Juncker ad­mits Euro­peans have lost faith in the EU

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker ad­mit­ted on Tues­day that citizens had lost faith in the EU, dur­ing a speech at the Coun­cil of Europe in Stras­bourg.

Juncker also said that the Com­mis­sion had reg­u­lated too much and in­ter­fered too much in peo­ple’s lives in the past.

“The Euro­pean project has lost parts of its at­trac­tive­ness,” Juncker said at the Coun­cil’s Par­lia­men­tary Assem­bly.

“One of the rea­sons why EU citizens are step­ping away from the Euro­pean project is due to the fact that we are in­ter­fer­ing in too many do­mains of their pri­vate lives and in too many do­mains where mem­ber states are bet­ter placed to take ac­tion.”

“We were wrong to over­reg­u­late and in­ter­fere too much in the lives of our citizens,” he added, be­fore point­ing to the ex­ec­u­tive’s drive to cut red tape as ev­i­dence of ef­forts to im­prove the per­cep­tion of the EU.

The ‘bet­ter reg­u­la­tion’ strat­egy saw the with­drawal of 83 pend­ing bills left over from the Bar­roso Com­mis­sion. His ad­min­is­tra­tion had also launched far less leg­is­la­tion than its pre­de­ces­sor.

Juncker told na­tional MPs sit­ting in the 47-mem­ber state Coun­cil of Europe, which is not an EU in­sti­tu­tion, “It’s true that we are not very pop­u­lar when we ad­vo­cate for Europe.

“We are no longer re­spected in our coun­tries when we em­pha­sise the need to give pri­or­ity to the EU.”

He warned, “We will even­tu­ally end up with the ru­ins of this ideal; peo­ple who want more na­tional things at the ex­pense of Euro­pean prin­ci­ples and they [the peo­ple] will find them­selves de­fence­less and the Euro­pean union will no longer be re­spected around the world.”

The for­mer Lux­em­bourg premier said, “To­day we are fac­ing very tough times. We have the global refugee cri­sis, we have at­tacks on our free so­ci­eties, all of our in­sti­tu­tions are un­der im­mense pres­sure to­day and some­times are re­ally pushed to their lim­its.”

He warned that the EU’s slow­ing birth rate, com­bined with the ma­jor crises it faced, and its dwin­dling eco­nomic clout, meant it risked los­ing the re­spect of the world.

Juncker said that 20% of the hu­man pop­u­la­tion was in Europe 100 years ago. At the end of the cen­tury it was 11%, and at the end of this cen­tury only 4% of the global pop­u­la­tion will be Euro­pean.

“We are los­ing eco­nomic clout in a very vis­i­ble way,” the Com­mis­sion chief ad­mit­ted. “With the low birth rate, if we con­tinue with all of this in the face of the ma­jor prob­lems we are emerg­ing then that is not the sort of im­age I want of Europe. We want a strong in­flu­en­tial Europe.”

Juncker re­fused to an­swer a ques­tion from Tory MP Kelly Tol­hurst, who asked what the EU was do­ing to cut costs. He snapped that the EU bud­get was not a mat­ter for the Coun­cil of Europe.

“Stand away from this ques­tion which is re­lated to the Brexit de­bate and not the de­bate we are hav­ing to­day,” he said.

“We have made so many ef­forts to bring down the ex­pen­di­ture [of the EU in­sti­tu­tions] I don’t think we can go any fur­ther,” he said, be­fore cit­ing the costs of the refugee cri­sis.

He also bris­tled when fac­ing re­peated ques­tions about the EU’s con­tro­ver­sial mi­gra­tion deal with Turkey.

The pact in­volves re­set­tling one Syr­ian refugee from a Turk­ish camp for each Syr­ian mi­grant land­ing in the EU, and it has been crit­i­cised for break­ing in­ter­na­tional and Euro­pean law.

“It’s not about sur­ren­der­ing Euro­pean val­ues. I am re­ally not happy about all this crit­i­cism lev­elled at the EU stat­ing that it is sur­ren­der­ing its val­ues by sign­ing this deal with Turkey,” Juncker said. He was ex­pected meet Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Ah­met Davu­to­glu later in the day to dis­cuss the deal, ahead of a visit by Euro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk to Ankara on Satur­day.

Davu­to­glu had ear­lier warned that the EU must Turks visa-free travel or jeop­ar­dise the deal.

Juncker said in Stras­bourg that the deal would not weaken the qual­i­fy­ing cri­te­ria to lib­er­alise visas with Turkey.

Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan in­creased the pres­sure on Juncker by say­ing that the EU needs Ankara more than vice versa,

Re­la­tions be­tween the EU and Turkey have come un­der the spot­light af­ter the mi­gra­tion deal was struck.

Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel said last week that Ger­many would al­low the pros­e­cu­tion of a Ger­man co­me­dian, who had made jokes about Er­do­gan.It was seized upon as an­other ex­am­ple of EU lead­ers com­pro­mis­ing their tra­di­tional val­ues in a bid to solve the mi­gra­tion cri­sis. Merkel was a prime mover in the Turk­ish deal.

Juncker de­nied that other coun­tries were forced to fol­low the whims of Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel on is­sues such as the Greek cri­sis.

“That’s an­other false im­pres­sion; that other Euro­pean states are kow-tow­ing to Ger­many,” he said, “it does not re­flect re­al­ity.”

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