European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen addresses European lawmakers on the occasion of the inauguration of the new President of the United States.
FRANCISCO SECO | AFP | Getty Images
LONDON – There is a new international order, where competition is fierce and some nations “will stop at nothing to gain influence,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday.
Speaking during his annual parliamentary address on the “State of the Union”, von der Leyen described the current environment for foreign relations as “a new era of hyper-competitiveness”.
“An era of regional rivalries and great powers refocusing their attention on each other,” she said, adding that “recent events in Afghanistan are not the cause of this change – but they are. a symptom “.
The withdrawal of US and allied troops from Afghanistan fueled a much faster-than-expected takeover of the country by the Taliban. The entire process and the evacuation efforts that followed raised concerns within the EU about its dependence on the United States for defense and security.
As such, some EU leaders have resurfaced the concept of strategic autonomy – the idea that the bloc must develop its own defense capabilities – and a topic that von der Leyen wishes to pursue.
“Witnessing the events unfolding in Afghanistan has been deeply painful for all the families of fallen servicemen,” von der Leyen said on Wednesday.
“Europe can – and clearly should – be able and willing to do more on its own … What we need is the European Defense Union,” she said.
The subject should be topical in the first half of 2022, when France, a strong supporter of the idea, will be responsible for leading the discussions at the EU level.
China’s climate plan
During his hour-long speech, von der Leyen also called on China to be more concrete on its carbon neutrality plans.
The country has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2060, but for von der Leyen, this is not enough.
“The goals President Xi has set for China are encouraging. But we are calling for that same leadership to determine how China gets there. coal at home and abroad, ”von der Leyen told lawmakers.
She said all major economies, including the United States and Japan, are expected to present detailed plans towards carbon neutrality by the next COP26 conference in Glasgow in November.
The EU led this space, presenting in July a set of concrete measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030.
This topic is becoming increasingly important as Europeans face higher energy bills amidst natural gas shortages and structural problems. It is raising concerns across the bloc as member states forecast colder temperatures in the coming months, which could lead to even higher costs as the economy only resurfaces after the coronavirus pandemic.
The Spanish and Greek governments have already announced measures to offset some of the recent surge in energy prices. As Spain introduced temporary tax cuts, Greece has said it will spend 150 million euros ($ 177 million) to reduce consumers’ energy bills over the next three months.
Mateusz Morawiecki, the Polish Prime Minister, claimed last week that energy prices were rising due to EU climate policies, Politico reported.
Frans Timmermans, who heads the climate policy portfolio at the European Commission, said on Tuesday that “only about a fifth of the price increase can be attributed to rising CO2 prices”.
“The others are simply shortages in the market,” he told the European Parliament.
“If we had had the green deal five years earlier, we wouldn’t be in this position because then we would be less dependent on fossil fuels and natural gas,” Timmermans said, arguing that the commission’s climate plan would avoid such increases in energy prices.