In the face of complex challenges, Europe stronger together, says EU President von der Leyen

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen outlined her priorities for the European Union in her State of the Union address on Wednesday, highlighting the collective approach the EU was taking to tackling the climate crisis. 

“In the gravest planetary crisis of all time… We chose to go it together with the European Green Deal,” said von der Leyen speaking to lawmakers in Strasbourg, France. 

‘United in responsibility’ 

In a speech that didn’t shy away from the urgency of the crisis, with references to the devastating impacts experienced this summer in Germany, Belgium and Greece, as well as the findings of the latest IPCC report, von der Leyen also drew attention to positive changes taking place in Europe and beyond, particularly powered by the youth.  

“Our youth put meaning into empathy and solidarity,” she said. “They believe we have a responsibility towards the planet. And while they are anxious about the future, they are determined to make it better.”  

In a show of support — and applauding Europe’s most “educated, talented and motivated generation” — von der Leyen announced 2022 would be the Year of the European Youth.  

The EU President stressed the importance of giving youth the opportunity to upskill, develop, build new bonds and explore their European identity — all key priorities for long-running EIT Climate-KIC education programmes, Journey, Pioneers, Climathon and Young Innovators. As EIT Climate-KIC enters 2022, our ambition is to support the Year of the European Youth by continuing to transform the way young people learn, while equipping them with the skills and knowledge to empower and enable them to effectively tackle the complexity of climate change. Learning and innovation are two sides of the same coin, and together they can accelerate change. 

‘Explosion of creativity’ 

The innovation of the New European Bauhaus was also a cause for celebration. As the innovative, participatory dimension to the European Green Deal, the initiative borrows from the original Bauhaus School; a radical German art school that was founded in 1919 and became famous for an approach that unified artistic vision with function. Von der Leyen told lawmakers that the New Bauhaus had led to “an explosion of creativity of architects, designers, engineers across our Union,” adding that clearly “something is on the move.” 

The European Union’s collective approach to tackling the climate crisis is well exemplified in the design of the New European Bauhaus initiative, which is supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) through its Cross-KIC Call for Proposals for Citizen Engagement.

While the Commission initiative is now moving to the delivery phase, EIT Climate-KIC together with other EIT Knowledge and Innovation Communities are well placed to contribute, test and engage communities – encouraging citizens to identify urban challenges and empowering them to co-create potential solutions through ideation.

Through a place-based model of intervention and ecosystem of more than 2000 partners located across the EU, the EIT will engage with citizens and raise awareness on the New European Bauhaus, support new business ideas, and accelerate the growth of New European Bauhaus start-ups. 

‘Forging partnerships’ 

In another cross-cutting project, EIT Climate-KIC is working together with EIT Raw Materials, Health, Food, Manufacturing, Digital, and Urban Mobility Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) in the Western Balkans, one of the regions in Europe most heavily affected by the impacts of climate change. Together, they will be exploring their learnings around a green and circular economy as an umbrella approach to boost the economy in a post-COVID world, but also enhance capacities and foster knowledge-sharing in the region. 

Today, von der Leyen also highlighted the significance of strong partnerships with allies and neighbours, particularly with the Western Balkans. She said she will soon travel to the region and announced a ramp-up of support through a new investment and economic plan, worth around a third of the region’s GDP.  “An investment in the future of the Western Balkans is an investment in the future of the EU,” she added. 

 
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