Finnova Foundation

Access to employment for young people, green transition, equality and AI, major themes in the State of the EU 2023 debate

  • The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has conveyed a message of unity in the face of the challenges facing the EU.
  • The topics covered in the speech are areas in which the Finnova Foundation works and aligns itself with the EU’s objectives.

13/09/2023, Brussels. Today, Wednesday 13 September 2023, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg (France) to give her speech in the debate on the State of the Union (SOTEU). The President of the European executive took stock of the actions carried out by the Union during the last year and presented to the MEPs the challenges that the 27 will have to face during the next year.

Von der Leyen began her speech by focusing on the next European elections, which will be held from June 6 to 9, 2024. In view of the elections, Von der Leyen encouraged young people to go to the polls, many of whom were born under the economic crisis of 2008, to contribute to the future of the EU they want. The Commission president stressed the importance of young people being able to share their concerns about issues that concern them, such as climate change, the influence of artificial intelligence, and the problems of access to housing and entry into the world of work.

On this last topic, Von der Leyen highlighted two current problems of the European labor market: the lack of labor and skilled workers and the number of young people who neither study nor work. “At present, there are 8 million young people who do not study, do not receive training, whose dreams are on hold causing them great distress,” concluded the German leader. To solve this problem, Von der Leyen defends the benefits of social dialogue, a tool that made it possible 4 decades ago to shape the Union of today, and has announced the holding of a social summit during the Belgian presidency of the Council.

Climate change

The ecological transition has taken up a large part of the speech, and has been present in all the topics mentioned by Von der Leyen. The president of the European Commission has put on the table the temperature records that have been recorded in the old continent during the summer and the fires and floods that have recently affected Spain and Greece as examples of the devastating effects of climate change. Von der Leyen stressed the work that has been done during the legislature, such as the approval of the European Climate Law, the zero emissions target for 2050 or the European Green Pact. “Europe has turned the climate agenda into its political agenda, providing this direction for investment and innovation”, concluded Von der Leyen. In this line, he stressed the need to provide industry with the necessary tools to carry out the ecological transformation, in turn strengthening the competitiveness of the European business fabric.

Gender equality

Equality was also a recurring theme during her speech. In this space, Von der Leyen highlighted the accession of the Union to the Istanbul Convention and the approval of the directive on the presence of women on boards of directors, a law that will oblige companies to have at least 40% of positions occupied by people of the least represented gender. In addition, she has also put on the table the difficulties that women have in terms of reconciliation and their entry into the labor market, pointing them out as challenges to be faced by the Union within the aforementioned social dialogue summit.

Artificial intelligence

Digital sovereignty was another of the pillars on which the speech hinged, and artificial intelligence was the star topic in this section. The president was pleased that Europe is working to become a world leader in this area, as regulations are being negotiated to establish obligations for providers and users depending on the level of risk of AI. Without questioning the benefits that AI can bring to the daily lives of Europeans (higher productivity, better healthcare, combating climate change, etc.), Von der Leyen proposed three lines of work to address the problems that can arise from the use of artificial intelligence: a legislative approach that puts people at the center, the development of a system of global governance that can provide a global vision (as is done with climate change) and the orientation of innovation from the point of view of responsibility.

In addition to the topics developed during the speech, Von der Leyen also had time to speak about the role of the EU in the world order, competitiveness and fairness in world markets, biodiversity, ongoing global conflicts and enlargement. After the speech, the leaders of the European Parliament’s political groups gave their views on the topics covered in the President’s speech.

Finnova, committed to European affairs

The Finnova Foundation has been working for more than 10 years to support innovation financing for companies, regions and municipalities, by promoting European funds that support the causes highlighted today at SOTEU. Finnova works in several of the areas mentioned this morning, demonstrating its commitment as an entity aligned with European values.

Finnova is committed to the promotion of young talent, with more than 550 young people trained at both the Brussels and Spanish sites. The LIFE projects of which Finnova is a partner (Ecodigestion 2.0, NextFUMIGREEN and COSTAdapta) promote the ecological transition that is shaping the economic and social agenda of the Union. The Woman4Tech project has initiatives that promote female entrepreneurship and advocate for a greater female presence in STEM careers, objectives related to the pursuit of equality that Von der Leyen mentioned in her speech. Finally, in the field of artificial intelligence, the LivAI project is aligned with the use of artificial intelligence from an ethical perspective.

About Finnova Foundation

Finnova is the Spanish-Belgian non-profit foundation based in Brussels and Spain, working for the promotion and development of innovation and entrepreneurship in the EU. Finnova’s experience in leading communication and dissemination activities of European projects is combined with a solid proven track record in business creation and entrepreneurship support programs, such as accelerators, incubators and events, as well as its commitment to training and employability of young people.

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