10 key takeaways from Juncker’s State of the Union speech

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker today delivered his 2017 State of the Union address, presenting his priorities for the year ahead and outlining his vision for how the European Union could evolve by 2025

miriam
Miriam Dalli
13 September 2017, 3:14pm
European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker (Photo: EC)
European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker (Photo: EC)
The wind is back in Europe’s sails, an optimistic Jean-Claude Juncker told members of the European Parliament gathered in Strasbourg as he set off to list his “roadmap for a more united, stronger and more democratic union” – which includes the controversial proposal for “a single President” by merging the presidents of the European Commission and the European Council into one.

Trade agenda

Yes, Europe is open for business.

With the help of the European Parliament, we have just secured a trade agreement with Canada that will provisionally apply as of next week. We have a political agreement with Japan on a new economic partnership. By the end of the year, we have a good chance of doing the same with Mexico and South American countries.

And today, we are proposing to open trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand.

Transparency

From now on, the Commission will publish in full all draft negotiating mandates we propose to the Council.

Citizens have the right to know what the Commission is proposing. Gone are the days of no transparency. Gone are the days of rumours, of incessantly questioning the Commission's motives.

I call on the Council to do the same when it adopts the final negotiating mandates.

Investment screening

If a foreign, state-owned, company wants to purchase a European harbour, part of our energy infrastructure or a defence technology firm, this should only happen in transparency, with scrutiny and debate. It is a political responsibility to know what is going on in our own backyard so that we can protect our collective security if needed.

Climate change

The Commission will shortly present proposals to reduce the carbon emissions of our transport sector.

Digital age

Cyber-attacks know no borders and no one is immune. This is why, today, the Commission is proposing new tools, including a European Cybersecurity Agency, to help defend us against such attacks.

Migration

We must also urgently improve migrants' living conditions in Libya. I am appalled by the inhumane conditions in detention or reception centres. Europe has a collective responsibility, and the Commission will work in concert with the United Nations to put an end to this scandalous situation that cannot be made to last.

We will also work on opening up legal pathways. Irregular migration will only stop if there is a real alternative to perilous journeys.

At the same time, legal migration is a necessity for Europe as an ageing continent. This is why the Commission made proposals to make it easier for skilled migrants to reach Europe with a Blue Card.

A more united Union

If we want to strengthen the protection of our external borders, then we need to open the Schengen area of free movement to Bulgaria and Romania immediately. We should also allow Croatia to become a full Schengen member once it meets all the criteria.

If we want the euro to unite rather than divide our continent, then it should be more than the currency of a select group of countries. The euro is meant to be the single currency of the European Union as a whole. All but two of our Member States are required and entitled to join the euro once they fulfil all conditions.

Member States that want to join the euro must be able to do so. This is why I am proposing to create a Euro-accession Instrument, offering technical and even financial assistance.

If we want banks to operate under the same rules and under the same supervision across our continent, then we should encourage all Member States to join the Banking Union.

A European Social Standards Union

If we want to avoid social fragmentation and social dumping in Europe, then Member States should agree on the European Pillar of Social Rights as soon as possible and at the latest at the Gothenburg summit in November. National social systems will still remain diverse and separate for a long time. But at the very least, we should work for a European Social Standards Union in which we have a common understanding of what is socially fair.

Turkey’s EU membership bid

It is clear that there will be no further enlargement during the mandate of this Commission and this Parliament. No candidate is ready yet. But thereafter the European Union will be greater than 27 in number. Accession candidates must give the rule of law, justice and fundamental rights utmost priority.

This rules out EU membership for Turkey for the foreseeable future.

Turkey has been taking giant strides away from the European Union for some time.

Journalists belong in newsrooms not in prisons. They belong where freedom of expression reigns.

Single President

More democracy means more efficiency. Europe would function better if we were to merge the Presidents of the European Commission and the European Council.

This is nothing against my good friend Donald, with whom I have worked seamlessly together for the past three years. This is nothing against Donald or against me.

Europe would be easier to understand if one captain was steering the ship.

Having a single President would better reflect the true nature of our European Union as both a Union of States and a Union of citizens.

miriam
Miriam Dalli joined MaltaToday.com.mt in 2010 and was assistant editor fr...