D.he EU Commission Chairman Ursula von der Leyen recognized the management of the corona pandemic in the EU as a success, but at the same time called for further efforts. With more than 70 percent of the adult population fully vaccinated, the EU is the world leader in spite of all the critics, said von der Leyen in her State of the European Union address on Wednesday in Strasbourg. In addition, the EU was the only region in the world to distribute more than 700 million doses of vaccine to more than 130 countries around the world. “We did it right because we did it the European way.”
At the same time, von der Leyen referred to global injustice with a view to vaccination rates. The priority must be to accelerate vaccination worldwide. The German politician announced that the EU would donate another 200 million vaccine doses by mid-2022. The EU has thus almost doubled its donation pledges to a total of 450 million vaccine doses. In this context, Leyen spoke of an “investment in solidarity” and in “global health”. “The Corona times are not over,” said von der Leyen. “A pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint.” She called the fight against the corona pandemic “one of the great geopolitical questions of our time” and stressed that so far less than one percent of the doses worldwide have been administered in low-income countries. The President of the Commission also pointed out that the EU is investing one billion euros in promoting vaccine production in Africa.
In order to ensure that a virus no longer becomes a pandemic in the future, von der Leyen suggested investing 50 billion euros in health care across the EU over the next six years.
Additional funds for Afghanistan
The head of the commission pledged a further 100 million euros in aid for Afghanistan. The EU wants to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in the country, said von der Leyen. According to her, the additional funds are part of a comprehensive EU aid package to be presented in the coming weeks. Previously, the EU had already pledged aid of 200 million euros for Afghanistan for the current year. Other countries had also increased their funds. According to the United Nations, a total of more than one billion euros was raised at an international donor conference in Geneva on Monday. With a commitment of 100 million euros, Germany is one of the largest donors.
Militarily, Europe should be strengthened in close cooperation with NATO. To this end, the EU Commission is preparing a joint declaration with the transatlantic alliance, said von der Leyen. At the same time, she announced that the EU would double its contribution to global nature conservation in order to combat the decline of biodiversity. The recipients of the aid should be the weakest countries in the world. For the years up to 2027, she named an additional four billion euros.
Economic system for microchips
According to von der Leyen, a European economic system for microchips is to be set up in the EU. This was intended to address the semiconductor shortage and strengthen Europe’s independence. Despite increasing global demand, the European share in the value chain has shrunk, according to von der Leyen. There is no digital life without this chip. And due to the shortage of semiconductors, there are entire production lines that work with reduced performance. “Yes, I know this is a daunting task, no question about it,” she said.
For example, Europe is currently dependent on imports from Asia. A law should also be presented for this purpose. The head of the commission did not provide any specific details about the legislative proposal. A shortage of semiconductors is currently hitting the automotive industry particularly hard in Germany, and production capacities have to be cut back again and again. Semiconductors are not only important for cell phones, computers and entertainment electronics, but also for cars: they are needed everywhere, from drive systems to assistance systems.
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The EU Commission also wants to set up a new exchange program for young people who have neither found an apprenticeship nor a job. The program called “Alma” will “give these young people the opportunity to gain temporary work experience in another Member State,” said von der Leyen. They deserved an experience of the same kind that students could do as part of the Erasmus exchange program.
In this context, von der Leyen announced that 2022 would be the year of European youth. This was intended to appreciate the young people who would have sacrificed a lot to protect others during the corona pandemic. Young people should also play a key role in the Conference on the Future of Europe, which started work in June. At the conference, politicians and citizens should work out concrete proposals by spring 2022. Von der Leyen assured that the EU Commission would take these proposals seriously.