Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, announced this morning that the “wind is back in Europe’s sails” and that the economy was “bouncing back” after a difficult two years for the bloc.
The atmosphere in the crowded parliamentary chamber was decidedly more upbeat than previous years as Juncker outlined his plans for the year ahead. According to the 62-year-old, Europe was “slowly gathering momentum” and that the Union would “deliver for its citizens when and where it mattered”.
The previous 12 months had left Europe “battered and bruised” as a result of the ongoing migrant crisis and rise in populism, which culminated in Britain’s departure from the Union. Juncker declared that “Brexit isn’t everything” and it was not the “be all and end all”. The President was eager to dispel fears of further break-up in the bloc by dedicating only a small portion of his address to the issue. He believed that Britain would soon “regret” their decision.
In terms of trade, Juncker casted the union’s net far and wide. Requesting that EU governments grant the authority for new trade negotiations with New Zealand and Australia, Juncker stated that it would be necessary for the EU to “get as much as we give”.
Amid the buoyant tone of the Address, Juncker stressed to parliamentary members that they would have to act immediately because the “window of opportunity” to become a more united union “wouldn’t stay open forever”.
Towards the close of his Address Juncker singled out Turkey, demanding its leaders “let our journalists go”. He proceeded to rebuke the nation for “calling our leaders fascists and Nazis”, leading to rapturous applause.
Juncker’s other proposals for the Union included:
- The creation of a European cyber security agency.
- Inclusion of Romania and Bulgaria into the Schengen Zone.
- For all remaining EU nations to adopt the Euro.
- To merge the roles of the European Council president, the chair of the EU summits, and the European Commission President. This would result in the single election of one EU President.