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State of the Union: What's the story behind the EU's keynote speech?

The Ukraine war and the energy crisis are set to feature prominently in this year's State of the Union address.
The Ukraine war and the energy crisis are set to feature prominently in this year's State of the Union address. Copyright European Union, 2021.
Copyright European Union, 2021.
By Jorge Liboreiro
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Delivered by the president of the European Commission, the EU's State of the Union speech marks the official start of the new legislative year.


Ursula von der Leyen is set to deliver her State of the Union speech on Wednesday morning before a full house of the European Parliament.

What's the story behind this keynote speech?

The State of the Union (SOTU), or the State of the European Union, is an annual address used by the president of the European Commission to present the main political priorities, objectives and initiatives of the next legislative year. 

For this reason, it takes place in mid-September, after MEPs come back from their summer recess.

In the wide-ranging speech, which lasts between 40 minutes and one hour, the Commission chief also reflects upon the greatest achievements and – within the careful limits of institutional self-criticism – the mistakes made over the past 12 months.

The text is usually peppered with doses of political philosophy: presidents openly muse about the European Union's raison d'être and unwritten future, while rallying their audience to work together for the sake of our collective prosperity.

This year's SOTU is poised to be history-making: Ursula von der Leyen will become the first Commission president to deliver the address with a full-scale war raging in Europe. 

Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the worsening energy crisis are expected to feature high on von der Leyen's agenda, giving the special occasion a markedly dark undertone.

Watch the video above to discover the story behind the State of the Union.

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