Von der Leyen urges the EU to "answer the call of history" and open the door to new members

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“The time for determination has come and that means thinking about how to prepare for a complete Union. We need to overcome the old binary debates on enlargement. It is not about deepening integration or expanding the Union, as we can and must do both to give us the geopolitical weight and the ability to act. This is what our Union has always done, as each wave of enlargement was accompanied by political deepening. We went from coal and steel to full economic integration. And after the fall of the Iron Curtain, we turned an economic project into a true Union of peoples and States. I believe that the upcoming enlargement must also be a catalyst for progress. We started to build a Health Union at 27 and we can finish it with more than 30. We started to build the European Defense Union at 27 and we can finish it with more than 30 members. We have shown that we can be a Geopolitical Union and we have shown that we can move fast when we are united. And I think that Team Europe also operates with more than 30 members.”

The president of the European Commission concluded this Tuesday with this idea of ​​strength, Ursula von der Leyenyour expected 4th State of the EU Address, a reasonably young but already consolidated tradition. The German, whose future is up in the air (she could repeat her position or become Secretary General of NATO next year), did not want to give dates for the enlargement, unlike the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, who two years ago weeks urged to make a move before 2030. He has not given specific names either, although Ukraine is now in the front row for obvious reasons. And he has emphasized that it is a process that is based on merit and effort and not just will. But she has made it clear that there can be no alternative. “We are guided by the conviction that completing our Union is the best investment in peace, security and prosperity for our continent. “It is time for Europe to think big again and write its own destiny,” he urged.

Today was not a speech like Von der Leyen’s three previous ones before the chamber. The first were marked by a battery of proposals, concrete or indefinite, for his mandate. Dozens of promises, aspirations and legislative initiatives for five years. Always with large figures of investments, funds or aid to fill headlines. Not this time. In 300 days, the Europeans will go to the polls, they will renew the European Parliament and the continental leaders will choose those responsible for the institutions until 2029, so their intervention has been one of balance and reflection. Last year’s speech had the theme “courage and solidarity,” completely focused on Ukraine and the war. This year’s one, with different types of aspirations, but perhaps even more ambition, personal and team, has been titled: “Answering the call of history.”

“This is the moment to decide what kind of future and what kind of Europe we want (…) Our Union today reflects the vision of those who dreamed of a better future after World War II. A future in which a Union of nations, democracies and peoples would work together to share peace and prosperity. They believed that Europe was the answer to the call of history and when I talk to the new generation of young people, I see the same vision of a better future, that same burning desire to build something better. That same belief that in a world of uncertainty, Europe must once again answer the call of history. And that is what we must do together,” the German said to lukewarm applause.

Von der Leyen’s speech has been built around three axes, but the little emphasis on Ukraine and the war, on military, economic and political support, has been surprising. Not a mention of President Zelensky, when his wife was the guest of honor last year. She has mentioned the country on different occasions, but the change is very striking. Especially when the president has always been one of the most vocal on the issue.

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