On Wednesday 13 September 2017, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, delivered his annual speech on the State of the European Union at the European Parliament.
The speech takes stock of Europe’s current political and economic landscape. It is an opportunity to review the work of the EU over the past year, and to look ahead to the priorities of the coming year.
In his hour long speech Junker outlined his vision for Europe. He wants to see a more centralised Europe with more power to Brussels particularly in the areas of finance and defence with EU ministers in place, the expansion of the Eurozone and the Schengen area, more free trade deals with third countries, and finally warned that both the EU and Britain will regret Brexit.
Junkers main points:
- Europe’s economic recovery has seen eight million jobs created and employment at record levels.
“We can take credit for our European Investment Plan which has triggered €225 billion worth of investment so far. It has granted loans to over 445,000 small firms and more than 270 infrastructure projectsWe can take credit for the fact that, thanks to determined action, European banks once again have the capital firepower to lend to companies so that they can grow and create jobs.
And we can take credit for having brought public deficits down from 6.6% to 1.6%. This is thanks to an intelligent application of the Stability and Growth Pact. We ask for fiscal discipline but are careful not to kill growth. This is in fact working very well across the Union – despite the criticism“
The European Union should have a common finance minister, possibly drawn from the existing ranks of the commission.
Turkey has pushed itself away from EU membership in the foreseeable future. It should leave journalists free to work and stop attacks on European leaders.
All EU states should join the euro and the European Commission is ready to help them make the transition.
EU citizens should have the same working rights wherever they are, so the EU will set up a common labour market agency to regulate conditions.
EU should have functioning defence union by 2025.
Europe is not a fortress and should welcome those who seek refuge from persecution. However, those who come without justification should be expelled. Italy has led the way on the immigration issue, but other states have not shown enough solidarity.
One president, rather than the current system with leaders representing the member states, the Commission and the Parliament, would better embody the unity of Europe.
Brexit is not the end and the EU should use the opportunity to restate its mission
President Juncker also called for removing trade barriers with the rest of the world particularly Australia and New Zealand. At the same time however the EU is trying to raise trade barriers with Britain as a punishment for Brexit.
And there is a lot of work that needs to be done before many people in Europe, particularly in Greece where most of Juncker’s vision of prosperity democracy and growth does not seem to apply are convinced that ‘the days of no transparency, the days of rumours, of incessantly questioning the Commission’s motives are gone’ .
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