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European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen outlined flagship initiatives for the European Union (EU) in her State of the Union address yesterday (15 Sept).

The EU’s vaccination efforts featured strongly in the address, with Von der Leyen stating that more than 70% of adults in the EU are fully vaccinated. She added that the EU had delivered more than 700 million doses to countries in the rest of the world and will increase its donation commitment by a further 200 million doses.

More than 400 million EU Digital COVID Certificates (EUDCCs) have been generated across Europe, according to von der Leyen, benadryl mini melts with 42 countries in four continents using the scheme.

She referred to digital as “the make or break issue,” and said that digital spending in NextGenerationEU recovery plan would overshoot the 20% target. The NextGenerationEU €800 billion temporary stimulus package contributes towards the EU4Health programme  and Horizon Europe research and innovation programme.

The EU will focus on digital transformation including investment in 5G, fibre and digital skills, von der Leyen said. She called for a new European Chips Act which will create a “state-of-the-art European chip ecosystem” to ensure security of supply and develop new markets for European tech.

Also, von der Leyen proposed a new health preparedness and resilience mission for the EU to “make sure that no virus will ever turn a local epidemic into a global pandemic”. She said the European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) was being set up to deal with future threats and should be backed up by Team Europe investment of €50 billion by 2027.

Regarding cybersecurity, von der Leyen said the EU needed to “step up to the next level” and called for a European cyber defence policy, including legislation on common standards under a new European Cyber Resilience Act.

WHY IT MATTERS

The European Commission president delivers the State of the Union address to the Parliament in September each year. The address takes stock of the achievements of the past year, presents priorities for the year ahead and sets out how the Commission will address the most pressing challenges the EU faces.

THE LARGER CONTEXT

In April, the European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA) was launched for digital and health projects to help Europe emerge stronger from COVID-19.

The EUDCC came into force on July 1. Meanwhile in the UK, vaccine passports will be required to enter large indoor venues and nightclubs by the end of September.

ON THE RECORD

Von der Leyen said: “Today we are delivering with our proposal we get the HERA authority up and running. This will be a huge asset to deal with future health threats earlier and better.

“We have the innovation and scientific capacity, the private sector knowledge, we have competent national authorities. And now we need to bring all of that together, including massive funding.”

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