State of the Union 2017 scenario: with full breath ahead

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by Sergio Maia, Managing Editor

On September, 13th President Jean-Claude Juncker addressed the annual speech of the State of the Union (here). Against the background of the White Paper on the Future of Europe and in solid dialogue with the European Parliament, President Juncker presented some new ideas as well as highlighted previous proposals. More importantly, the European Commission demonstrates that it is effectively holding the position of initiative with which the Treaties empower it – in close democratic discussion with the Parliament.

Here we intend to comment the first impressions about key aspects of some of the topics the Juncker Commission brought to life and debate.

1. After valuing the European institutions role on “helping the wind change” for growth, job creation and control of public deficits, he expressed the will to strengthen the European trade agenda by negotiating international agreements. It seems that after the cases of the Paris agreement (on environmental issues) and the uncertainty around TTIP, there are two messages underlying this point. The first is to make the EU the main business platform worldwide (Canada, Japan, Mexico, South America and the proposal to open negotiations with Australia and New Zealand). Reliable and stable, Europe wants to be the ideal partner and the first in line in global economy. With many interrogations amounting over the US, this also seems to be an external policy strategy (“we are not naïve free traders”, he said). Alongside investment, the idea is to make the industry stronger and more competitive as well as being the leader in fighting climate change. More and more signals of the projection of the leadership of the Union in the world.

2. As far as migration, external borders and the Schengen area are concerned, migration will remain a priority. So will the support to Italian authorities who are “saving Europe’s honour in the Mediterranean”. In parallel, the Commission wants to work on legal pathways to end illegal activities like trafficking at the same time it calls for solidarity in welcoming refugees. This is a novelty. After Germany’s policy of opening doors, now the EC looks like the new leading actor in this matter. Contrary to the position of his political family, which never clearly came out, President Juncker took on a stand closer to the approach of S&D. It will be interesting to follow the next parliamentary debates and what the EPP’s reaction will be, even though its following remarks were in a more agreeable way to these terms. Finally, suggesting that Romania, Bulgaria and soon Croatia should become members of the Schengen area is a political movement on a critical region where Russia has been growingly active. The idea seems to be to overpower its influence there – the direct reference of the 100th anniversary of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania proves just that.

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Editorial of April 2017

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by Alessandra Silveira, Editor

What future do we want for ourselves, for our children and for our Union? (as for the 60 years landmark of the Treaty of Rome: please open the fridge!)

Two weeks ago I went to Rome at the European’s Commission invitation for the celebrations of the 60 years of the constitutive treaties of the current European Union. The Commission had decided to gather a group of Jean Monnet chairs from 34 nationalities for a seminar with the title “The future of Europe: a commitment for You(th)” and for a meeting with the EC Vice President, Federica Mogherini, and the (rotating) President of the Council of the EU, Joseph Muscat (Prime-Minister of Malta). It is my duty to share on this blog what I have heard there.

The EC is moving forward with a series of proposals about the management of globalisation and the future of the European finances, but also tending to develop the European social dimension. And, mostly, proposals tending to conclude the Economic and Monetary Union – that takes monetary and exchange sovereignty from the Member States whilst keeps their financial and fiscal sovereignty, what provokes clear imbalances between the more and the less robust economies of the euro zone. Moreover, the Commission presented on 1 March 2017 a White Paper on the future of Europe[i]  – which prospects the changes we will be subject to over the course of the next 10 years and presents 5 scenarios to face the challenges.

After a large debate – that will take place at the European level in the next months and in which the European Parliament, national parliaments, local and regional authorities and the society in general will participate – President Jean-Claude Juncker will address his considerations on the occasion of the speech of the State of the Union, in September 2017, hence contributing with the European Council for reaching its first conclusions by the end of the year and deciding about the actions to take over the period that precedes the European Parliament’s elections, in June 2019.

Naturally, the outcome will also depend on the electoral results in France and Germany – it couldn’t be any different. Not exactly for the narrative of the “French-German axis”, but because 40% of everything that is built with European funds is money from the French or the German tax payer. Is it not of the most elementary coherence that who pays the most should have a word? Anyhow, the European citizens from the other Member States may not be unrelated to the definition of their future – that’s why they need to know the proposals and pressure political decision-makers towards better choices. The European Union is not made by aliens – it’s our representatives who are there: in the Parliament, in the Council, in the Commission.

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Editorial of March 2017

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by Pedro Madeira Froufe, Editor

The future (in White Paper) of Europe, according to Juncker

The European Commission has presented the White Paper on the Future of Europe precisely now in the year of the milestone celebration of 60 years of integration[i] and when it is taking place the technical and diplomatic operation of materialising Brexit.

It is always good and never inopportune to launch a debate on the future of integration, especially when the Union faces a political, economic and social turbulence and, at the external level, the geopolitical indetermination which makes this debate an existential issue. Incidentally, by promoting this debate, it is indispensible that it is rapidly consequent.

The White Paper was then presented at the European Parliament, on 1st March, by the President of the Commission who intended to propose options to strengthen the Union in the post-Brexit. Juncker wanted to highlight, by all means and with certainty before the context and the dark and hesitant note with which the integration and the EU have been marked, a sign/memory of hope: “Our darkest days are still far brighter than any spent by our forefathers imprisoned in Ventotene” [the Italian prison where Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi were kept during the II World War].

The intention of the Commission and its President is understandable (in fact, he has already announced he won’t be running for a second term). Indeed, this motivating intention of the newly presented White Paper was explicitly affirmed: as we face a Europe post-Brexit, the integration of 28-1 and with risks of not being able to stem possible propensities for new withdrawals, we must quickly define a new path. A definition that will mean necessarily a commitment of deepening the integration, among all. The question is precisely knowing/defining how to advance to this deepening. Furthermore: what does it mean, realistically and consequently today, such deepening? That is, which path to define to the future (nearly) immediate of the Union?

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