European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker delivered his annual state of the union address on Wednesday, in which he laid out his grand vision for federalist Europe, and urged European Union governments to use economic recovery (i.e., Mario Draghi’s nationalization of the bond market), the political weakness in the US and Brexit as “springboards” toward a closer union, built on an expanded euro zone and a pivotal role in world trade. The allegedly unintoxicated Juncker sketched out a vision of a post-2019 EU where 30 countries would be using the euro, with an EU finance minister running key budgets to help states in trouble.
Among the key proposals put forward by the EU Commission president were compulsory Euro membership for the remaining eight European states outside the bloc, for new countries to join the Schengen zone, plans for closer defensive cooperation leading to the creation of a European army in the next decade and easier ratification of EU-wide trade treaties with foreign powers. Tax and welfare standards would converge and Europe, not the United States, would be the hub of a free-trading world.
In short, a blueprint for a United States of Europe.
— Jean-Claude Juncker (@JunckerEU) September 13, 2017
“The wind is back in Europe’s sails,” Junker told the European Parliament quoted by Reuters, citing economic growth and the easing of a succession of crises — Greek debt, refugee inflows, the rise of eurokcepticism reflected in Brexit – that seemed to threaten the EU’s survival.
Juncker has also resurrected the idea of merging his own post with that of the President of the European Council, who currently represents the interests of its member state governments, saying it would be easier if “one captain was steering the ship.” Such as president would be chosen in an EU-wide vote. A powerful new EU-wide economy minister has also been touted, one which would have power to whip dissenters in line with a common EU vision.
In his best infomercial salesman immitation, Juncker urged Europeans to hurry, or else the generous offer may not last: “Now we have a window of opportunity, but it will not stay open for ever,” he said, emphasizing a need to move on from and even profit from the British vote to leave the bloc in 2019 according to Reuters.
Some promptly backed Juncker’s blueprint: German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said that Juncker’s plan to build a closer European Union based on an expanded euro zone was largely in line with Germany’s vision for the bloc. The German also said that Juncker had discussed with Chancellor Angela Merkel his annual State of the EU speech in which he spoke of a vision of a post-2019 EU where some 30 countries would be using the euro.
“It is good that he is putting pressure (to expand the euro zone) but the preconditions (for joining the euro zone) must be fulfilled,” Schaeuble told the ARD broadcaster in an interview. “It is in fact so that EU countries who fulfill the preconditions become members of the euro under the Lisbon Treaty”. However, the German who in the summer of 2015 nearly kicked Greece out of the Eurozone, added that EU countries wishing to adopt the single currency should not do so before their public finances and economies are sound enough as they could face the fate of Greece, which had to be bailed out by the EU and IMF in 2010.
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Desperate to put the Brexit humiliation in the rearview mirror, Juncker said that “we will keep moving on because Brexit isn’t everything, it is not the future of Europe,” Brexit supporters promptly said his speech showed they were right to take Britain out of a bloc set on creating more powerful, central institutions. The most predictable opponent of the hour-long speech, met with stirring applause by a mostly zombified audience, was UK MEP Nigel Farage.
“The message is very clear: Brexit has happened, new steam ahead… More Europe in every single direction and all to be done without the consent of the people,” Farage told the floor.
“The way you’re treating Hungary and Poland already must remind them of living under the Soviet communists. All I can say is thank God we’re leaving because you’ve learned nothing from Brexit.
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