Thursday

17th Jan 2019

Juncker calls for 'global' Europe

  • Jean-Claude Juncker delivering his final state of the union speech before the European elections next May (Photo: European Parliament)

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said Europe needs to show more leadership in the Trump-era, where American power is retreating from the world stage.

Juncker told MEPs in Strasbourg on Wednesday (12 September) - in his last annual state of the union speech ahead of European elections next May - that "the geopolitical situation makes this Europe's hour", and it is time "Europe took its destiny into its own hands".

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

Juncker said the EU needs to shape global affairs, and called for a "European sovereignty" on the world stage, but one which, he added, would not replace national sovereignty.

"Europe can no longer be a spectator or a mere commentator of international events. Europe must be an active player, an architect of tomorrow's world," he said.

The outgoing commission president said the EU executive would therefore propose to make some foreign policy decisions by a qualified majority of member states, instead of unanimity.

"There is strong demand for Europe throughout the world. To meet such high demand, Europe will have to speak with one voice on the world stage," he said.

"It is not right that one member state was able to hold the renewal of our arms embargo on Belarus to ransom, or that sanctions on Venezuela were delayed for months when unanimity could not be reached," the former Luxembourg prime minister added.

Juncker also talked about strengthening the EU's common defence capabilities in an effort to boost Europe's ability to stand on its own in the world. The commission will also roll out new rules to harmonise the prosecution of terrorists, and fight money-laundering more effectively.

Jucker's commission will also propose new rules to better protect the upcoming EU elections from outside manipulation - amid fears Russia has been interfering in elections in Europe and the US.

The EU executive wants to bolster the EU's standing as a trading superpower as the US under president Donald Trump has been withdrawing from or undermining trade deals with Canada, Mexico, and Asian countries, meaning the EU is now seen as a key defender of the multilateral world order.

In July, Juncker met with US president Donald Trump to calm a transatlantic tariff war, which won him praise. In his speech, Juncker criticised the US administration for its "selfish unilateralism".

Juncker wants to ratify the EU-Japan free trade deal by next March. He also said the EU needs to step up investment in Africa, and strive for a trade deal with the continent's nations as well.

He said the EU already has trade agreements with 70 countries around the world, covering 40 percent of the world's GDP.

"If Europe were to unite all the political, economic and military might of its nations, its role in the world could be strengthened," he added.

Stronger euro?

Juncker also called for the strengthening of the euro as a global currency, a challenge to the dollar as the world's leading currency, as part of efforts to bolster the EU's standing in the world.

"We must do more to allow our single currency to play its full role on the international scene," Juncker said.

"It is absurd that Europe pays for 80 percent of its energy import bill, worth €300bn a year, in US dollars when only roughly two percent of our energy imports come from the United States. It is absurd that European companies buy European planes in dollars instead of euros," he added, saying the EU's monetary union needs to be strengthened.

Rising nationalism

Juncker, who said he has a love affair with Europe that will never end, also sounded the alarm about nationalism in his farewell speech on the future of Europe.

He said he believed Europe is at the "brink of another catastrophe", after recalling the unexpected escalation to the first world war.

"Let us show the European Union a bit more respect. Let us stop dragging its name through the mud and start defending our communal way of life more," he said.

"We should embrace the kind of patriotism that is used for good, and never against others. We should reject the kind of exaggerated nationalism that projects hate and destroys all in its path," Juncker warned.

EU and US kiss and make up on trade

The US will not impose tariffs on EU cars and might take back ones on steel and aluminium, according to a magical Trump-Juncker deal.

Analysis

Did Juncker trick Trump?

The EU commission chief agreed to trade talks even if the US president did not lift tariffs on steel and aluminium. But he avoided tariffs on cars and obtained a commitment to refrain from new unilateral moves.

Visual Data

What Juncker said. A look at numbers.

"World" and "time" are the words the European Commission chief used the most in his last State of the Union address on Wednesday, amid a far-right surge and Trump's isolationism.

EUobserved

Juncker, the 'sad and wiser' man of Europe

Despite bold propositions for the EU's future, one could not help feeling the Commission chief's State of the Union address already sounded like a farewell speech.

News in Brief

  1. Another referendum 'would take a year', Downing St says
  2. 82-year old Berlusconi to run in EU elections
  3. EU parliament votes to triple funds for democracy promotion
  4. EU parliament backs linking budget payments to rule of law
  5. Verhofstadt voted for Draghi amendment 'by mistake'
  6. 'Plan B' Brexit vote in UK parliament set for 29 January
  7. Verhofstadt wanted Draghi out of G30 group
  8. Putin heads to Serbia amid warnings against West

Opinion

EU parliament vote strengthens whistleblower protection

We must not undervalue what a massive step the European Parliament vote represents. The hard work has paid off. We can take a moment to celebrate, but the hard work begins again for finalising strong protection for European whistleblowers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  2. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  3. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  4. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  5. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party
  6. On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?
  7. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  8. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us