Yesterday, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, delivered his State of the Union speech in the European Parliament. As is usually expected, M. Juncker addressed diverse topics, not only economic and social, but also regarding important international subjects, such as migration and terrorism.
He started his speech by talking about the European Union’s future, by explaining his vision and how it should be developed. He mentioned that there were 27 Member States in the Union, and that there are three core values that shouldn’t be forgotten, which are liberty, freedom and the rule of law, and he recalled the obligation for States to adapt to European jurisprudence. The president then introduced the idea of citizens being able to vote for some reforms, such as the creation of a European Minister to Economy and Finances. Finally, he wants the Commission to be irreproachable, and has put in motion a reform that will come into force on the 1st of February 2018. Among the dispositions, we can see that the “cooling off period” will be extended and “conflict of interest” is mentioned.
Regarding all that economy embodies, Mr. Juncker firstly announced many propositions to reinforce EU’s commercial agenda, with propositions to open negotiations of free exchange with Australia and New Zealand, as well as with Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Mexico. Regarding the monetary union, he considered that all Member States “have the right and the duty” to use the euro, except Denmark*. Moreover, he has evoked the creation of a European Monetary Funds, that would replace the European Stability Mechanism. However, he is opposed to the implementation of a real budget, wanting only a “strong budgetary line”. On the subject of finances, the Commission will propose the creation of a European unique supervisor of capital markets by the end of 2018. Finally, M. Juncker also talked about the consumers, by saying that there shouldn’t be a double standard in the quality of products anymore, notably regarding food.
The President of the European Commission also evoked social measures to be taken, with the creation of a European Work Authority by the end of 2018, which would then introduce rules and inspections. Most of the rest of his speech was about problems that are preeminent in public debate lately. First of all, terrorism. Mr. Juncker wants to implement a European intelligence unit that is capable to face transboundary threats. One of its goals is to exchange automatically information on terrorists or foreign fighters with national intelligence and police forces. Migration is also an important topic, and the President congratulated Italy’s actions regarding this issue; however, he asserted that the European Union’s responsibility was global, and the organization would work with the United Nations to help better refugees’ lives. In this same logic, he called out on States to participate more in the Emergency Trust Funds for Africa. Its goal is to help States fight the causes for illegal migrations. Finally, the Commission’s President talked about the European Union’s Foreign Affairs, and how he would like to suppress unanimity in the process of decision making. He estimated that in the area of Defense, progress was to be made. He said that Turkey could not adhere to the EU in a foreseeable future, since the country doesn’t respect the rule of law. For Mr. Juncker, it is more likely that the EU will welcome western Balkan countries.
In its speech, the Commission’s President didn’t forget to talk about two topics that are also growing in importance: the cyber-world, and ecology. One of the main goals is to give further powers and budget to the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security, so that Member States can have the best protection possible from cyber-attacks. Moreover, the Commission has a project to stimulate free circulation of non-personal data. Finally, regarding global warming, Mr. Juncker announced propositions on the decarburization of transports. Fighting global warming is one of the four priorities of European Commission’s working program for next year.
With his speech, Jean-Claude Juncker addressed many topics, all of them important for the future of the European Union. Some propositions were met with enthusiasm, while others divided opinions. It will be interesting to see how these propositions will be developed.
* During the signing of the Maastricht Treaty, Denmark negociated its right not to use the euro. Moreover, in 2000 a referendum took place in which the “no” won in regards of introducing the euro in the country.
Carolina Duarte de Jesus
For further information :
State of the Union 2017, European Commission, 2017, [consulted online on 13/09/2017]. http://ec.europa.eu