New year, new priorities: what the Commission revealed during the SOTEU

This morning, on 14 September, Ursula von der Leyen delivered her third state of the Union to the hemicycle of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. In her speech, the President of the European Commission took stock of the achievements of the past year and presented the priorities for the year ahead.

With a political agenda dominated by economic and geopolitical tensions, von der Leyen reiterated the Commission’s strong support for Ukraine and its people, in front of its First Lady, Olena Zelenska, present for the occasion.

Without surprise, the Commission’s efforts for next year will mostly focus on the energy crisis: supporting Europeans in weathering the energy costs, cutting the EU’s dependency on Russian fossil fuels while investing further in renewable energy and hydrogen in particular with the announcement of the creation of a European Bank for hydrogen.

Cooperatives Europe particularly welcomes the announced efforts to support SMEs. This year, we will be expecting an SME relief package with a proposal for a single set of tax rules called BEFIT. While promoting an enabling business environment is strongly encouraged, we remain more cautious on the fiscal aspect. Cooperatives’ fiscal treatment varies between Member States and reflects cooperatives’ specific principles and differences in management logic. Work on that topic will require a thorough stakeholders’ consultation, of which we stand ready to be part.

The cooperatives movement also welcomes additional initiatives on skilling and reskilling in the workforce. As the Commission announced 2023 to become the European Year of Skills, we hope to see this momentum used to better promote cooperative entrepreneurship in higher education and management training.

Cooperatives Europe also looks forward to other key initiatives underway: the Council Recommendation establishing framework conditions for the social economy, the Transition Pathways or the work on Sustainable Corporate Governance. Much remains to be done and, alongside our members, we will stand ready to work hand in hand with the institutions.

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