What was the State of the Union 2022 about?
On Wednesday 14 September, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gave the annual State of the Union speech. Here she presented the Commission's priorities for the next 12 months. To some extent, the lines she set out, will also mark the economic policy of the future.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the energy crisis were two major themes. In the presence of Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska, the European commitment to ending the invasion was confirmed. Von der Leyen indicated that Ukraine should be able to quickly join the European single market. To make big statements about Ukraine's accession to the Union, it was still too early.
On high energy prices, the Commission suggested introducing a tax on high profits. On a price cap for gas, von der Leyen was less clear. She indicated that the Commission would work with member states and suppliers to keep both European competitiveness and the supply of gas healthy. Targeted measures are needed to counter the negative effects of high prices, so the situation is not conducive to handing out presents for many member states. Budget rules should be revised to be more flexible and allow for strategic investments. At the same time, the consequences of not complying with the rules should become more severe.
The Commission wants to work towards an economically independent Europe in the coming period. This is about phasing out dependence on fossil energy sources but especially on raw materials
To support SMEs, the Commission will propose an "SME relief package" with a so-called BEFIT regulation harmonising tax rules. In addition, the "late payment" directive will also be revised to provide relief for companies in financial difficulties. In terms of financial regulation, in 2023, we can expect initiatives mainly around data access (open finance) and the digital euro.
Von der Leyen closed with a desire to convene a "convention". A European convention will kick off a treaty review. After the European Parliament and leaders of some member states, the Commission is now also dreaming aloud about a treaty revision. Clearly, minds are maturing.