On Wednesday 14 September 2022, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivered her State of the Union speech, much of which was dedicated to supporting Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.

Every year in September, the President of the European Commission delivers the State of the Union address to the European Parliament, taking stock of the achievements of the past year and presenting the priorities for the coming year.

2022 State of the Union Address

The war in Ukraine and the energy crisis dominated Ursula von der Leyen’s third such address, which was followed by a debate by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). In her speech, the European Commission President unveiled various support measures for Ukraine, for instance providing the war-torn country with €100 million to rebuild its damaged schools.

She went on to emphasise the need to “get rid of” Europe’s dependency on Russian fossil fuels and notably presented measures to tackle rising energy costs, including a proposal to raise more than €140 billion to protect vulnerable households and businesses by capping the revenues of electricity providers and introducing a windfall tax in the fossil fuel industry.

President von der Leyen also unveiled the European Commission’s plans to create a new Hydrogen Bank, which will be able to invest €3 million in the construction of the future hydrogen market.

Moreover, she announced proposals for an SME Relief Package, aimed at supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the current context of “inflation and uncertainty”, and a European Critical Raw Materials Act. President von der Leyen also touched on the importance of democracy, the subject of enlargement and the protection of human rights paired with the fight against corruption.

Luxembourg MEPs’ reactions

Following the 2022 State of the Union address and subsequent debate, four of Luxembourg’s six MEPs expressed their views on President von der Leyen’s speech during a virtual press conference. The MEPs present were: Christophe Hansen of the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Christian Social People’s Party (CSV; Luxembourg); Marc Angel of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party (LSAP); Charles Goerens of Renew Europe and the Democratic Party (DP; Luxembourg); Tilly Metz of the Greens / European Free Alliance (Greens / EFA) and the Greens (Luxembourg).

Christophe Hansen noted that the 2022 State of the Union address took place in the current context of a multifaceted crisis, namely the war in Ukraine and its consequences for energy prices and refugees in the European Union (EU). He said that he felt that the Commission President had touched on various important subjects, particularly (continued) solidarity, also in the context of rising gas and electricity prices. Christophe Hansen stressed the importance of continuing to build up renewable energies in this context. Another point in Wednesday’s speech which he found important was the EU’s move away from fossil fuels in part by building its own hydrogen capacities (in addition to importing hydrogen from abroad). He also highlighted the need to help companies, particularly SMEs, to withstand the crisis – a subject addressed by Ursula von der Leyen in her address.

Marc Angel praised what he believed to be a strong start to the 2022 State of the Union address, with its “very strong message of solidarity with Ukraine”, but was more critical of the second part of the speech, which he felt could have been more “concrete”. He noted that the sanctions against Russia were clearly working and stressed that the war in Ukraine and its economic consequences were the result of Russia President Vladimir Putin’s actions. Marc Angel welcomed the SME Relief Package proposal but felt that it did not go far enough, adding that he and fellow socialists in the European Parliament would have liked to have seen a resilience or social package for individuals. On the one hand, he lamented that the address, in his opinion, lacked reference to concrete social measures. On the other hand, he welcomed the fact that President von der Leyen had touched on the potential enlargement of the EU, as well as solidarity with refugees (not only those from Ukraine). Marc Angel also praised the proposal for a constitutional convention to reform the EU treaties, adding that now was an important moment for the EU to become more resilient both economically and socially.

Charles Goerens similarly described the introductory part of the speech, setting the scene for this multicrisis context, as “excellent”. He agreed with President von der Leyen that the EU had reacted to and taken decisions more quickly during this crisis compared to those in the past. Regarding the gloomy international context to which the Commission President referred in her speech, Charles Goerens noted that there was a growing divide between western values and those of the rest of the world. He expressed his hope that Joe Biden (or another individual with a positive view of the EU) would still be President of the United States (US) in two years time, but added that the address could have made greater mention of the EU's vulnerability in this context. The speech's reference to energy measures was fine, in his opinion, but it did not address social aspects as fully as some had hoped. Nevertheless, he recalled that these fell under national rather than EU competences. He added that he had expected more clarity on the future of the EU from an institutional perspective. Regarding enlargement, Charles Goerens recalled that the accession of new countries, such as Moldova, Ukraine and the Western Balkans, would result in a different Europe and would require treaty changes. He felt that President von der Leyen could have been more precise in this area. He added that the current context was a time of conflict between different systems, with countries with technological advantages, such as the US, most likely to dominate. In this context, he compared the EU to the US, with the latter willing to invest more in research. Finally, he suggested not only taxing companies that have gained from crises but also obliging them to invest in crisis funds.

Tilly Metz agreed that the 2022 State of the Union address had got off to strong start. She described the promise of €100 million to rebuild schools in Ukraine as a “strong symbolic gesture” that showed optimism for the future. She also praised proposals to further support refugees (from Ukraine and elsewhere). Regarding, the energy crisis and the focus on the economic consequences of the war, Tilly Metz stressed the importance of ensuring that the proposed €140 million to be raised from energy companies is distributed shared fairly and in the spirit of solidarity; she noted that she and fellow Greens want to avoid “energy nationalism”. She added that she found the idea of a hydrogen bank to be “interesting”, but only when this refers to green hydrogen, and stressed that it was important to make sure this does not lead to investment in fossil fuels. Tilly Metz also noted that she would have liked the address to have reference to more concrete proposals regarding EU health policy. She added that the Greens were happy about the idea of a convention, “a first step” towards changing the treaties, stressing the importance of listening to what the public, particularly young people, have to say in this context. Like Marc Angel, she lamented the absence of concrete social reforms in the speech.