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EU Integration, Defense, Migration Are Focus of Juncker's State of Union Speech

© AP Photo / Manu FernandezA giant European Union flag is unfurled over the facade of Barcelona's La Pedrera building
A giant European Union flag is unfurled over the facade of Barcelona's La Pedrera building - Sputnik International
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday delivered the State of the Union address at the European Parliament, highlighting a number of issues the 28-nation bloc faces, such as integration problems, defense cooperation, the ongoing refugee crisis and protection of the so-called European way of life.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Every September, the European Commission president delivers a speech before the European Parliament paying attention to the achievements of the past year and specifying the bloc's priorities for the next year.

During the address, Juncker stressed the importance of the next year for the bloc's future and highlighted the need to stay united and to move in the same direction, as the union was "in an existential crisis" at least in part and "there is not enough Union in this Union."

In the State of the Union speech, the EU official listed the main pillars he would like Europe to be based on, such as preservation of the European way of life, empowerment of EU citizens, defense and responsibility.

Europe That Preserves European Way of Life

"Europe can only work if we all work for unity and commonality, and forget the rivalry between competences and institutions. Only then will Europe be more than the sum of its parts. And only then can Europe be stronger and better than it is today. Only then will leaders of the EU institutions and national governments be able to regain the trust of Europe's citizens in our common project," the president said, adding that the European nations should defend their unity, because no one would do it for them.

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Speaking about the European way of life, Juncker said that it was worth preserving, but several people had forgotten what being a European meant.

According to Juncker, the integral part of Europe are: peace, EU values, effective justice system, data protection, cooperation with the bloc's neighbors (he also paid attention to the proposed free-trade Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Brussels and Ottawa), protection of EU workers and industries, such as agricultural sector and steel industry, as well as social policy. At the same time, this way of life opposed the death penalty, as well as discrimination and racism.

Europe That Empowers

Juncker said that Brussels should empower both the people living the abovementioned way of life and the economies of the bloc's member states.

Among the measures proposed within this framework, the president said about the necessity to respect copyright rules and to invest in connectivity, because the world is becoming digital.

In his speech, Juncker proposed to double the duration and financial capacity of European Fund for Strategic Investments.

"Today, we propose to double the duration of the [European] Fund [for Strategic Investments] and double its financial capacity. With your support, we will make sure that our European Investment Fund will provide a total of at least €500 billion [$561 billion at the current exchange rates] – half a trillion – of investments by 2020. And we will work beyond that to reach €630 billion by 2022," Juncker said.

He also spoke about the launch of an Investment Plan for Africa and the Neighbourhood that could potentially raise some 88 billion euro in investments.

Juncker added that Europe should invest in its youth, in their projects in order to eradicate youth unemployment and to support this group of people.

"I cannot and will not accept that Europe is and remains the continent of youth unemployment. I cannot and will not accept that the millennials, Generation Y, might be the first generation in 70 years to be poorer than their parents… The European Union can also contribute by helping create more opportunities for young people," the European Commission president said.

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Speaking about the empowerment, he added that solidarity was "the glue that keeps our Union together" and called for more solidarity, especially when the EU nations responded to crisis situations, like the refugee crisis or the recent earthquakes in Italy.

"When it comes to managing refugee crisis we have started to see solidarity. I am convinced much more solidarity is needed, I also know that the solidarity must be voluntary… I am asking as long and immediate action both from Greece and the European Union to protect what we call in French 'les enfants non accompagnés.' We want protection of these children, the European Union is betraying its historic values," Juncker said proposing to set up a European Solidarity Corps.

Europe That Defends

Juncker said that Europe should provide protection both at home and abroad, fighting against terrorism and enhancing the bloc's security.

"We must defend ourselves against terrorism… Just as we have stood shoulder to shoulder in grief, so must we stand united in our response. In face of the worst of humanity we have to stay true to our values, to ourselves… But that tolerance cannot come at the price of our security," he added.

The European Commission would also propose the launch of the EU travel information system that would determine who is eligible to arrive in Europe.

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"By November, we will propose a European Travel Information System – an automated system to determine who will be allowed to travel to Europe. This way we will know who is travelling to Europe before they even get here," Juncker said.

He added that it was necessary to protect the bloc's borders, speaking about the future reinforcement of the European Union's law enforcement agency Europol, and adding that he wanted to see about 200 extra border guards and 50 extra vehicles at the external borders of Bulgaria by next month.

The European Union should create its headquarters in Europe, as well as to establish a European Defense Fund to bolster the bloc's common defense and promote security-related research and development, the European Commission president said.

Europe That Takes Responsibility

The final part of Juncker's address was dedicated to the responsibility for building a common Europe.

"The last point I want to make is about responsibility. About taking responsibility for building this Europe that protects. I call on all EU institutions and on all of our Member States to take responsibility. We have to stop with the same old story that success is national, and failure European. Or our common project will not survive," the official said.


The European Commission president also added that the bloc both respected and regretted the decision of the Britons to leave the 28-nation bloc made at the recent referendum.

"We respect and at the same time regret the UK decision, but the European Union as such is not at risk," Juncker said.

On June 23, the United Kingdom held a referendum to determine whether or not the country should leave the European Union. At the same time London has not yet triggered Article 50 of the of the Lisbon Treaty to start the process of leaving the European Union.

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