Ursula von der Leyen is already starting to make her mark. The newly elected president of the European Commission, who will take office next November, announced that the European Union is planning to launch a special energy transition fund to help coal-dependent regions move away from fossil fuels.
"There will be a huge investment necessary in regions that have to step up into new technologies and new jobs. That's why we will create the Just Transition Fund, to support those regions," said von der Leyen during a joint press conference with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in Warsaw. Highly dependent on coal, Poland was one of the Member States to have blocked an agreement in June calling for 2050 to be the year in which Europe achieves carbon neutrality.
The creation of a just €5 billion energy transition fund had already been proposed by the European Parliament in 2018, without much success. The next president is continuing with this idea on her own accord, most likely to include it in her "Green New Deal" that she plans to launch upon the start of her presidency. The Green New Deal is expected to transform part of the European Investment Bank (EIB) into a climate bank, which should mobilize up to €1 trillion in the next ten years.
Von der Leyen also promised to hold broad consultations on the future of the European Union. As the United Kingdom prepares to leave the Union by October 31st, the incoming president wants to try to mobilize citizens around a common project. "We want to launch a conference on the future of Europe that will take place in our member countries and will discuss how the people, Europeans, view the future of their European Union", von der Leyen explained.
Von der Leyen also raised concerns in Brussels surrounding the legality of the controversial judicial reforms carried out by Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice Government (PiS). The EU has launched unprecedented procedures against Poland for risk of serious breaches to the rule of law that could lead to a suspension of its right to vote in European institutions.
"We have difficult issues to deal with, such as migration and the rule of law," said von der Leyen. For his part, Mateusz Morawiecki said he hoped for a "new opening" between Warsaw and Brussels in the coming years. He said his exchanges with von der Leyen would be as "a commissioner for Poland, a portfolio.” Morawiecki affirmed that Poland was interested in economics and finance.
Arnaud Dumas with AFP