Thursday

18th Jul 2019

State of the Union: Juncker's 'big day'

  • Jean-Claude Juncker during his 2016 state of the union speech. (Photo: European Commission)

Since he took office in 2014, Jean-Claude Juncker has used the US-style State of the Union speech as a stage to set the EU agenda and enhance the influence of his self-proclaimed "political European Commission" in regard to the other EU institutions and the 28 member states.

So what should be expected from Juncker's third - and second to last - speech of this kind at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday (13 September)? (Live streamed here)

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"This will be a big day. Stay tuned, it will be fully justified," the commission's chief spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, told journalists on Friday, following days of a communications campaign to announce the "Soteu" - the social media-friendly acronym for the state of the union speech.

A spokesman said that Juncker will try to "crystallise" the debate on the future of Europe.

"We are at an important political juncture … which offers a unique possibility for the president to remind us of things that have happened," the source added.

"There will be surprises," another commission source told EUobserver.

Juncker himself, speaking to the Politico website, said that "the 2017 speech is indeed more important than the 2018 one."

Several rumours have gone around about what could be so important, including one - not so new - that Juncker would announced his departure.

The latest rumour, posted on Twitter by journalists on Tuesday evening, while Juncker was admittedly applying the finishing touches to his speech, came from one of the EU parliament's main political leaders.

According to Gianni Pittella, the head of the Socialists and Democrats group, the second largest one in the parliament, Juncker will propose merging the position of president of the European Commission and the European Council, which is the gathering of EU heads of state and government.

The proposal would be a major change in the EU institutional machine, and would be much debated in Brussels and in the capitals, as the balance of power between EU and national leaders will be at stake.

More Schengen and more euro

In a meeting with the 28 deputy ambassadors to the EU, Juncker's head of cabinet, Martin Selmayr, did not mention that particular shock proposal, but he did give some indications about the speech's main points.

According to minutes of the meeting, leaked to the Open Europe think tank, Selmayr said that Juncker will call for "more Schengen", "more banking union", "more eurozone" and "a prospect for enlargement in 2025" - in particular for the Balkans.

After the migration crisis, maintaining the EU's free-travel area is a priority for the commission, which has tried to limit internal border checks while strengthening controls on the external borders.

In the wake of the financial crisis, Juncker and his commissioners in charge of the issues have called several times for achieving the economic and monetary union and to top it off with a real banking union.

After calls from the new French president, Emmanuel Macron, for a eurozone budget, a eurozone parliament and an EU finance minister, Juncker, who has sometimes expressed doubts over some aspects of these ideas, is anticipated on Wednesday to say clearly what he wants.

He is expected to back the creation of an EU finance minister.

Juncker is also expected to announce a mechanism to screen foreign investments in the EU, in order to protect companies in strategic sectors from being taken over by a foreign power. China is the main target of the mechanism.

Also regarding China, Juncker may mention how the EU can defend itself against cheap imports. But according to the Reuters news agency, the commission and the member states failed to agree on the issue ahead of the speech.

Rule of law

As head of a "political commission", Juncker will also give his views on the political situation inside the EU, more than a year after Brexit, and a few months after anti-EU presidential candidate Marine Le Pen was beaten in France.

Juncker is expected to send a warning to Poland and Hungary over the situation of the rule of law, but may not say whether the commission will trigger Article 7 to open a sanction procedure against Poland.

He will also most certainly warn that the situation in Turkey, with massive amounts of arrests after last year's failed coup, is bringing the country's EU accession process into question.

As the EU is coming back to its senses after what Juncker himself had called the "polycrisis", the general feeling is that he will now say the time for "a stronger Europe" has come and that EU leaders must deliver.

Agenda

Juncker to outline EU vision This WEEK

Commission chief to kick off the political season with a new vision for the future of Europe as he begins the last full year of his term.

Juncker keen to build EU 'bridge' to Trump

The European Commission wants to “build bridges” between the EU and the US amid the negative fallout from last week’s meetings, it has said.

EU countries cool on Juncker's ideas

There was not much enthusiasm voiced in EU countries after Juncker unveiled his grand ideas about a single EU president and a larger eurozone. Dutch PM Rutte suggested seeing an eye doctor.

Commission wants more centralised eurozone by 2019

EU leaders will discuss at their summit next week the commission's proposals, which include a European Monetary Fund and an EU finance minister - but no eurozone budget, as proposed by French president Emmanuel Macron.

News in Brief

  1. EP employment committee elects Slovak chairwoman
  2. Nato chief warns world against more Russian missiles
  3. Germany closes Amazon probe as EU opens another
  4. Report: US chipmaker Qualcomm set for new EU fine
  5. Ireland fears Brexit time zone split
  6. Selmayr to leave EU commission post
  7. EU 'appeasement' of Iran like that of Nazis, Israel says
  8. Report: EU anti-trust chief to go after Amazon

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  2. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  3. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  4. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts
  5. EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'
  6. Poland 'optimistic' despite new EU law checks
  7. What did we learn from the von der Leyen vote?
  8. Is Golden Dawn's MEP head of a criminal organisation?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us