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Europe is starting to deliver on its promise

Mass meeting for European Integration and the government's resignation, November 24, 2013, Kiev
Drop of Light / Shutterstock.com

When President Ursula von der Leyen gave her latest State of the Union address to the European Parliament, she presented EU policymakers with a mission: deliver on the promise of the Union. The roadmap to get there was different from those of her predecessors. She put people first.

Today’s challenges, headed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting energy and cost of living crisis, can only be solved at the European level. Back in 2008, Europe got its response to the financial crisis wrong, rescuing the financial system, not families and communities. That failure to help people became a leitmotif for criticism and led to growing mistrust in European institutions. My own EAJ-PNV party’s electoral battle cry became: "More Euskadi, another Europe".

But since then, Europe’s script has flipped. It is regaining lost credibility. The Union has withstood the pandemic crisis. It made long-term investment a priority through the EU recovery and resilience plan and next generation funds, measures that we in the European Democratic Party supported. Europe now stands better able to address climate change, a looming threat Europe felt first hand this summer.

Responding to a Europe in peril

We see more clearly today what our Union is and can be. It is determined and united in its response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggression against Ukraine. Eurobarometer data show with resounding clarity that the line taken is what citizens want, need and expect.

Commission President von der Leyen is boosting Europe’s standing and getting the big calls right. She brings more precise and impactful proposals than Commissions past. She tackles tough issues with technical rigour and emotional intelligence – a female leadership style Europeans embrace. President von der Leyen is calling for timely energy market reform and proposals to taxes on extraordinary profits being hoovered up by energy firms. These measures will consolidate the social model and protect European democracy. On Ukraine, she showed active solidarity – the bedrock of the European project – which demands humanist policies centred on people. My party in the Basque Country, the EAJ-PNV, has backed this idea since its earliest involvement with the European project.

If von der Leyen’s policy ideas take hold, the payoff could be manifold and move Europe a firm step forward. Proposals would change the energy market for the better, bring in windfall gains from energy companies and redirect those firms to help people weather the rising energy prices forecast for winter. Europe will have solid incentives and fiscal measures to boost economic development. A twofold outcome will happen: A radical and robust transformation of EU economic growth and a sustainable future for people and planet. Support will be given to entrepreneurs and companies that drive these necessary changes.

Upholding our way of life

Putin's war aims not only to erase Ukraine. It is a torpedo targeting our European way of life. We at the argue Europe can combat this threat through the president’s stated commitment to social Europe, by acting in solidarity within our Union and by strengthening cooperation beyond its borders. If Europe delivers and stays steadfast, expect profound change in our relations with the rest of the world. Back home, Europe must stay on course to leave no one behind and combat the threats to our democracy while maintaining rule of law.

Ursula von der Leyen gets it. She grasps that any progress Europe makes starts with people. Policy must give all our people a chance to develop their talents while protecting their freedoms. We must defend and nurture that progress. To do that, we must ensure that the rule of law is respected throughout the Union.

The year-long Conference on the Future of Europe called for a Europe that is more federal, social, sustainable and in tune with the realities people face. The Union must now deliver on its promise.

By MEP Izaskun Bilbao Barandica, European Democratic Party (Basque Country)