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EU President Ursula von der Leyen gave her speech on the state of the European Union in 2021. Photo: AFP via Getty Images.
EU President Ursula von der Leyen gave her speech on the state of the European Union in 2021. Photo: AFP via Getty Images.

The European Union wants to defend itself

The EU agenda has been marked by vaccines, economic recovery, climate change and the exit from Afghanistan.

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Once a year, the European Union passes an test. In front of the European Parliament, the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, gives her speech on the state of the European Union. In the act, the achievements and mistakes of the international body are reviewed. This year, vaccines have topped the agenda, but also the economic recovery, climate change and the exit from Afghanistan.

It is on the last issue where von der Leyen, showed her chops as previous Minister of Defense in the German government of Angela Merkel. In the past, von der Leyen has spoken of a "European Defense Union" with new military resources. She wants Europe to be capable and willing to “do more for itself.”

The goal is for the heads of state and government to meet next year at a summit dealing only with defense issues. The president warned that in the future, there will be missions where NATO or the UN will not be present, but where the EU should be autonomous.

Vaccination in Europe

Beyond defense, von der Leyen praised Europe's rate of vaccination. Despite seeming in recent months that the old continent was slowing down, now it is vaccinating faster than the United States and is at the level of China. The tone was optimistic and look forward to a Europe that resurfaces like the phoenix.

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"In the greatest global crisis, we have chosen to move forward together with European funds and with the European green pact. But the times of the coronavirus are not over," von de Leyen said.

The European Parliament also applauded its president, especially as she defended that the market economy has a social character and recalled that companies should pay fair taxes and commensurate with their profits. She also recalled the words of one of the founders of the EU, Robert Schuman:

"Europe will not be made all at once or in a joint effort: it will be made thanks to concrete achievements, which first of all create a de facto solidarity," he once said.

The rebirth, while long overdue is also bittersweet: European funds have helped more than 31 million workers and 2.5 million companies, according to the president. But the pandemic has also left more than 750,000 dead in the EU, where 500 million people live.

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