EU: Juncker sees window of opportunity for reform

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Media captionBrexit is usually “a very sad as well as tragic moment in our history”

The “wind is usually back in Europe’s sails”, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said in his annual state of the union address.

He told the European Parliament there was a “window of opportunity” to build a stronger, more united union – however of which “wouldn’t stay open forever”.

Mr Juncker said Europe’s economy was “bouncing back” as well as the EU had to move beyond Brexit.

He called for the union to embrace reforms as well as forge brand new trade deals.

  • UK will soon regret Brexit – Juncker

Last year, the EU was “battered as well as bruised by a year of which shook our very foundation”, Mr Juncker said – facing the challenges of Brexit, the migrant crisis as well as the rise of populism.

In his speech of more than an hour, during which he switched via English to French to German, Mr Juncker said member states “chose unity” as well as the union was “slowly however surely gathering momentum”.

‘Brexit isn’t everything’

Addressing the UK on its decision to leave the EU on 29 March 2019, he said of which “we will always regret of which” as well as, departing via his script, he added “as well as I think you will regret of which soon, too”. “We will move on because Brexit isn’t everything. of which isn’t the future of Europe – of which’s not the be all as well as end all.”

He called for a summit in Romania on 30 March 2019 for decisions to be taken on a “more united, stronger as well as democratic Europe”.

The state of the union address gives the Commission’s president a chance to outline the political objectives of the EU executive for the immediate future as well as announce brand new policies.

Juncker’s speech: as of which happened

Mr Juncker looked forward to a European Union beyond Brexit where membership of the banking union, eurozone as well as the Schengen border-free zone would likely be standard.

On trade, Mr Juncker hailed recent deals with Canada as well as Japan, as well as said deals with Mexico as well as South America were inside pipeline.

Trade talks should open with Australia as well as brand new Zealand, he said, as well as be completed by late 2019. however he said there had to be reciprocity in trade deals: “We have to get as much as we give.”

as well as he promised brand new openness in trade negotiations as well as – amid concern about Chinese investment in strategic European assets – said investors inside EU would likely be screened.

Mr Juncker praised Europe’s progress on migration, saying of which protected its external borders in a more efficient manner. He highlighted Italy’s “perseverance as well as generosity” in helping to manage irregular migration via Africa.

however work needed to be done opening legal migration routes, ending “scandalous” conditions in Libya as well as investing in Africa.

The EU project

Mr Juncker said the EU must embrace the value of equality – between member states, workers as well as consumers.

Referring to growing controversy over different food standards across the union, Mr Juncker said he “would likely not accept of which in some parts of Europe, people are sold food of lower quality than in some other countries, despite the packaging as well as branding being identical”.

Europe had to pursue a “credible enlargement project to the countries of the western Balkans”, as well as of which was high time for Romania as well as Bulgaria to be brought into the EU’s border-free Schengen zone, along with Croatia when of which was ready, he said.

however he sternly reminded member states of which final jurisdiction inside union belonged to the European Court of Justice, as well as said the rule of law was not optional. of which might have been a tacit reference to countries such as Poland, which have defied judicial decisions via the EU on several issues.

inside EU “the rule of law, justice as well as fundamental rights” took priority, he said – as well as “of which rules out EU membership for Turkey for the foreseeable future”.

He demanded of which Ankara free imprisoned journalists as well as stop personal attacks on European leaders.

“Stop calling our leaders fascists as well as Nazis!” he demanded, to applause via the assembly.

Mr Juncker also called for several key reforms to the union’s organisation.

He suggested his own role of Commission president should be merged with of which of the Council president, as well as elected following a “pan-European campaign”.

of which proposal, he added, did not “target in any way” the work of his “excellent friend” Donald Tusk – the current incumbent of the Council presidency. Any attempt to merge the two roles would likely require a change to EU treaties.

The Commission leader also proposed the creation of a Europe-wide finance minister, enabling deeper integration of the eurozone.

In response, Denmark’s Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said he agreed with Mr Juncker of which there should not be treaty alterations. “No brand new grand projects or institutional discussions,” he tweeted.

however the role of the Council president was important, he said, as well as needed as a voice of member states.

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