Ursula von der Leyen’s ever more fragile Union

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The state of the EU is fragile.

With the world still battling the coronavirus pandemic, and the full scale of the economic damage not yet known, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will use her first State of the European Union speech on Wednesday to try to reassure the roughly 440 million frazzled citizens she serves that Brussels has a robust recovery fund and that she has a plan for implementing it.

Speaking to the European Parliament in Brussels, rather than at its official seat in Strasbourg because of surging coronavirus infections and continuing travel restrictions, von der Leyen will acknowledge the general brittle state of affairs, and lay out her vision for the post-COVID EU, which includes adopting even more ambitious targets to fight climate change and more aggressive efforts to drive digital innovation.

She will also attempt to draw some preliminary lessons from the mistakes in managing the early months of the crisis, and propose giving Brussels greater authority over health policy in the event of a future emergency — citing the at times disjointed responses from panicked national governments, which hoarded protective equipment and shut their borders, disrupting commerce and stranding citizens.

Officials familiar with von der Leyen’s draft remarks would not reveal her specific policy prescriptions. But in a lengthy and wide-ranging address, she will touch on virtually all aspects of EU governance, including the effort to help design and implement national recovery plans; an initiative to combat racism; as well as her views on myriad foreign policy topics including relations with the U.S.

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