Shares

On 13 September, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (unelected) held his State of the Union Address for 2017. It opens with Juncker asserting that after the crisis in 2016, the European Union has had a year in which it turned the situation around. Het starts a theme, helpfully printed in bold lettering to help the reader pick his metaphor, of the helping the wind change, so that now the wind is back in Europe’s sails. This means that the EU must catch the wind in [its] sails, so it can stay the course set out last year and chart the direction for the future. He mixes in a few others about a ‘window of opportunity’, sorry, window of opportunity, and an economy that’s bouncing back, but the nautical theme is strongest.

Under the heading ‘Staying the course’, Juncker claims that the EU cannot let itself be “blown off course.” He then lists the five proposals for the next year which he regards as particularly important:

1) Strengthening the European trade agenda,
2) Making industry stronger and more competitive,
3) Wanting the EU to be a leader when it comes to fighting climate change,
4) Better protection for Europeans in the digital age, and finally,
5) Migration will stay on our radar.

So what does that mean, “migration will stay on our radar“? Well, the EU wants more of it. Juncker states, without proof and counter-intuitively, that

Irregular migration will only stop if there is a real alternative to perilous journeys. We are close to having resettled 22,000 refugees from Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon and I support UN High Commissioner Grandi’s call to resettle a further 40,000 refugees from Libya and the surrounding countries.


At the same time, legal migration is a necessity for Europe as an ageing continent. This is why the Commission made proposals to make it easier for skilled migrants to reach Europe with a Blue Card. I would like to thank the Parliament for your support and I call for an ambitious and swift agreement on this important issue.

Note the deliberate mixing of refugees with migration. Refugees, one would suppose, are not those who are stopped by the perilous journey, assuming that they flee from deadly situations at home. But they are also not those whose ‘migration’ can – or for that matter, should – be regulated by selection.

So what is Juncker proposing here? To keep out legitimate refugees when they do not meet certain requirements? Or is he calling for the deliberate import of more labour migrants the EU does not  actually need? One would expect that the highest level at which the EU formulates policies, would be better at formulating its vision in a State of the Union Address and not leave this kind of ambiguity in.

Continuing the address, there is a lot of ‘more’. More countries within the EU, more countries within the Euro-zone, more EU influence in banking, more ‘democracy’ in the EU, a European Defence Union, in short, more and more influence for Brussels to the detriment of the member states. And yet, Juncker can say:

Last but not least, I want our Union to have a stronger focus on things that matter, building on the work this Commission has already undertaken. We should not meddle in the everyday lives of European citizens by regulating every aspect. We should be big on the big things. We should not march in with a stream of new initiatives or seek ever growing competences. We should give back competences to Member States where it makes sense.

Which apparently is not in banking, money, defence, the economy, or any other field that’s been historical of great importance for a state. Instead, all this should be turned over to an institution that even Juncker apparently feels is not democratic enough.

In view of the importance of democracy given in this speech, it’s very painful to hear Juncker call for merging “the Presidents of the European Commission and the European Council,” when he offers the rationale that:

Europe would be easier to understand if one captain was steering the ship. Having a single President would better reflect the true nature of our European Union as both a Union of States and a Union of citizens.

There is also the suggestion, on which he does not elaborate and is hidden in the enigmatic remark that the new Code of Conduct for Commissioners “makes clear that Commissioners can be candidates in European Parliament elections under the same conditions as everyone else,” that he thinks the President of the EU Commission should henceforward be elected.

What Juncker proposes is certainly bold and daring. He knows so, he says so. Indeed, he concludes his State of the Union Address by saying:

But now is not the time to err on the side of caution. We started to fix the roof. But we must complete the job now that the sun is shining and whilst it still is. Because when the next clouds appear on the horizon – and they will – it will be too late. So let’s throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the harbour. And catch the trade winds in our sails.

This is a desperate flight forward by an institute that cannot even consistently formulate its own ideas in a State of the Union Address. That tries strong-arming its member-states constantly, by trying to force migration on them in the name of ‘solidarity’ while failing to protect its borders. Claiming credit for the actions of desperate member-states. It tries to ‘regulate’ its citizens out of being able to defend themselves in the name of ‘fighting terrorism,’ while failing to defend them – leaving that to the struggling member-states. In the Netherlands, there is a saying: he who sows wind, will harvest storm.

And Juncker is trying to catch it in his sails.