18th Mar 2018

Populists blame Juncker for 'same old' ideas

  • Nigel Farage, the top political driver behind the Brexit, said the EU has not learned form the Uk referendum (Photo: European Parliament)

While mainstream parties in the European Parliament voiced support for the European Commission president's big speech, populists blamed Jean-Claude Juncker for calling for more integration.

Manfred Weber, the leader of the conservative European People’s Party - where Juncker hails from - endorsed his plan to double an EU investment fund, but warned against piling up more debt.

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Echoing Juncker’s address, he called for an end to "cheap populism" and urged national EU leaders to take more responsibility for the decisions that they commit to in Brussels.

Weber also suggested the EU should offer every young European an InterRail train ticket for their 18th birthday to help them to discover the continent.

Gianni Pitella, leader of the centre-left S&D group in the EP, was equally happy with Juncker.

Liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt blamed populists for "preaching a false sense of security."

"That we can keep problems outside of our territory, walls and fences, I think it's wrong," he said.

Verhofstadt said global challenges can only be met by supranational policies. He gave the example of the financial crisis, where national jurisdictions were ill-equipped to fight fires in multinational lenders.

“We need European solutions, which does not mean abolishing national democracies, but complementing them," he said, adding that the EU could act as a "counterweight" to "uncontrolled globalisation".

But British Tory MEP Syed Kamall, the leader of the ECR group, said that the Brexit-type ”voices of discontent reach far beyond the English channel."

"If they are ignored, don’t be surprised if others follow," he said.

He criticised Juncker's speech for using the old mantra of more Europe in the face of a crisis.

"More, more, more, the more Europe you build, the more citizens feel detached. Dismissing voters’ concerns will drive people to populists," Kamall said, urging cooperation in place of integration.

He also called for an end to the "grand coalition" between the EPP and the S&D in parliament, saying it hampers debate.

Broken taboo

"All I can say is, I'm glad we voted to leave," Nigel Farage from the UK Independence Party, a leading Brexiter, boasted in the EP debate following Juncker's speech.

He said the had EU drawn no lessons from the UK referendum by putting forward the "same recipe" for more integration. He called Juncker’s plan to deepen EU military cooperation a "dangerous idea".

Farage also called Verhofstadt an "EU nationalist" because of his federalist views and said the liberal leader's appointment as the EP’s lead Brexit negotiator was a "declaration of war” against London.

France's far-right leader Marine Le Pen said Juncker's speech was "like a funeral for the EU".

"You haven’t paid attention to people who want to retake their sovereignty and independence," said Le Pen, who is shaping up to be a leading contender in next year’s presidential election in France.

She said Brexit had broken a taboo.

She said the fact the UK had not suffered a financial “apocalypse”, as predicted by some, despite voting to leave showed that ”you can leave the EU and you can come out better.”

Le Pen also confirmed tat she will be campaigning for a referendum in France on EU membership.

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.

Juncker's EU vision to focus on security

Juncker will aim to please southern states by talk of investment, and others by talk of deeper security cooperation in his first big speech since the Brexit vote.


Rising to the challenge of 'European Angst'

Liberals and the left need to think up new narratives to counter the rise of populist, eurosceptic and extremist parties. This will be the theme of a conference in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday, with EUobserver as a partner.


Restoring trust and confidence in the European Parliament

Helga Stevens MEP will be standing for the presidency of the European Parliament because she wants to make it a place of open, transparent debate once again, where the voices of all 751 MEPs and the people they represent matter.


The populists may have won, but Italy won't leave the euro

The situation as Rome tries to form a government is turbulent and unpredictable. However, the most extreme eurosceptic policies floated during the election campaign are unlikely to happen - not least due to the precarious state of the Italian banks.


Why has central Europe turned so eurosceptic?

Faced with poorer infrastructure, dual food standards and what can seem like hectoring from western Europe it is not surprising some central and eastern European member states are rebelling.

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