emphasised how this story demonstrates the importance of “heart, character and solidarity” and that with such a spirit, the EU will remain strong and united. 

Key initiative announced:

European Green Deal

  • Revision of EU’s internal electricity market rules
  • Proposal to create EU Hydrogen Bank
  • Revision of waste framework to reduce waste, including food waste, and the environmental impact of waste management 
  • Legislative proposal on plants produced by certain new genomic techniques 
  • Revision of animal welfare EU legislation 

Digital Europe

  • European critical raw materials act 
  • SME Relief Package, including Late Payment Directive
  • Initiative on virtual worlds, such as metaverse
  • Patent Licensing package
  • Legislative proposal on the screening and registration of asbestos in buildings 
  • Proposal for European Year of Skills


  • Mid-term review of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 
  • Economic Governance Review
  • Legislative proposal on a second set of new own resources 
  • Legislative proposal on Business in Europe: a framework for income taxation ‘BEFIT’ 
  • Data Access in financial services 
  • Legislative proposals on establishing the digital euro 

European Way of Life

  • A comprehensive approach to mental health 
  • Recognition of qualifications of third country nationals
  • Legislative proposal on the digitalisation of travel documents and the facilitation of travel
  • Revision of the combating child sexual abuse Directive
  • Initiative on Cybersecurity Skills Academy