Tuesday

24th Apr 2018

Opinion

Juncker-Tusk: A clash of EU visions

  • Juncker (l) and Tusk: rifts between the two presidents are particularly worrying (Photo: Consillium)

On Wednesday (14 September), the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, delivered his annual state of the Union speech at the European parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg. Juncker took stock of the current, rather bleak, state of affairs in the EU and laid out the commission’s priorities for the next 12 months.

The state of the Union is a powerful instrument in Brussels politics. In his annual speech (often characterised as a Christmas tree) the commission president promises individual political groups in the parliament that he will push forward their projects in exchange for their support in the parliament’s work on the commission’s other initiatives.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The state of the Union also offers an opportunity for MEPs to comment on the commission’s performance and thus manifest their growing influence in EU policy-making.

But this year’s speech was somehow different from previous ones.

Juncker used his state of the Union to address the European Council president, Donald Tusk, and his fellow European leaders rather than MEPs gathered in Strasbourg.

It is no secret that Tusk and Juncker have clashed over how the EU should respond to EU’s mounting crises. The state of the Union offered Juncker yet another opportunity to put his two cents into this debate and to confront Tusk’s stance on the EU’s future.

Masters of the treaty

Donald Tusk thinks that member states are "masters of the treaty" and should provide political stimulus for the EU. The European Commission should - in his view - implement the member states’ decisions by means of legislative actions.

The European Council president believes that at a time of growing euroscepticism and populism the last thing Europe needs is assertive institutions which “impose” their priorities on member states.

But Juncker does not agree with this vision. He wants the commission to regain its right of initiative, which has been in decline ever since the sovereign debt crisis erupted.

Juncker thinks that European deliberations have been too-long dominated by national interests which have only boosted populism across the EU. He believes that a more political commission can help to address this problem rather than exacerbate it.

In his speech he condemned “petty envy between various institutions” and argued against re-nationalisation of European policy. He also announced that the commission will come up with ideas for the future of Europe in March 2017.

This runs up against Tusk’s idea that member states rather than EU institutions should be a driving force of any wider EU reform.

Rifts between the two presidents are particularly worrying as EU leaders are meeting in Bratislava to get ready for the Brexit negotiations, unprecedented in the EU’s history.

Leave weapons at the door

The European Commission backed by the European Parliament seems to be keen on using the exit talks to teach Britain a lesson; the European Council president understands, however, that this approach could be counterproductive and embolden eurosceptic forces.

Eurosceptics could argue that an autocratic EU is trying to punish Britain for a democratic decision.

All three of the main EU institutions have appointed Brexit negotiators, which has caused confusion among EU experts and in EU capitals over who will be in charge of the talks.

In his state of the Union, Juncker argued that Brexit will not lead to the EU’s break-up.

He is probably right that the EU will somehow survive this crisis. But the secret to a more positive EU future lies in a united EU front in the divorce talks. As both presidents go to Bratislava for discussions with 27 EU leaders (bar Britain), they should leave their knives at the door.

The commission’s passion for the EU’s fundamental principles and Tusk’s understanding of different concerns across member states could make a potent combination if they act together.

They could also make an explosive cocktail if they don't.

Agata Gostynska-Jakubowska is a research fellow at the Centre for European Reform in London. She works on the EU institutional architecture and on the British and Polish European policy

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.

Mr Juncker, be Bob the Builder

Now is the time for the EU commission president to accept the pact proposed by the European Parliament to uphold democracy and our fundamental rights, write six MEPs from five political groups.

EU 27 meet for 'moment of truth'

Tusk said in Bratislava it would be "easier than you expect" to heal the EU's divisions, but for some leaders the post-Brexit talks are a "moment of truth" for the Union.

More commitment to renewables from Council, please

More and more consumers are likely to invest in solar panels in the future as it becomes simpler to produce one's own electricity, writes Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

News in Brief

  1. Far-right attack migrants on Greek island
  2. Merkel defends accepting UN refugees
  3. EU commissioner plans Malta 'money laundering' inspection
  4. Survey: Half of high polluting farms receive CAP subsidies
  5. Commission will 'not shy away' from Malta killing repercussions
  6. EU Commission opens probe on Alitalia state loan
  7. Paris suspect given 20-year sentence for Brussels shoot-out
  8. Merkel and Pena Nieto praise EU-Mexico trade agreement

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  2. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  3. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  4. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  6. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  7. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  8. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight

Latest News

  1. Juncker delays air quality action due to busy agenda
  2. Spain makes bid for EU naval HQ
  3. How Russian propaganda depicts Europe - should we worry?
  4. MEPs tell Chinese ambassador of concerns on trade
  5. Greenland votes with eye on independence
  6. EU court delivers blow to anti-abortion activists
  7. Hungary activists defiant after 'Soros Mercenaries' attack
  8. European Commission proposes whistleblower protection law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  2. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  3. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  6. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  7. European Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  8. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  9. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  10. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  11. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  12. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations