[WATCH] Europe must decide by qualified majority on matters of tax, migration - Juncker

In his State of the Union address, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Europe to embrace patriotism while rejecting exaggerated nationalism

EC president Jean-Claude Juncker delivers the SOTEU
EC president Jean-Claude Juncker delivers the SOTEU

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has called on the Europe to ditch unanimity and move to qualified majority when deciding on certain matters.

“The time has now come for us to use the lost treasure of the Lisbon Treaty and decide on certain matters by qualified majority,” Juncker said. This, he said, applied both to matters of migration and tax.

Shifting to a qualified majority would allow the European Union to decide on controversial matters without having every member state on board.

Juncker was addressing the European Parliament in his last State of the Union speech, calling more a more ambitious and united Europe. The speech is a yearly fixture and is used by the president to take stock of the past year and present priorities for the year ahead.

“Let us show the EU a bit more respect and stop dragging its name though the mud. Let us embrace patriotism and reject exaggerated nationalism that projects hate,” he said at the start of his hour-long speech.

Rather than taking stock of the last four years, he said that he would once again lay out a number of proposals for the future insisting that while the European Union was not perfect, work would continue to make it a “little bit more perfect every day”.

During his address, Juncker touched upon a number of issues including migration and Europe’s relationship with Africa, the state of ongoing Brexit negotiations, the rule of law and attitudes towards journalists across the EU and the need for member states to decide between summer or winter time, among other points.

Europe must open door to legal migration

In discussing migration, Juncker said that Europe needed to continue investing in trade with Africa, pointing out that 36% of Africa’s trade was with the EU.

“I am convinced that we also have to make progress on other agreements and have a continent-to-continent partnership between equal partnerships, and move towards a free trade agreement,” he said.

The Commission, he said, was proposing a new “alliance with Africa” that would lead to the creation of some ten million jobs.

Juncker proposed increasing the number of border guards to 10,000 by 2020, while opening the door to legal migration from African nations, stressing that Europe needed qualified workers.

He insisted, that Europe could no longer depend on ad-hoc solutions to deal with migration in the Mediterranean.

Britain can no longer remain in single market

Turning to Brexit, Juncker said that the EU’s needed to respect the UK’s decision to leave the union, adding however that Britain also needed to understand that it could not remain part of the single market.

On the Irish border, Juncker said that member states would show solidarity with Ireland because the EU was against a hard border. “We want to respect all elements of the Good Friday Agreement.”

Juncker said he hoped that a free trade deal could nonetheless be agreed upon with the UK, which he said would always remain a very close neighbour and partner in political, economic and security terms.

‘Freedom of the press is sacrosanct’

Juncker said that another priority for the EU should be the protection of the free press.

“Too many of our journalists are intimidated, attacked or even murdered…we cannot have democracy without free press,” Juncker said.

He called on member states to “revive the lost art of compromise”, insisting that this was the not the same as a weakness of convictions.

“The commission will resist any attack on the rule of law and we continue to be very concerned by the developments in some member states,” he added. “Article 7 must be applied when the rule of law is threatened.”

He said that Commission Vice-president Frans Timmermans was doing a remarkable job defending the rule of law, but “all too often he stood alone” in doing so.

Judgments from the European Court of Justice, he said, needed to be respected, and implemented by member states. “The EU is a community of law and respecting the rule of law and abiding by court decisions is not an option.”

Watch the full speech in the link above

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