Detached & out of touch: VDL’s last (?) SOTEU speech

In her final State of the Union speech of the current mandate, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s silence on the cost of living crisis was deafening.

Over 50% of EU households now struggle to make ends meet. Rising prices and the threat of poverty and social exclusion is the top concern of people living in Europe. And yet, von der Leyen failed to mention either “poverty” or “cost of living” in her speech.

“95 million people in the EU are at risk of poverty,” said Co-President of the Left Martin Schirdewan, “that is your legacy.”

Instead, the Commission President focussed on business and competitiveness. She showed that she is worryingly out of touch when it comes to workers in the EU. Precarity and in-work poverty is on the rise amid stagnating salaries. The reality is that work no longer pays for many people living in the EU.

“Workers suffered a loss of around 4% in real wages last year. They can no longer afford a well-deserved vacation because electricity, heating and rent are becoming increasingly expensive,” says Schirdewan.

President von der Leyen also lauded her Commission’s achievements on climate policy. But again, she needs a reality check. The European Green Deal hangs in the balance as von der Leyen’s own political family, the EPP, is blocking key files on nature restoration and clean air. More cynically, von der Leyen herself appointed a former Shell executive to run the Commission’s climate policy. She is also considering reauthorising poisonous glyphosate while signing free trade agreements with far-flung countries such as New Zealand. It’s hard to take this approach seriously in the middle of the climate crisis.

Finally, President von der Leyen cannot be accused of complete inaction. She has been busy over the past four years building Fortress Europe. Deportation camps, destroyed families, militarised borders and deadly pushbacks have become the pillars of the EU’s migration policy.

“There have been 11,000 deaths at the EU’s external borders since 2020. That’s 8 deaths every single day of your presidency.  I wonder how you can even sleep at night,” said Schirdewan.

Full coverage of debate is available here.

See our Flickr for pictures of Left MEPs during the State of the Union debate.


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