Monday

23rd Sep 2019

Juncker's EU vision to focus on security

  • All eyes will be on Juncker on Wednesday as he reveals his ideas for restoring citizens' trust in the EU (Photo: European Parliament)

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker is to outline on Wednesday (14 September) in the European Parliament his vision on how the EU should look like after the UK voted to leave.

The state of the union speech - Juncker’s second - is seen as an attempt to calm restive voters who have expressed disenchantment with the EU by flocking to populists and abandoning mainstream parties.

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

The speech is expected to focus on security and defence, with Juncker to encourage member states to work together more closely to tackle terrorism and reinforce controls of external borders.

This could also plant the seeds for a future EU army, something Juncker has already expressed support for.

France and Germany have put forward a joint paper calling for deeper co-operation among EU countries’ militaries. Hungary and the Czech Republic have also signalled support for an EU army, but some member states remain sceptical about European military cooperation outside of Nato structures.

Growth, job creation, and migration will also top of Juncker’s agenda in assessing the post-Brexit state of the union.

A commission source said that Juncker’s speech would include a little bit of everything for the various interets of member states.

Southern capitals can expect Juncker to bolster the EU’s investment plan and to reinforce the social dimension of the monetary union, with a focus on youth unemployment. There is also expected to be talk of focus on the digital sector of the economy.

MEPs have said they would like to see concrete policy proposals.

“We hope it will be a robust speech,” said Gianni Pittella, an Italian MEP, who is the leader of the centre-left S&D group.

He highlighted the need for increased investment. “We need to overcome the rules which have penalised the weakest parts of the EU,” Pittella said, referring to austerity measures that were imposed during the eurozone crisis.

Mending divisions

Pittella said he wants Juncker to start a discussion on the “ridiculous” nature of the stability pact. He said his group is “astonished” by some finance ministers and the conservative EPP group “blindly sticking” to the austerity and stability accord.

The leader of the centre-right EPP group also expressed support for increased investment, but argued that Europe needs stable budgets.

“We have to mend fractures and bring it [the EU] back together again,” Manfred Weber, a Juncker ally, told journalists on Tuesday.

“The speech is an important one, as far as the it is very important that we provide specific responses,” he said.

“We need to focus on increased growth, safety and security, and solidarity, when it comes to how we are going to solve the problems of our continent,” he added.

Weber also highlighted defending external EU borders as a priority.

“The union is not in a good state,” liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt said, adding that people are attracted to populists because the EU is not seen to be addressing their main concerns.

On a more sceptical note, Syed Kamall, UK Conservative MEP who is the leader of the ECR group, said the UK referendum sent a strong signal that the EU has to change.

'An old, smart fox'

"What I worry about is that there will be more and more the same type of initiatives, more state spending, maybe flexibility on debt rules, maybe proposals on an EU army, these are things we have to be concerned about. The UK and other referendums have sent a strong signal that the EU has to change and go in a different direction, and I just hope, and that he [Juncker] listens to that," Kamall told this website.

He told journalists less rules are needed with more countries signing up for them.

Others expressed muted expectations in the EP's corridors in Strasbourg.

“We [the EU] don’t have answers to many challenges facing us, I expect little concrete proposals to benefit citizens in the speech,” said one EP source.

Another EP source described Juncker as “an old, smart fox”, and said that he understands the sensitivities of France and Germany and can strike a balance between the two. But the source added, Juncker can be also unpredictable, so it is difficult to say what to expect from Wednesday’s speech.

Juncker’ address comes two days before 27 European leaders meet in Bratislava without the UK to discuss how to reshape the EU to win back citizens’ trust.

Juncker dismisses criticism of Brexit performance

Juncker has said he “doesn’t care” about criticism of his handling of Brexit and told Austria to “stop messing around” on complaints that he bypassed national MPs.

Juncker: EU 'not at risk' of disintegration

The EU Commission chief warned Europe is more divided than ever before, but that Brexit does not mean it is falling apart. He also promised free wifi, an EU army of sorts, and more investments.

Investigation

How the EU cosied up to the defence lobby

The EU has allowed its defence and security policies to be shaped by powerful lobbyists, many of whom are linked to firms that win lucrative contracts, an investigation shows.

News in Brief

  1. Doubt cast on new Maltese inquiry into slain reporter
  2. March by Slovak Catholics seeks abortion ban
  3. 600,000 stranded on holiday as Thomas Cook collapses
  4. Egypt: hundreds of protesters arrested over weekend
  5. Global car industry fears no-deal Brexit shock
  6. France: de-escalation between US and Iran priority
  7. Spain demands UK 'reciprocity' on resident rights
  8. Ireland: right Brexit deal is 'not yet close'

Agenda

Europe goes to New York This WEEK

Iran and climate change likely to dominate as French president Emmanuel Macron speaks for Europe at the UN general assembly in New York this week.

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us