PES on SOTEU: it’s time to finish what we started

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the plenary in Strasbourg after delivering the State of the Union Address 2023.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the plenary in Strasbourg after delivering the State of the Union Address 2023.

Following today’s State of the European Union (SOTEU) speech, we send a clear message to the European Commission President: no distractions, no diversions, no delays on delivering key progressive policies.

The majority of key achievements highlighted today – the Green Deal, NextGenerationEU, SURE, the Women on Boards Directive, and more – originate with the PES team in the Commission College. It’s time to deliver the outstanding PES priorities.

Ambition on Social Europe was sorely missing today. Today’s SOTEU placed too much emphasis on making life easier for corporations, and not enough on making life easier for Europeans. It’s time to strengthen citizens’ right to live in a clean environment, the right for fair wages in fair workplaces, upholding fundamental rights for women, the LGBTI community and minorities in every member state, and more.

PES President Stefan Löfven said:

“Our message today is simple: it’s time to finish what we started. Green and digital transitions that deliver social justice, building trust in democracy, and stronger international leadership – as Europe’s socialist family, we double down on these ambitions. We need to keep doing what we agreed on and move faster to change Europe for the better.

“The big successes highlighted today are successes delivered by the PES team in the Commission College. It is clear in Green Deal files, NextGenerationEU, SURE, the Women on Boards Directive, the work on a common Asylum and Migration system and more.

“We will push to make sure our key progressive proposals are not weakened over the next nine months. To address historic challenges, we need an ambitious Green Deal, stronger rights for citizens and workers, and unified support for Ukraine.”

Thanks to progressive leadership, the EU is working for a sustainable and fair future, and has delivered a strong European response to crises including the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

Former European Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans engineered giant leaps forward in terms of climate ambition, positioning Europe in the lead for achieving carbon neutrality as a global innovator in clean technology and ensuring Europe’s farmers seize the opportunities of the green transition – key priorities carried forward today. Frans Timmermans secured a Green Deal with social protections and successfully fought back against right-wing attempts to undermine climate action, such as the Nature Restoration Law. Outstanding Green Deal files must be adopted, steadily and with ambition, over the next nine months and the EU must continue to be a force for good in the world, for people and planet.

The PES looks forward to the continuation of the Green Deal file under Commission Executive Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, building on his efforts to prepare Europe for the future. His efforts – through the European Battery Alliance, better strategic planning, and improved inter-institutional relations – are already delivering a more strategically independent Europe.

Through strong coordination of the EU’s external action, Josep Borrell continues to promote the EU as a global leader, working to strengthen the EU’s autonomy and promote its values and interests. This strategic action, including work on a European Defence Union, remains central to European defence, influence, and global leadership. The PES remains a stronger backer of increased EU support for Ukraine. We continue to support enlargement and a European path for the European neighbourhood.

Commission Ylva Johannson is working to shift the EU’s approach to migration away from crisis management and towards a fair, sustainable, and humane system for managing migration, one with safe and legal pathways, fighting human traffickers and smugglers, based on solidarity between member states and cooperation on equal footing with third countries. Europe must never lose sight of the human tragedies happening daily. By working together, Europe can achieve the New Pact. Building on the work done by Ylva Johansson, it is also our duty to protect and promote the Schengen agreement and see Romania and Bulgaria joining it without further delay. These are central priorities for the PES family and must be achieved this mandate.

Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni has acted to support Europe’s citizens and businesses through the Covid-19 pandemic, delivering an unprecedented recovery package and instruments such as Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency (SURE). His action for global tax justice, stronger Economic and Monetary Union, and investment in the green and digital transitions remain vital elements of the European Commission programme that must be fulfilled.

Through the Porto Social Summit, the Social Pillar Action Plan and more, social rights are once again in focus this mandate thanks to Commissioner Nicolas Schmit. Today’s SOTEU failed to build adequately on this work with concrete proposals for the remainder of the mandate. The EU must work to embed social rights into Europe permanently, into the European Semester and with permanent instruments. The wellbeing and health of citizens must be prioritised, with action to: support citizens through the cost of living and housing crisis; address persistent gender inequality; and ensure quality work with fair pay and good conditions for all, including platform workers.

Identified as a key success today, the Union of Equality is being delivered by Helena Dalli through concrete measures such as the European Gender Strategy, the Women on Boards Directive, action against violence against women, and action to promote inclusion and equality across the EU. Continued support for the rule of law and fundamental rights – especially with challenges in Poland and Hungary – must remain a vital focus for the EU.

Strong cohesion policy overseen by Commissioner Elisa Ferreira has kick-started the Just Transition and ensured member states are supported to welcome refugees fleeing Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine. Full and effective use of EU funds to progress the just green and digital transitions must remain a priority. This must support industry, but also citizens’ skills and education, employment, and quality of life, regardless of where citizens live.

Key steps for inclusive, equitable partnerships between the EU and other parts of the world have been taken this mandate by Jutta Urpilainen, including the promotion of sustainable development and EU values including democracy, the rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights.

The PES will continue the fight for a fair and sustainable Union that delivers for citizens.