Juncker’s speech: Wind in his sails or daydreaming
The wind is back in Europe’s sails.” That was European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s message to a packed European Parliament. After coming in as chief of the commission three years ago, Juncker was forced into crisis management mode: The Greek financial crisis,the 2015 refugee crisis and Britain’s decision to leave the bloc prompted soul-searching in Brussels and Europe’s capitals.
Many were wondering whether the union would hold together. So this year’s speech was very much an opportunity for Juncker to set out a more positive, less gloomy vision for the future of the bloc.
And lofty it was. Juncker called for all EU member states to adopt the euro and for a European version of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as well as said that he is planning to propose the screening of foreign investments originating from outside the EU.
“Through thick and thin, I have never lost my love of Europe,” Juncker said in a speech full of pathos. But for now, it seems unclear whether Juncker’s love will be reciprocated. Pieter Cleppe’s verdict: “There is a lot of unrealistic federalist daydreaming.”
Cleppe is head of the Brussels office of Open Europe, a thinktank. “The speech was out of touch with what’s happening in many countries,” he says, adding that while many people were not necessarily anti-EU, they feel that “the bloc has overreached and the EU needs to be more humble.”
Cleppe is equally sceptical about Juncker’s plans to carry out a ‘‘deep examination” if a foreign company wants to buy a “strategic” business.
While Juncker did not mention China by name, the measure would be a response to shared concerns in Germany, France and Italy that Chinese investment in Europe dwarfs flow the other way.
The three countries applauded Juncker’s plans quickly: “The proposals of the European Commission ensure fair competition in the EU and also offer better protection against company acquisitions that do not comply with market rules,” German Economics Minister Brigitte Zypries said in a statement.
“We need to prevent other states from taking advantage of our openness in order to push through their industrial policy interests,” she continued.
For French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, the proposal marks just the beginning. The proposal is an “important first step towards fairer competition and a level playing field at a global level,” he said in a statement.
European Commission President Juncker addresses the European Parliament during a debate on The State of the European Union in Strasbourg, France.