Ursula von der Leyen’s State of the Union speech conceals setbacks, delays and broken promises

Ursula von der Leyen

In her State of the European Union speech, Ursula von der Leyen presented a narrative of promises kept and progress on the European Green Deal. However, a closer look reveals a stark contrast between promises and reality. The numerous delays and diminishing ambition across critical regulations, from agriculture and nature to chemicals, pose a significant threat to the Green Deal’s objectives.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is the largest European network of environmental NGOs.

Patrick ten Brink, Secretary-General of the EEB, said:

In a speech filled with numbers and pledges kept, Ursula von der Leyen has deliberately glossed over the delays and diluted ambition that, file after file, have eroded the credibility of her initial Green Deal promise. Her flagship policy project will not achieve the “man-in-the-moon” moment if it succumbs to the false arguments and political point-scoring that hinder any progress. There is still time to drive forward a transformative agenda and demonstrate a genuine commitment to the future that we need and that the younger generation rightfully deserves.”

Faustine Bas-Defossez, Director for Nature, Health and Environment at the EEB, said:

“Claiming that the Commission has kept its promises is nothing short of hypocrisy, especially when it comes to agriculture, food, forestry and chemicals. The indefinite delays in critical legislation within these sectors are threatening the whole European Green Deal, by undermining its climate, zero pollution and biodiversity goals. After a Summer of broken records, it is not the time to ease up on these promises, it is the time to double down. As the cost of inaction escalates, any further delay in delivering on the European Green Deal would be a politically irresponsible move that voters are likely to remember.”

Unfulfilled promises

  • Toxics-free future: By delaying the revision of REACH, the EU regulation of chemicals, the Commission is supporting the old-outdated growth model that leaves citizens and future generations behind. As the PFAS scandals show, delays in the chemicals regulation reform cause suffering, and sickness, and hinder the EU’s industry from becoming the world leader in clean production.
  • Sustainable Food: EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy committed a Sustainable Food Systems Law. It’s our chance to create a better system for people and the planet. The current food system causes pollution, poor diets, and inequality. The promise to fix it remains unfulfilled.
  • Energy Taxation: Shelving the outdated Energy Taxation Directive is problematic. The current legislation, over two decades old, no longer suits today’s energy markets and clashes with the EU’s decarbonization goals. Inflation has greatly reduced the minimum taxation levels in real terms: polluting is becoming cheaper and cheaper.
  • Energy transition: Concessions to the hydrogen and nuclear industries in renewable regulations and hydrogen delegated acts prioritise large energy corporations’ profits over renewables and grid modernization. Valuable resources are diverted, instead of focusing on the fuel of the future: renewable electricity.
  • Critical Raw Materials: The EU vowed to cut dependence on foreign rare earth suppliers with high standards. A vote in the European Parliament this week will reveal the EU’s commitment to raw material resilience and environmental and human rights standards. The absence of binding commitments, like Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, raises concerns about indigenous peoples’ consent.
  • Nature Restoration: While Ursula von der Leyen’s speech talks of the importance of nature and ecosystems, the European Parliament has eviscerated her legislation. The trilogues must restore the ambition of the Nature Restoration Law.
  • Access to justice: Despite pledges, the Commission didn’t introduce a promised directive to ensure minimum access to justice for environmental issues in Member States. It also failed to secure access to justice for Fit for 55 proposals, undermining climate policy and favouring industry over environmental governance.
  • Animal Welfare: Millions of animals suffer daily in an outdated system. The Commission pledged to update animal welfare laws, but it seems to be ignoring this commitment, despite 1.4 million citizens supporting the ‘End the Cage Age’ initiative. 

The European Green Deal, championed by Ursula von der Leyen, is at a critical juncture. While her State of the EU speech conveys commitment, her policies face delays, omissions, or dilutions in the Commission, Council, and Parliament. The EEB calls on von der Leyen to personally commit her Commission to deliver and to fight for the European Green Deal in trilogues, counter false arguments, and align with science, citizens, innovative system-changing companies, and youth.


Ursula von der Leyen’s State of the Union speech conceals setbacks, delays and broken promises
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