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State of the Union 2015

Posted by Nick Prag at 10 September 2015, 21:50 CET |
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Wednesday was the day for Europe's version of the US State of the Union address, with Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, delivering his annual speech to the European Parliament.

Europe is 'not in a good state”, he told MEPs in the first 'State of the Union' address of his Commission presidency.

A large portion of his speech dealt with the refugee crisis, setting out a "bold" new plan which called on EU states to agree as early as next week to relocate 160,000 refugees from frontline countries.

He also announced the setting up of a EUR 1.8 bn trust fund to help curb the influx of desperate migrants from Africa seeking a better life in Europe.

He warned Greece that whichever party won the 20 September elections would have to respect the terms of the third, EUR 86 bn bailout deal and implement the tough reforms that were agreed.

He also promised Britain he would push for a "fair deal", with a view to encouraging its people to vote to stay in the EU and avoid a "Brexit".

He warned Russia that the security of Member States such as Poland and the Baltic states was “sacrosanct”.

And he promised the EU would push for a "robust, ambitious" deal at the UN climate summit in Paris at the end of the year, ending with a warning that Europe's next refugee crisis could result from people fleeing climate change.

A strong performance from Mr Juncker, who attended despite the death of his mother three days earlier.

He had said in the run up to his election as EC president that he would take the opportunity, if he were elected, to be a more political president.

With Europe struggling to confront crises on several fronts, his diagnosis is that "there is not enough Europe in this Union. And there is not enough Union in this Union."

The EU Treaties, he said, foresee a more political Commission, making it “the promoter of the general interest of the Union”.

Mr Juncker was clear as to what he sees as the solution to lack of concerted action to confront the crises. The themes of his speech were 'Honesty, Unity and Solidarity'. Above all, we can expect through his leadership “a political Commission. A very political Commission.”

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Nick Prag

Nick Prag

Nick Prag is founder and managing editor of EUbusiness.com. Prior to EUbusiness, he was senior editor at Europe Online SA in Luxembourg, where he played a major part in the launch of Europe Online International.