Today European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivered his annual State of the Union address - a speech which was rightfully anticipated as the ‘last chance’ for the President to leave its mark on history. The question is, what mark will that be?
One year ago, President Juncker saw Europe with new wind in its sails and set out an ambitious vision for deep reform, inspired by French President Macron’s proposals for a sovereign and democratic Europe.
Nearing the end of its mandate, the self-styled “Commission of the last chance” seems to have lost much of this enthusiasm. President Juncker is right when he blames Member States and to some degree the European Parliament for not acting on the Commission’s proposals and making slow progress on key challenges. And yet, when the state of the Union after 4 years of his leadership is best described by the Parliament’s vote to support an Article 7 procedure against a Member State for the first time, President Juncker cannot refuse all responsibility.
As Young European Federalists, we have repeatedly requested more ambitious proposals from the European Commission. In his last state of the Union speech, President Juncker would have had the chance to paint an accurate picture of the EU in 2019, endangered by a growing nationalist challenge and in dire need of reforms, to close with an emotional plea for a coherent and comprehensive reform agenda.
“This was the time for President Juncker to wake up the sleepwalking Member States to the reality of a Union in deep crisis and need for action. Sadly, this opportunity was wasted and Juncker gave the impression of a resigned captain, longing to leave the ship.” - says JEF Europe’s President Christopher Glück.
In the light of recent debates, President Juncker’s speech focused on migration and border control. However, in the absence of any comprehensive European solutions suggested, this only reassures the voters that these issues will be the bone of contention during the upcoming election campaigns, fueled mostly by populist rhetoric against migrants.
“We welcome his proposal for the true European Border and Coast Guard, as we have witnessed the failure of current services operating under decentralised control of national authorities. However, this is not enough to deliver a true European solution to migration: common European standards for assistance and integration services across the Union, financed on the European level, are required to create a situation in which no Member State is left alone in accommodating refugees and asylum seekers. Legal pathways to Europe for refugees and asylum-seekers are another essential element for European asylum policies to be consistent with our common values.“ - continues Christopher Glück.
JEF Europe welcomes that President Juncker has openly addressed the rule of law issue. For too long the European Union has remained remarkably patient with Viktor Orban. It is high time now that also the EPP defends the Union of values and President Juncker found clear words in that regard.
We do regret to see that a year after the previous SOTEU, many encouraging federalist leaning proposals were left at its source. New if vague proposals for increased qualified majority voting in foreign policy and a new relationship with Africa are very welcome, but with 9 months until the European Elections, it is unlikely any of those ideas are born to live. With the European Commission resigning to the Council’s inaction, it will now more than ever be the task of civil society to keep the European idea alive.
More information on JEF Europe
The Young European Federalists (JEF) Europe is a non-partisan youth NGO with over 13.000 members active in more than 35 countries. Founded in 1972, the organisation strives towards a federal Europe based on the principles of democracy, subsidiarity and rule of law. JEF promotes true European Citizenship, and works towards more active participation of young people in democratic life.
Square de Meeûs 25
+32 483 31 23 75