SOTEU: the Commission’s Last Push Before the 2024 Elections

Today, on 13 September, Ursula von der Leyen addressed a packed hemicycle during the 2023 State of the Union. This marked her final address in this legislative mandate, leading up to the European Elections in June 2024.

The highly anticipated speech reflected on the achievements of the past year and outlined vital priorities and flagship initiatives for the coming months. Earlier this year, Cooperatives Europe sent a letter to the President of the Commission, highlighting essential issues to be addressed.

We’re pleased to note that President von der Leyen addressed several issues that we have outlined. She emphasised the support for European SMEs and streamlining business operations. Beyond appointing an EU SME envoy, the Commission proposed legislation to cut reporting obligations at the European level by 25%. We’re optimistic about this development but stress the importance of ensuring this proposal benefits all enterprise types, including cooperatives, across all legislations.

Additionally, we appreciate the emphasis on the twin transition and the continued investments in European industry, the Green Deal, and digital solutions. We underline the paramount importance of responsible, value-based AI development that’s transparent, human-centric, and empowers citizens. Cooperatives and social economy actors can set a precedent in this realm, but they need support in terms of accessible, interoperable, and open-source technologies.

However, some crucial topics, like skills and competencies, were overshadowed. But what genuinely surprised Cooperatives Europe was the omission of the European pillar of social rights and the social economy’s scarce mention. Our letter to the President emphasized that this was her golden chance to set the tone for the next political mandate and lead boldly in implementing the Social Economy Action Plan. Given that the proposal for a Council Recommendation on framework conditions for the social economy, a product of the Action Plan, is under negotiation in the Council, this felt even more pressing. We’ll continue championing the importance of keeping the social economy atop the political agenda.

On a brighter note, the SOTEU concluded positively regarding the Eastern Neighbourhood and enlargement policies. We commend the ongoing financial aid to Ukraine and increased support for other candidate countries like Armenia and Moldova. In these regions, the cooperative movement plays a pivotal role in fostering an independent and vibrant civil society, all while bolstering their nation’s economic integration.

This year will be fraught with obstacles. The European Institutions will undoubtedly be on their toes, juggling negotiations on multiple fronts, the electoral campaign, and the persistent climate and socio-economic pressures. A lot hangs in the balance, but Cooperatives Europe remains hopeful, already setting our sights on the next significant event: the 2024 European Elections.

Find the full SOTEU address here.

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