Sunday

26th Jan 2020

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 20 years of archives. 14-day 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. Catalan premier refuses to step down, despite ruling
  2. UK set to support new fossil fuel projects in Africa
  3. Leftist MEPs to visit jailed Catalan MEP
  4. Bulgaria may expel Russian diplomats over 'espionage'
  5. EU, China, others agree on WTO body to settle disputes
  6. EU Commission makes move against Poland on judges law
  7. Soros pledges $1bn for liberal universities
  8. Merkel: Germany unprepared for 2015 refugee crisis

Wilmès becomes first female PM of Belgium

On Sunday, Sophie Wilmès was appointed as the new prime minister of Belgium - becoming the first female head of government in the country's history. She replaces Charles Michel who becomes president of the European Council.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. AI must have human oversight, MEPs recommend
  2. Second-hand cars flaw in EU Green Deal
  3. Why do EU arms end up in Libya despite UN ban?
  4. Brexit deal to be signed, as sides poised for tough talks
  5. Timmermans urges EU governments to tax carbon
  6. Vietnam sent champagne to MEPs ahead of trade vote
  7. China spy suspect had EU permission to work as lobbyist
  8. EU to unveil 5G 'toolbox' to tackle security threats

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us