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EU’s Ursula von der Leyen Calls for Unity in Post-Pandemic World

September 18, 2020, 03.11 PM

BRUSSELS, – In her first State of the Union speech, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for EU unity to confront future crises post-pandemic.

The EU’s chief executive laid out ambitious goals on Wednesday that would make the bloc become more resilient in the aftermath of a pandemic that has plunged Europe into its deepest recession in history.

Ursula von der Leyen doubled down on the flagship goals she set out on taking office last December: urgent action to combat climate change and a digital revolution.

Read also: This Year's Extreme Weather Consistent with Worsening Climate Change

"This is the moment for Europe," von der Leyen told the European Parliament in a wide-ranging speech that ran for around 80 minutes.

"The moment for Europe to lead the way from this fragility to a new vitality."

Von der Leyen, who wants Europe to become the world's first climate-neutral continent by mid-century, unveiled a plan to cut the EU's greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent from 1990 levels by 2030, up from an existing target of 40 percent.

She also pledged to use green bonds to finance those climate goals.

"There is no more urgent need for acceleration than when it comes to the future of our fragile planet," she said.

"While much of the world's activity froze during lockdowns and shutdowns, the planet continued to get dangerously hotter."

Read also: Greta Thunberg and Young Activists Talk Climate Action with Angela Merkel

She acknowledged her proposals would divide member states because the goals will require huge investments in transport, heavy industry and energy, and businesses will also face higher carbon costs under a plan to revamp the European Union's carbon market.

The former German cabinet minister also called for greater investment in technology for Europe to compete more keenly with China and the United States, and said the EU would invest 20 percent of a €750 billion economic recovery fund in digital projects.

'Fear and division'

Officials said that, far from backing off the plans she laid out at the beginning of her term because of the coronavirus pandemic, von der Leyen believes they remain key to Europe's long-term economic and political survival.


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