13 September 2017
Co-chair Monica Frassoni comments on the “State of the European Union” address by EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker:
"The President of the EU Commission’s speech on the State of the European Union, delivered at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, was intended to be an optimistic and positive response to last year’s one, dominated by the post-Brexit referendum-related depression and at the time still uncertain economic prospects.
"President Juncker did give some proof of his European faith and ambition, but he certainly did not - and perhaps did not even want to - indicate a breakthrough, both from the point of view of EU policies and of the reforms needed to make the EU more legitimate and convincing.
"He used the effective analogy of two lungs, both necessary, to point out that the EU remains an East and West Union project, he rightly reiterated the need to build a union with ambitious social standards and promoted membership of the Eurozone and of the Schengen area for member states that are still out, and he correctly rejected the idea of a separate Eurozone budget and Parliament, whilst supporting transnational lists that will give new meaning to the European Parliament election campaign.
"However, beyond the reassuring tones, President Juncker was unable to convey the idea of a concrete action plan able to respond to the lack of trust in the European Union's ability to face unemployment and inequalities. Yes, the economic situation has indeed improved, but not enough: his approach to industrial policy is conventional and seems to ignore the potential of combining innovation and the fight against climate change, fossil independence and Green growth. Furthermore, if we analyse the projects financed by the Juncker Plan, whose success he claims, we do not find choices that favour sustainability.
"His support for climate action remains too vague and does not show a rooted awareness of the gravity of the situation. As far as migration is concerned, it seems clear that the Commission will not take any further action to increase the pressure on the countries that are failing to relocate, other than farraginous and partial infringement procedures. There is also open support for the idea of limiting the EU's responsibility to the externalisation of borders, without many guarantees in terms of respect for the rights for returned migrants. Finally, it is difficult to see what concrete follow-up his call for the opening of legal routes for migrants will have.
"President Juncker speaks of a “sixth scenario” for the Future of the EU, but its choices remain unclear. In particular, we should further analyse the proposal on the common Economic and Finance Minister, which can be risky without a decisive governance reform, notably the elimination of the unanimity vote and the entrusting of full powers in this area to the European Parliament. Indeed, it is very important that the EU Commission keeps an autonomous power as the guardian of the common interest of all Europeans.
"We do share the ambition of President Juncker to make the EU able to deliver, but some important changes of priorities and of approach are still necessary in order to achieve this goal."