EU has to be a ‘global player’

Juncker urges mus­cu­lar for­eign pol­icy for the bloc

Global Times - - Front Page -

Europe must be­come a “global player” with a mus­cu­lar for­eign pol­icy to match its eco­nomic strength, Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent JeanClaude Juncker said Wed­nes­day, in his an­nual ad­dress to the bloc’s par­lia­ment.

Juncker used his State of the EU speech to the Strasbourg body to call for Europe to stand up for the in­ter­na­tional or­der in the face of “trade and cur­rency wars,” in a swipe at US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s “Amer­ica First” ap­proach.

Europe’s abil­ity to take strong diplo­matic ac­tion is of­ten ham­pered by the need to get agree­ment from all 28 mem­ber coun­tries so, in a bid to sim­plify the process, Juncker an­nounced plans to abol­ish the need for una­nim­ity on some for­eign pol­icy is­sues.

With Brussels and Wash­ing­ton at log­ger­heads on a host of ma­jor is­sues from trade tar­iffs to the Paris cli­mate agree­ment and the Iran nu­clear deal, Juncker said it was time for Europe to play a more in­flu­en­tial role on the world stage.

“We must be­come a greater global ac­tor,” the head of the EU ex­ec­u­tive told law­mak­ers in French, be­fore switch­ing to English to add: “Yes we are global pay­ers, but we have to be global play­ers too.”

The EU must do more to push the euro as a world cur­rency, Juncker said, ques­tion­ing why Europe pays 80 per­cent of its en­ergy bills in dol­lars when only 2 per­cent of en­ergy im­ports come from the US.

Boost­ing the role of the euro as a re­serve cur­rency would also boost Brussels’ diplo­matic power by cre­at­ing a means of skirt­ing US sanc­tions that it dis­agrees with, such as those slapped back on Tehran by Trump when he pulled out of the Iran nu­clear deal ear­lier this year in the face of bit­ter Euro­pean op­po­si­tion.

A Euro­pean diplo­mat said in ad­vance of the speech that Juncker knows it is a “crit­i­cal” mo­ment to pre­pare Europe for a world in which Trump’s US is an un­pre­dictable for­eign pol­icy friend and a pro­tec­tion­ist trade ri­val.

Juncker urged the EU to strike a “new al­liance” with Africa that would cre­ate mil­lions of jobs and in­clude a free trade deal – a move Brussels hopes would both show­case its in­ter­na­tional in­flu­ence and help to stem the flow of mi­grants across the Mediter­ranean.

Juncker’s show­piece speech is his last be­fore May elec­tions that will pit Europe’s ris­ing pop­ulist forces against his cen­trist sup­port­ers, and he is­sued a ral­ly­ing cry to main­tain a “con­ti­nent of tol­er­ance and open­ness.”

Pop­ulist, na­tion­al­ist and eu­roscep­tic forces have gained ground in many coun­tries, and the polls for the Euro­pean par­lia­ment could well bring in more of Juncker’s op­po­nents to rock the boat just as he tries to con­sol­i­date what he sees as real suc­cesses in restor­ing for­ward mo­men­tum to the Euro­pean project.

As part of ef­forts to tackle the is­sue of il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, Juncker con­firmed plans to revamp the bloc’s bor­der pro­tec­tion.

Photo: AFP

Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker de­liv­ers his State of the Union speech at the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment on Wed­nes­day in Strasbourg, east­ern France.

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