State of the Union (1): Von der Leyen announces Critical Raw Materials Act and SME Relief Package

In her speech, on 14 September, European Commission President, Ursula Von der Leyen,  mentioned the importance of securing supplies or raw materials such as lithium and rare earths, especially as the demand for these materials will increase fivefold by 2030.As such, President Von der Leyen announced that a new legislative proposal for a European Critical Raw Materials Act. The proposal is expected to be presented in the first quarter of 2023.

President Von der Leyen also put forward the launch of a SME Relief Package. It will include a proposal for a single set of tax rules for doing business in Europe (called BEFIT) and a revision of the Late Payment Directive.



State of the Union (2): Von der Leyen on energy-saving renovations: “Let’s stick to the plan”

President Von der Leyen also praised the NextGenerationEU instrument, i.e. the EU’s response fund to the Covid-19 crisis that has caused the “deepest recession since World War II” in the EU, she said.According to Von der Leyen, 100 billion euros have been disbursed to Member States so far, a considerable portion of which will be used to finance energy-saving renovations under the Renovation Wave . 700 billion euros still have not flown into the economy. Von der Leyen urged the EU27 to “stick to the plan” and to “get the money on the ground“.

State of the Union (3): Energy emergency measures announced

In addition, the European Commission’s President dedicated a large part of her State of the Union address to the current energy crisis. She not only admitted that “making ends meet is becoming a source of anxiety for millions of businesses and households“, but also announced new plans aiming at reducing the overall electricity consumption in the EU and at introducing a cap on the revenues of low-cost electricity producers.According to the Commission, this will help raise more than 140 billion euros for Member States to “cushion the blow directly“. Furthermore, President Von der Leyen said that her institution will amend the temporary State Aid framework in October.

Von der Leyen also called for decoupling the dominant influence of gas on the price of electricity and announced a “deep and comprehensive reform” of the electricity market.

On the same day the State of the Union was delivered, the European Commission published a proposal for a Council Regulation on an emergency intervention to address high energy prices.

State of the Union (4): 2023 to be the “European Year of Skills”?

In her State of the Union speech, on 14th September, President Von der Leyen highlighted the major challenge of labour shortage for the European economy – both skilled and unskilled. Much more investment is required in professional education and upskilling, she stated. Also, Europe should become better at attracting the right skilled people from abroad and facilitate the recognition of their qualifications, the President added.
Therefore, she proposed to make 2023 the European Year of Skills.



European Parliament formally approves deal on new EU Directive on adequate minimum wage

On 14th September, the European Parliament agreed on the new EU Directive on adequate minimum wage by a very large majority – i.e. the version of the text as agreed in the trilogue in June.

The directive provides that Member States will have a duty to promote collective bargaining and, for countries where collective bargaining coverage is below 80%, to establish an action plan to support it.

To guide governments, the directive also suggests that they set the legal minimum wage level according to reference values: 60% of the gross median wage or 50% of the gross average wage. But Member States will still have to check the adequacy of statutory minimum wages taking into account purchasing power and the cost of living.

Trade union involvement will also be strengthened in the setting and updating of statutory minimum wages, although the text will not oblige those Member States that do not have this tool – Italy, Cyprus, Austria, Sweden, Denmark and Finland – to introduce a statutory minimum wage.

However, during the debate, several MEPs complained that this text would not respect the subsidiarity principle.

The Council is expected to also formally approve the agreement in September. Member States will then have two years to comply with the Directive.


European Parliament calls for 14,5% energy consumption reduction target by 2030


On 14th September, the European Parliament adopted by a large majority the draft report by Niels Fuglsang (S&D, Danish) on the revision of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), thus supporting an increase of 14.5% of the target for reducing energy consumption in the EU by 2030 (compared to the 2020 baseline projections).

Under Article 6 of the text, each Member State shall ensure that at least  3 % of the total floor area of heated and/or cooled buildings owned by public bodies of certain categories and of buildings for social purposes is renovated each year to at least be transformed into nearly zero-energy buildings or zero-emission buildings.

On the same day, MEPs adopted by a large majority the draft report by Markus Pieper (EPP, German) on the updated Renewable Energy Directive (RED), which in particular provides for an increase – from 32 to 45% – in the EU’s target for the share of renewable energy in the EU’s energy mix by 2030.

The Parliament will now enter into decisive negotiations with the Member States and the Commission on both files.