European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers the annual State of the Union speech, as her administration looks back on four years in office ahead of the European elections next year.
Every year in mid-September, the president of the European Commission addresses a full house of the European Parliament and offers a preview of the legislative initiatives envisioned for the following 12 months.
The occasion marks the official start of the EU’s working year and coincides with the first plenary session after the summer break.
As the speech will be the last one before the next parliament elections, von der Leyen is expected to seize the opportunity to showcase the political accomplishments achieved over the past year.
Financial and military support for Ukraine, sanctions against Russia, the prosecution of war crimes, the economy, climate action, digital regulation, industrial policy and hard-fought advances in migration reform are set to feature high in the address, which tends to be all-encompassing and last between 45 minutes and one hour.
A reflection on enlargement and the bloc’s ability to welcome new member states is also on the cards.
With the elections looming, von der Leyen will avoid making big promises that could get bogged down during political campaigning and never reach the finish line. Still, she might give a hint or two on several files that remain on the EU’s to-do list.
Chief among them: a yet-to-be-defined project to use the immobilised reserves of the Russian Central Bank to pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction. Von der Leyen vowed to unveil the proposal before the summer break but it never arrived.
The delay was hardly surprising: the idea of managing public assets owned by another country, which are protected under international law, has been met with deep scepticism from financial experts, legal scholars and even the European Central Bank, who fear it could easily backfire and trigger market turmoil.
One thing that von der Leyen will likely omit: her own political future.
The Commission chief has kept quiet on her desire to run for re-election as the leading candidate of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP).
Von der Leyen is believed to have a high chance of securing another five-year mandate, but whether she wants it or not is, for the time being, a matter of conjecture.