Jean-Claude Juncker, former Prime Minister of Luxembourg is now the new European Commission President and he is determine to make EU what it use to be in the past. He was the longest-serving head of government of any European Union country, and one of the longest-serving democratically elected leaders in the world, by the time he left office. He was also Luxembourg’s Minister for Finance from 1989 to 2009 and the first permanent President of the Eurogroup from 2005 to 2013, his tenure encompassing the height of the European financial and sovereign debt crisis.
Over the past years, Europe suffered the worst financial and economic crisis since World War II. Unprecedented measures had to be taken by the EU institutions and national governments to stabilise Member States’ economies, consolidate public finances and prevent the results of decades of European integration from being undone. The worst was avoided. The internal market and the integrity of the Euro zone were preserved. Slowly but surely, economic growth and confidence are now returning to Europe.
However, the crisis has taken its toll. More than 6 million people lost their jobs during the crisis. Youth unemployment has reached record highs. Several of their Member States are still far away from sustainable growth and adequate levels of investment. In many countries, trust in the European project is at a historic low.
The measures taken during the crisis can be compared to repairing a burning plane whilst flying. They were successful overall, yet mistakes were made. There was a lack of social fairness. Democratic legitimacy suffered as many new instruments had to be created outside the legal framework of the European Union. And, after spending several years concentrating on crisis management, Europe is finding it is often ill-prepared for the global challenges ahead, be it with regard to the digital age, the race for innovation and skills, the scarcity of natural resources, the safety of their food, the cost of energy, the impact of climate change, the ageing of their population or the pain and poverty at Europe’s external borders.
As they enter the new legislative cycle following the European Parliament elections in May, the time has come for a new approach. As President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker see it as his key task to rebuild bridges in Europe after the crisis. To restore European citizens’ confidence. To focus their policies on the key challenges ahead for their economies and for their societies. And to strengthen democratic legitimacy on the basis of the Community method.
After having campaigned as the lead candidate of the European People’s Party for Commission President ahead of the European Parliament elections next to Martin
Schulz for the Party of European Socialists, Guy Verhofstadt for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party and the European Democratic Party, Ska Keller and José Bové for the European Green Party, and Alexis Tsipras for the Party of the European Left, Juncker was proposed by the European Council as candidate for President of the European Commission on 27 June 2014. With this proposal, the European Council took account of the result of the European Parliament elections in which his party won the largest number of seats, after having held appropriate consultations with representatives of the European Parliament.
For the first time, a direct link has thereby been established between the outcome of the European Parliament elections and the proposal of the President of the European
Commission. This follows long-standing calls from the European Parliament echoed and repeated over several decades. It has the potential to insert a very necessary additional dose of democratic legitimacy into the European decision-making process, in line with the rules and practices of parliamentary democracy. It also is a unique opportunity for a fresh start.
After the confrontations of the election campaign, they now need to work together. In spite of their differences, there is a large convergence of views on the main priorities to be tackled at European level. And he wants to work with all of them to build a broad consensus, across the EU institutions, on what they need to deliver for Europeans. And then follow words with action by delivering on what they have agreed.
This is why, after having exchanged views with all political groups of the newly elected European Parliament, Juncker proposed to renew the European Union on the basis of an Agenda for Jobs, Growth, Fairness and Democratic Change. An agenda that concentrates on the areas where the European Union is able to make a real difference.
His agenda will focus on ten policy areas. His emphasis will be on concrete results in these ten areas. Beyond that, he will leave other policy areas to the Member States where they are more legitimate and better equipped to give effective policy responses at national, regional or local level, in line with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. The President wants a European Union that is bigger and more ambitious on big things, and smaller and more modest on small things.
Jean-Claude Juncker who is the new President, has his Agenda for Jobs, Growth, Fairness and Democratic Change and they will serve as the starting point for the Union’s annual and multi-annual programming. For this, he will also be able to draw on the ‘Strategic Agenda for the Union in Times of Change’, as adopted by the European Council on 27 June 2014, and on the orientations that will be given by the European Parliament in the months to come.
He believes that Europe’s policy agenda must be shaped in close partnership between the European Commission and the European Parliament, and in cooperation with the Member States. Political prioritisation as the basis for a better, more focused Union will only work if it is done in partnership between the Union institutions and the Member States, in line with the Community method.
The role of the President of the Commission is to defend the general European interest. This involves working with everyone, whether in the Euro or not, whether in the Schengen agreement or outside, whether supportive of deeper integration or not.
The president’s firm conviction is that they must move forward as a Union. They do not necessarily all have to move at the same speed. The Treaties provide for that and they have seen that they can work with different arrangements. Those who want to move further, faster, should be able to do so. This is particularly important in the Euro zone, where they need to continue to strengthen the foundations of the Euro through deeper integration. And this should be done in such a way as to preserve the integrity of the single market and to protect the rights of those outside the Euro zone. As in any family, there will be tensions and disagreements from time to time. Jean-Claude Juncker made clear throughout his campaign that he is ready to listen to the concerns of every Member State and to help find solutions.
This man intends to refocus the work of the new Commission on the basis of his Agenda for Jobs, Growth, Fairness and Democratic Change and its ten priorities. He intends to organise the new Commission in a way that reflects these ten priority areas and ensures swift and effective delivery on all of them.
He has promised he will do his utmost to ensure a gender-balanced choice of leading personnel in the Commission, both at political and at administrative level. Gender balance is not a luxury he said; it is a political must and should be self evident to everybody, including the leaders in all capitals of their Member States when it comes to their proposal for the choice of members of the next Commission. This is in itself is a test for the commitment of the governments of Member States to a new, more democratic approach in times of change.
On the basis of his Agenda for Jobs, Growth, Fairness and Democratic Change and
its ten priorities, he won the election of the European Parliament. The larger the majority that supported him and his agenda , the stronger he be in forming the next Commission, and the more effective he will be in delivering swiftly on his agenda.
“Let us jointly show that we are able to make this promise a reality. That together we are able to really change and renew Europe. And that we will jointly work to re-gain citizens’ trust in the European project. I will do my utmost to make this difference.”
Wednesday September 24, 2014