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Juncker: Wind back in Europe's sails

By Fu Jing in Brussels | China Daily | Updated: 2017-09-14 07:34

The European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced on Wednesday that European Union is getting back on track after a 10-year economic and financial crisis while pledging to strengthen the bloc despite the United Kingdom's planned departure.

Juncker made the comments during his 2017 State of the Union Address before the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, during the four-day plenary that ends on Thursday.

During his speech, he presented a road map for a more united, stronger and more democratic EU.

"Ten years since crisis struck, Europe's economy is finally bouncing back," said Juncker. "And with it, our confidence. Our EU-27 leaders, the Parliament and the Commission are putting the Europe back in our Union. Together, we are putting the Union back in our Union."

It was all a far cry from Juncker's address last September, when he said the union faced an "existential crisis" due to Brexit, rampant terror attacks and immigration problems.

However, on Wednesday Juncker was optimistic as he outlined his vision for how the European Union could evolve by 2025.

"The wind is back in Europe's sails," he said. "But we will go nowhere unless we catch that wind. ... We should chart the direction for the future. Now is the time to build a more united, stronger and more democratic Europe for 2025."

Juncker's speech was accompanied by the adoption of concrete initiatives by the European Commission on trade, investment screening, cybersecurity, industry and data and democracy.

He said the EU is open for free trade talks and his commission proposed to launch trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand.

As expected, Juncker also proposed a new EU framework for investment screening policies to protect its "strategic interests", while many say it is not rational for the bloc to take the measures to thwart inward investment, which it badly needs to boost the economy and create jobs.

His commission has also proposed policies to keep the bloc's industries at the forefront of innovation, digitization and decarbonization.

Regarding climate change, Juncker said Europe will ensure "we make our planet great again", a veiled criticism of the decision by US President Donald Trump to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement.

Juncker has also vowed to unite the eastern and western parts of Europe. "Europe extends from Vigo to Varna, from Spain to Bulgaria. Europe must breathe with both lungs, otherwise our continent will struggle for air," he said.

Juncker also said if the bloc wants to strengthen the protection of its external borders, then it needs to open the Schengen Area to Bulgaria and Romania immediately.

Croatia will also be allowed to become a full Schengen member once it meets all the criteria, Juncker said.

(China Daily 09/14/2017 page12)

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