Sunday

17th Feb 2019

Juncker: 'Time to deepen European integration'

  • 'The time has come to deepen the European integration instead of re-introducing national divisions' (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

There is never going to be a United States of Europe, but the EU needs to show its partners where it is heading if it wants to be taken seriously, EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said Monday (16 March).

"We have to deepen economic and monetary union for a simple reason: Our monetary union is not optimal. We have an independent central bank. But we don't have a European government. So we have to have rules to replace the non-existent European government," said Juncker.

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He indicated that simple facts on the ground may soon leave the EU without the luxury of debating where it wants to go and its position in the world.

By the middle of the century, he noted, Europeans will represent just seven percent of the world's population. "We are the smallest continent. Our relative part of the global GDP will shrink. Not one single European country will be a member of the G7 in 25 years from now. We will disappear in terms of our economic weight."

"So the time has come to deepen European integration instead of re-introducing national divisions."

His comments came after talks on further economic and monetary integration were restarted last week. A meeting on Wednesday evening brought together representatives from the 28 member states, as well as the main EU institutions.

The meeting was the first attempt to re-examine the issue since a paper on "genuine economic and monetary union" was presented by Herman Van Rompuy, the then European Council President, in summer 2013.

The Van Rompuy report was subsequently largely ignored, mainly because it contained controversial ideas such as a separate budget for the eurozone and common debt issuance.

The Juncker report is to be presented in June. This time it is the commission steering the contents of the debate. Yet the problems related to the unfinished architecture of eurozone remain the same.

Meanwhile, the discussions are taking place as Greece is once more in the headlines as it seeks, against a tight deadline and emptying national coffers, to strike a deal with its creditors on securing the next tranche of bailout money.

Juncker, speaking at a Friends of Europe event in Brussels, said the report is "essential" because the "the world watching us from outside does not know where we are going."

He said the "final destination" of monetary integration should be spelt out because it "raises an enormous amount of quesitons, particularly when it comes to how the eurozone is represented externally".

Juncker, who has been commission president since autumn last year, and has been in and around the EU scene as a minister and prime minister for Luxembourg since the early 1990s, noted that the EU made itself look "ridiculous" with its multi-layered representation at bodies such as the International Monetary Fund.

Revival of the community method?

He also indicated that he intends to re-calibrate the balance of power between the EU's institutions, so that the commission is again the political driver in Brussels.

In recent years, the European Council, the EU leaders' forum, has taken centre stage battling the euro crisis and telling the commission when to iniate legislation.

Juncker said he wanted a "strong alliance" with the European Parliament which should "stand up against all attacks" that might come from "the third institution" he said, making an indirect reference to the council.

But he also noted that "we will never have a united states of Europe" saying "we have to detach ourselves from the idea that we can construct Europe against its nations."

He said European citizens do not want a Europe where all the "cultural, political, literary, artistic" would disappear.

It remains a one-of-a-kind construction and does not follow any "examples", he added.

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