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International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Friday, 22.09.2017, 09:32

State of the Union-2017: charting direction for the EU’s future

Eugene Eteris, RSU/BC, Riga, 14.09.2017.Print version
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in his State of the Union Address-2017 (SOTUA-17) before the members of the European Parliament presented the yearly’s outcomes and EU’s priorities for the year ahead. His speech was accompanied by the adoption of a number of concrete Commission’s initiatives (on trade, investments, cybersecurity, industry, etc.) outlining a vision of EU that “protects, empowers and defends”.

Every year in September, the President of the European Commission delivers his State of the Union Address before the European Parliament, taking stock of achievements of the past year and presenting priorities for the year ahead. The President also sets out how the Commission will address the most pressing EU’s present challenges. The speech is followed by the Parliament’s plenary debate, which starts a dialogue with the European Parliament and Council to prepare the Commission Work Programme for 2018.


In addition to the SOTUA-17, President Juncker and First Vice-President Timmermans sent a Letter of Intent to the President of the European Parliament and the Presidency of the Council with proposed detailed actions the Commission intends to take by the process of draft legislation and other initiatives until the end of 2018. Such administrative procedures are specifically foreseen in the 2010 Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the European Commission.


Full Speech can be seen in: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-17-3165_en.htm.  


The “Roadmap for a More United, Stronger and More Democratic Union” can be seen at:

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/beta-political/files/roadmap-soteu-factsheet_en.pdf


Key SOTEU-17 messages

Below are some extracts from the President’s speech concerning some vital aspects of the EU’s agenda:

 

= “Wind in our sails”: “ten years since crisis struck, European economy is finally bouncing back; and with it, our confidence. EU-27 leaders, the Parliament and the Commission are putting together Europe back into the Union”. Two things are important in this regard: first, there are still 16 months in which real progress can be made by Parliament, Council and Commission to deliver on the EU’s positive agenda. Second, now is the time to build a more united, stronger and more democratic Europe for 2025.

= Trade: “partners across the globe have started lining up at our doors to conclude trade agreements with us; today, we are proposing to open trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand, Mexico and some African states. But Europe must always defend its strategic interests.

“This is why the Commission is proposing a new EU framework for investment screening. If a foreign, state-owned, company wants to purchase a European harbour, part of our energy infrastructure or a defence technology firm, this should only happen in transparency, with scrutiny and debate. It is a political responsibility to know what is going on in our own backyard so that we can protect our collective security if needed”, the President said.

Trade is not an abstract notion: it is about jobs, creating new opportunities for European SMEs. Thus, every additional €1 billion in exports supports 14,000 extra jobs in Europe.

= Industry: “I am proud of our car industry; but I am shocked when consumers are knowingly and deliberately misled. I call on the car industry to come clean and make it right. The new Industrial Policy Strategy will help our industries stay or become the world leader in innovation, digitisation and decarbonisation”.

= Combating climate change: regardless the collapse of ambition in the US on climate change, Europe will ensure efforts to make the planet great again; it is the shared heritage of all of humanity.

= Cybersecurity: cyber-attacks can be more dangerous to the stability of democracies and economies than guns and tanks. The Commission is proposing new tools, including a European Cybersecurity Agency, to help defend the member states.

= Migration: “Europe is and must remain the continent of solidarity where those fleeing persecution can find refuge. We have common borders but EU states that by geography are the first in line cannot be left alone to protect them. Common borders and common protection must go hand in hand”.

= European Solidarity Corps: “I am particularly proud of the young Europeans who are serving in the new European Solidarity Corps. They are bringing European solidarity to life." Over 1,700 officers from the new European Border and Coast Guard are now helping member states’ 100,000 national border guards patrol.

= Africa:"We must also show solidarity with Africa; it is a noble and young continent, the cradle of humanity. Our €2.7 billion EU-Africa Trust Fund is creating employment opportunities across the continent”.

= Setting Sail: “Now is the time to draw first conclusions from the debate on the future of Europe, time to move from reflection to action and from debate to decision. My own scenario is so-called “the six’s scenario”; for me, Europe is more than just a single market, more than money, more than the euro: it was always about values. In my scenario six, there are three principles that must always anchor our Union: freedom, equality and the rule of law”.  

= Posting of Workers: “In a Union of equals, there can be no second class workers: workers should earn the same pay for the same work in the same place. It seems absurd to have a Banking Authority to police banking standards, but no common Labour Authority for ensuring fairness in our single market; we will create one."

= Dual Foods: “In a Union of equals, there can be no second class consumers. I will not accept that in some parts of Europe, consumers are sold food of lower quality than in other countries: Slovaks do not deserve less fish in their fish fingers, Hungarians less meat in their meals and Czechs less cacao in their chocolate”.

= Rule of Law: “In Europe the strength of the law replaced the law of the strong. The rule of law is not optional in the European Union; it is a must. The judgments of the European Court of Justice have to be respected by all. To undermine them, or to undermine the independence of national courts, is to strip citizens of their fundamental rights”.

= Euro area: “If we want the euro to unite rather than divide our continent, then it should be more than the currency of a select group of countries. The euro is meant to be the single currency of the European Union as a whole”.

= Qualified Majority Voting for Tax: “I am strongly in favour of moving to qualified majority voting for decisions on the common consolidated corporate tax base, on fair taxes for the digital industry and on the financial transaction tax”.

= European Minister of Economy and Finance: “We need a European Minister of Economy and Finance: a European Minister that promotes and supports structural reforms in our Member States. We do not need parallel structures: the Parliament of the euro area is the European Parliament”.

= A stronger global actor: "I want EU member states to look at which foreign policy decisions could be moved from unanimity to qualified majority voting. The Treaty already provides for this”.

= Better Regulation: “We should not meddle in the everyday lives of European citizens, we should not march in with a stream of new initiatives or seek ever growing competences. We should give back competences to the EU member states where it makes sense. We’ll set up a Subsidiarity and Proportionality Task Force to take a very critical look at all policy areas to make sure we are only acting where the EU adds value”.

= Institutional Reform: “Europe would function better if we merge the functions of Presidents of the European Commission and the European Council. The EU would be easier to understand if one captain was steering the ship. Having a single President would better reflect the true nature of the European Union as both a Union of States and a Union of citizens. If you want to strengthen European democracy, then you cannot reverse the democratic progress seen with the creation of lead candidates – “Spitzenkandidaten”. 


Roadmap

- On 30 March 2019, the EU will turn into a Union of 27 member states. The President’s hope is that “Europeans will wake up to a Union where we all stand by our values, where all member states firmly respect the rule of law”. The EU-27 will stand for the foundations of Economic and Monetary Union so that the member states can defend single currency in good times and bad, without having to call on external help. A EU “single President would lead the work of the Commission and the European Council, having been elected after a democratic Europe-wide election campaign”.

For more information: = 2017 State of the Union brochure; = State of the Union 2017 web page; and = The 10 political priorities of the European Commission.


Reference: Commission’s press release IP-17-3164, in: 

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-3164_en.htm?locale=en






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