On 15 September, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivered her annual speech on the state of the Union to the European Parliament, announcing major policy initiatives and setting priorities for the year ahead.

This year’s speech focused on the three policy areas of health, economy and climate. To support the EU’s economic recovery, the Commission President stressed, among other things, the importance of investing in digital skills and the need for further political commitment.

The role of research was emphasised in the context of the newly announced European Chips Act, which aims to strengthen the EU’s technological sovereignty in the coming years.

In this year’s speech, a new emphasis was placed on youth, according to whose ideas the EU should be shaped more strongly. Von der Leyen proclaimed 2022 the Year of European Youth and announced that youth would be heavily involved in the ongoing conference on the future of the EU.

The Commission will also set up the new ALMA programme (“Aim, Learn, Master, Achieve”) to provide a European experience for young people who are not yet in employment or training. The programme will offer mobility measures for temporary traineeships within the EU, complementing existing programmes such as Erasmus+. Under the Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL), it will be implemented through funding from the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) of around €15 million in the first year.

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