Today, President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, delivered her annual State of the Union speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. In addition to Members of the Parliament and European Commissioners, the EU policymakers were also joined by honorary guest, First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, and notably the invasion of Ukraine was, perhaps not surprisingly, one of the major focal points of Von der Leyen’s speech.
The Commission President stressed that with Russia’s war on European soil, the whole of Europe now finds itself in a severe energy crisis characterised by skyrocketing energy prices and deep concerns, both among businesses and citizens, as to whether their energy supply will be cut off within the coming months. As such, President von der Leyen called upon the need to reform and diversify the European energy market, providing a showdown with dependency on Russian gas, and ensuring a paradigm shift of renewable energy sources. The green transition has been on top of the EU’s political agenda for several years and Ecommerce Europe naturally welcomes the initiative to place the current European energy market under scrutiny, as European businesses, and especially SMEs, are to be hit hard by the soaring energy prices, affecting businesses’ competitiveness and ultimately threatening the survival of European companies.
SME Relief Package and Critical Raw Materials Act to be introduced
Against a backdrop of rising energy prices and inflation, the President of the European Commission did not fail to address the delicate position of SMEs in these times of crisis. Ursula von der Leyen announced a SME Relief Package, including an unexpected revamp of BEFIT, an initiative geared at harmonising corporate tax calculation for European SMEs. The announcement comes ahead of tangible progress on the global corporate tax deal brokered at OECD’s level, which was supposed to set up a benchmark for the forthcoming tool dedicated to smaller companies. The President also made a case for the upskilling and reskilling of EU workforces to adapt it to the current needs of the industry, notably mentioning a shortage in qualified IT staff.
The European Commission’s President pinpointed the mission of the EU within the crisis as a facilitator in companies’ access to raw materials. Diversifying supply sources and processing sites to streamline the production of chips, among others, was highlighted as a priority. This would also be a step forward towards EU digital sovereignty, as this type of goods are crucial for the development of cutting-edge technologies backing the digital and green transition.
Another challenge faced by the EU in its role of support for EU businesses in the twin transitions was summarised by President von der Leyen as ensuring an “enabling business environment”. Ecommerce Europe welcomes this statement and keeps acting for a more workable and harmonised EU regulatory framework fit for the future of digital commerce.
As the sole voice of the European digital commerce, we are closely following the discussions on the ongoing digital and sustainability files which are expected to shape the EU policy for the next couple of months. If you wish to know more about our priorities, we invite you to read our Priority Paper.