In a speech to the European Parliament on the inauguration of the new President of the United States and the current political situation, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, praised Joe Biden's oath as a “message of healing for a deeply divided nation”, but also as a “message of hope for a world that is waiting for the U.S. to be back in the circle of like-minded states”.
President von der Leyen made it clear that EU-U.S. leadership is needed to address the many global challenges which need renewed and improved global cooperation. The President said: “And I am delighted that on day one – as they announced – of the new American administration, the United States will rejoin the Paris Agreement. This will be a very strong starting point for our renewed cooperation.” Europe also looks forward to seeing the United States join the common effort to fight the pandemic and secure vaccines for low- and middle-income countries.
Recalling the shocking images of the storming of Capitol Hill, President von der Leyen warned that some people in Europe may harbour similar feelings and called to action to prevent messages of hate and disinformation from spreading: “We should take these images from the U.S. as a sobering warning. Despite our deep-rooted confidence in our European democracy, we are not immune to similar events. In Europe, too, there are people who feel disadvantaged, who are very angry. We must seek to address the concerns and problems of each and every one of our citizens, such as the – completely justified - fear of being left behind economically in the pandemic. We must impose democratic limits on the untrammelled and uncontrolled political power of the internet giants.”
The President underlined the importance of innovation and opportunities of modern technology in this context, which should however “never mean that others decide how we live our lives”. She notably referred to the recently presented Digital Services Act and the Digital Market Act, which will ensure that the power of major platforms over public debate is subject to clear principles, transparency and accountability; that users fundamental rights are protected; and provide a level playing field for innovative digital businesses. Speaking in the hemicycle in Brussels this morning, Ursula von der Leyen extended an offer to the new U.S. administration to define a common global approach: “Together we could create a digital economy rulebook that is valid worldwide: From data protection and privacy to the security of critical infrastructure. A body of rules based on our values: human rights and pluralism, inclusion and protection of privacy.”