State of the Union 2017: Juncker’s optimism about EU growth and Brexit’s impact

State of the Union Address 2017 by Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the EC
Date: 13/09/2017. Location: Strasbourg – EP. © European Union , 2017. Source: EC – Audiovisual Service. Photo: Etienne Ansotte

It was last Wednesday when the president of the European Commission made his annual State speech address to the European Parliament pointing out the top priorities for the next year.

Jean-Claude Juncker expressed his optimism for the boosting of the EU economy, trade, investment, cybersecurity, industry and democracy. The president of the EC respected the decision of British people to leave the EU but mentioned that UK will “soon regret” it.

EU economy revives

The economic outlook of the bloc was among the topics that Juncker addressed during his speech. The president of the EC mentioned that the EU economy is recovering after the crisis with every single member state to experience this as growth has increased and unemployment has reached nine year low levels. Furthermore, the European Investment Plan has generated 225 billion euros financing small companies and infrastructure projects. More specifically, Mr Juncker said to the members of the European Parliament last week in Strasburg: “Ten years since crisis struck, Europe’s economy is finally bouncing back. Growth now stands above 2% for the Union as a whole and at 2.2% for the euro area. Almost 8 million jobs have been created during this mandate so far. With 235 million people at work, more people are in employment in the EU than ever before. The wind is back in Europe’s sails.”

EU seeks for new trade partners

The president of the EC announced that the EU will start trade discussions with Australia and New Zealand. Jean Claude Juncker wants to complete these negotiations by the end of this mandate showing his optimism once more. Besides, a trade deal with Canada is about to start together with the fact that Japan and EU have politically agreed to a new economic partnership.

EU and Turkey

The European Commission’s president denied EU membership to Turkey and asked for the release of imprisoned journalists and to stop insulting European leaders. The EU will keep on supporting the diplomatic course of Turkey’s accession in the Union despite the Turkey’s violations of the rule of law.

However, Turkey has to stop blaming Europe and work under the bloc’s values if truly wants to become a member of the European Union.

Juncker and Brexit

At his speech, Jean Claude Juncker mentioned that Brexit should not fear Europe and is not the end. It is a chance for the EU to reevaluate its goals and become stronger. More in detail, EC’s president said: “Brexit would be a sad and tragic moment for the EU but that the 27-member union would move on. Brexit is not the future of Europe. It is not the be all and end all. On the 30 March 2019, we will be a union of 27 and I suggest we prepare very well for that date.” Juncker clearly intends to show that Brexit is not something that should worry the EU citizens but mostly the British people.

However, Brexit is going to affect both the EU and UK even if it going to be a soft one. What is more, ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage stated on the issue that the bloc didn’t learn anything from Brexit and keep on the same path.

Will the next day be brighter?

It is a fact that the European economy has been growing steadily and is in a better condition after the winning of Emmanuelle Macron and the defeat of Geert Wilders in France and the Netherlands respectively. The European Commission is adding to this and its budget plans which will be presented in May 2018 will be crucial for the year to come.

Nonetheless, the EC has to work very hard to accomplish all the goals set in the State of the Union speech as solidarity is missing from Europe. Poland and Slovakia are not accepting Commission’s plan to relocate migrants showing that there is still a gap between some member states. What is more, Juncker’s opposition to Macron’s ideas for a two-speed Europe can potentially create turbulences to the Old Continent.

All in all, the optimistic view of Jean Claude Juncker was more than obvious but should have emphasized more on Brexit and EU solidarity problems that Europe is facing as those can have serious repercussions.

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