On 16 September, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, presented her first State of the Union speech, assessing her first nine months in office, marked by the COVID-19 crisis. Furthermore, she set out the projects of the Commission for the years ahead.
As a priority topic, von der Leyen widely spoke about the various EU's measures in order to address the pandemic. She tried to reassure European citizens about the EU grip on the crisis and praised a common response to the challenges that the EU is still facing. In this regard, she welcomed the initiative by MEPs to increase the EU4Health budget. Regarding the Schengen area and travel restrictions, the President stated that the Commission would propose a new strategy to safeguard the free movement and harmonise processes. Von der Leyen also touched upon the social and economic aspects of the crisis, bringing up the topics of SMEs and minimum wages, as well as the necessary digitalisation of the EU within the framework of the Digital Single Market, all subjects which could be of concern for sport organisations and from which they may even potentially benefit.
The President then came to another main subject of her mandate, namely the Green Deal. Von der Leyen reaffirmed her belief in the power of the EU to become the first climate neutral continent by 2050, insisting on the need to accelerate this process, all the while assuring that “no one would be left behind”. She confirmed the Commission’s proposition to increase emission cuts to at least 55% by 2030, as a compromise between the Parliament’s demand for a 60% target and the Council’s reserve on the issue. Taxation as well as renovation of buildings were given as examples of potential tools to achieve these goals. Adding to this, she announced that 37% of the Next Generation budget should be spent directly on Green Deal objectives. Sport, although not directly mentioned, could play an important role in contributing to the environmental objectives of the EU by implementing sustainable measures and using its universal popularity to shine a light on the topic.
Regarding migration, she stressed the importance of successful integration, in which sport could also show its commitment. In the aftermath of the “Black Lives matter” movement, von der Leyen then touched upon anti-racism, advocating a Union of equality. The latest evolutions of Brexit negotiations also seemed to worry the Commission. Many of these developments have the potential of impacting sport events and migration.
Last but not least, she stressed the importance of the European youth. To illustrate the key concept of resilience, von der Leyen used the memorable example of two Italian girls playing tennis on a rooftop during the lockdown, saying she would always remember them as true models for resilience. This example goes to show what important role sport has played and can still play during the pandemic, and will certainly continue to have an impact on the next EU generation.