European Union president Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday included golden passports in her list of European values and said they 'are not for sale'.

Ursula von der Leyen was addressed the European Parliament in her first State of the Union address.

The EU president did not single out Malta, which controversially introduced the sale of passports some five years ago, after talks with the EU. Other countries followed. 

In her wide-ranging address she also spoke on migration and called for solidarity by member states with the frontier states.

Next week, we will put forward the New Pact on Migration. We'll take a human and humane approach. Saving lives at sea is not optional and those countries who fulfill their legal and moral duties or are more exposed than others, must be able to rely on the solidarity of our whole EU.

Hopes of Brexit trade deal fading

On Brexit, the EU chief admitted that hopes of a post-Brexit trade deal are fading and warned Britain not to unilaterally modify the withdrawal deal.

"With every day that passes, chances for a timely agreement do start to fade," she said.

"Negotiations are always difficult, and we are used to that... But talks have not progressed, as we would have wished. And that leaves us very little time."

Von der Leyen warned the attempt by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to override parts of the withdrawal treaty he signed last year is illegal and unacceptable.

"This withdrawal agreement took three years to negotiate," she said. "And we worked relentlessly on it line by line word by word, and together we succeeded."

The result "guarantees our citizens rights, financial interests, the integrity of the single market and crucially, the Good Friday Agreement," she said. 

The European Union and Britain "jointly agreed it was the best and only way to ensure peace on the island of Ireland. And we will never backtrack on that," von der Leyen said.

"And this agreement has been ratified by this house and by the House of Commons," she told the European Parliament.

Covid-19 response

On Covid-19 Von der Leyen called for lessons to be learned, saying Europe must build a stronger European health union, with a future-proof and properly funded EU4Health programme, a reinforced European Medicines Agency (EMA) and a strengthened European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

She pledged to build a European BARDA – agency for biomedical advanced research and development – to enhance Europe's capacity to respond to cross-border threats. The commission president called for a debate on new competences for the EU in the field of health.

Tougher emission reduction targets

When she spoke on the environment, the EU president said to become the first climate-neutral continent, the Commission proposing to increase the 2030 target for emission reduction to at least 55%.

"I recognise this is too much for some and not enough for others. But our economy and industry can manage this. And they want it, too.

The digital world

Von der Leyen stressed that “Europe must now lead the way on digital – or it will have to follow the way of others.”

She called for a common plan for digital Europe with clearly defined goals for 2030, such as for connectivity, skills and digital public services.  

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