The EU readies to go it alone as the US turns inward

The EU readies to go it alone as the US turns inward

By Luke Vargas   
Published
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivers his final State of the European Union Speech. September 12, 2018. Photo: EC AudioVisual Service/Etienne Ansotte
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivers his final State of the European Union Speech. September 12, 2018. Photo: EC AudioVisual Service/Etienne Ansotte

In his final State of the E.u. speech, Jean-Claude Juncker told European countries that traditional allies aren't interested in helping solve the continent's problems.

UNITED NATIONS – European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivered his final State of the European Union speech this week, the E.U.’s equivalent of America’s yearly State of the Union address.

Juncker tackled some of the E.U.’s foremost challenges, telling the U.K. that by voting to leave the E.U., the country will have to forgo some of the E.U.’s top economic benefits.

“If you leave the Union, you are of course no longer part of our single market, and certainly not only in the parts of it you choose.”

Juncker also drew a line in the sand over democratic backsliding in Hungary, even backing plans to sanction member states if they fail to uphold the rule of law.

Of course, the E.U. is a complex bureaucracy with multiple power centers, meaning Juncker hardly calls all of the shots.

Even so, Sophia Russack, a researcher in the Institutions Unit of the Center for European Policy Studies, says it’s good that Juncker is trying to articulate a broad E.U. agenda.

“Of course he’s not the president of the E.U. – there is no such post – but for the ordinary citizens it is very difficult to understand the very sophisticated and very complicated architecture of the E.U.. So I think it is very helpful if there is one figure taking up that opportunity of that speech to speak with a united E.U. tone a little bit.”

With just eight months left on the job, it’s unlikely Juncker will spearhead many new policies. Instead, Russack said his words aimed to describe in broad terms the E.U.’s value in a changing world in which challenges increasingly require cooperative solutions.

“To break it down very simply, I think it’s that we live in a world of insecurity and uncertainty and the allies that once stood up for us in the place, are not as reliable as they used to be, and also we have new challenges with mass migration and so on, and we have to defend our borders internally and externally, and we have to organize ourselves – nobody else in the world society is doing that for us anymore.”

Juncker stopped short of directly referencing what is broadly viewed as America’s retreat from E.U. engagement under President Trump, though he stated his firm opposition to “selfish unilateralism.”

“The geopolitical situation makes this Europe’s hour: the time for European sovereignty has come,” Juncker said. “When needed, Europe must act as one.”

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