quarta-feira, 14 de setembro de 2016

EU is facing existential crisis, says Jean-Claude Juncker / State of Juncker’s Union: What he has (and hasn’t) delivered / European commission president decries attacks on Poles in wake of Brexit vote

EU is facing existential crisis, says Jean-Claude Juncker

In his address to European parliament, president of the European commission will announce plans to unite Europe

Jennifer Rankin in Strasbourg
Wednesday 14 September 2016 09.13 BST

The European Union is facing an existential crisis, the president of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, will say on Wednesday, as he announces a raft of economic and security plans in the search for common ground in the wake of the British vote to leave.

In his annual state of the union address to the European parliament, Juncker will say commonality between EU member states has never been so low, with governments everywhere quicker to say what they don’t want from Brussels rather than work together.

The EU executive hopes to find the elusive common ground with a plan to boost the EU’s infrastructure fund by increasing its value to €500bn (£425bn). Juncker will also press for speedy implementation of a recently agreed law to create an EU border and coastguard to ensure better control of migrants arriving from the Middle East and Africa.

But a poisonous diplomatic spat between Luxembourg and Hungary over the treatment of asylum seekers underlined just how difficult it will be to find agreement on the migration crisis. At least 3,169 people died or went missing in an attempt to reach Europe during the first eight months of the year.

Juncker’s speech, which was still getting the finishing touches on Tuesday night, comes just two days before EU leaders meet in Bratislava for a summit without Britain, aimed at charting a way forward for the EU after Brexit.

Neither event is expected to result in detailed discussions on the EU27 strategy for dealing with the UK as it heads towards the EU exit.

Juncker will, however, refer to the murder of a Polish factory worker in Harlow, Essex, as he speaks out against violence and discrimination.

EU officials are increasingly resigned to the likelihood that the UK is unlikely to trigger article 50 in the near future, a fact that causes varying degrees of angst.

Martin Schulz, the president of the European parliament, who will meet Theresa May in London next week, called on the British government to trigger article 50 by the end of the year to provide clarity and avoid “weakening” the EU. “To wait more than a year is completely counter-productive,” he told the Guardian and five continental papers.

He dismissed the argument – advanced by some British government sources – that it would be better to wait until French and German elections are over, before triggering article 50 in late 2017.

“This is not an acceptable argument. There are always elections in the European Union in some member states.” Waiting until after Germany’s elections in autumn 2017 could mean the UK would still be an EU member during the next round of European elections, throwing up complications for all sides. But the British government is unlikely to be face immediate pressure from other governments to trigger exit talks.

In a letter to the 27 governments sent before the meeting, the man organising the summit, European council president, Donald Tusk, said it would be “a fatal error to assume that the negative result in the UK referendum represents a specifically British issue”.
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He writes that “it is true that the leave campaign was full of false arguments and unacceptable generalisations”, but the Brexit vote was also “a desperate attempt to answer the questions that millions of Europeans ask themselves daily”, citing border control and the fight against terrorism.

“People in Europe want to know if the political elites are capable of restoring control over events and processes which overwhelm, disorientate, and sometimes terrify them. Today many people, not only in the UK, think that being part of the European Union stands in the way of stability and security.”

The EU institutions are converging on the idea that Europe needs to concentrate on practical policies; both the nuts and bolts of deepening the single market and extending it to the internet through a digital single market will feature in Juncker’s speech.

Brussels insiders share frustration that national governments are reluctant to defend EU policies and complain that ministers lack EU knowledge, sometimes unaware when they say “something must be done”, that a policy already exists, or is being discussed.

According to Schulz, too many governments want to cherry pick the bits of the EU they liked, such as generous European funding for poorer regions, while ignoring the bits they don’t. If countries continued to take the advantages without fulfilling their duties, this would end in “destroying the European Union” he said.

In his speech, Juncker will also mount a defence of trade policy, amid ongoing doubts about whether the controversial transatlantic trade deal (TTIP) can ever be agreed, as well as questions over ratifying the EU-Canada trade deal, which was seven years in the making.

Tusk echoes this qualified defence of trade deal. “Failing to reach trade agreements ... will inevitably create an impression that Brexit has sparked a process of eliminating us from the global game,” he said. But future trade agreements can only work by restoring trust of workers, consumers and entrepreneurs.

State of Juncker’s Union: What he has (and hasn’t) delivered

A scorecard marking the Commission president’s address a year ago against the situation now.

Ryan Heath
9/14/16, 5:30 AM CET

When Jean Claude-Juncker gave his first State of the Union address in September 2015, he told MEPs it was “not the time for business as usual.” In the year since, the EU has certainly seen little of that.

From continuing political battles over how to address Europe’s migration crisis, to terror attacks in several countries, to Britain’s historic vote to leave the EU altogether, the bloc has faced a series of tests to its political stability.

This year, Juncker will enter the Parliament hemicycle in Strasbourg with a fundamentally different challenge before him. Last year he offered a statesman’s speech from the heart, weeks after the EU had stared into the abyss over Greece, and as it was splintering over how to manage refugees. Reviews were mixed.

Now he has competition for lofty rhetoric about the future of Europe. Donald Tusk has launched a continent-wide, leaders-level debate about how to make the Union coherent again. The focus of EU leaders will be on Friday’s meeting in Bratislava. It is Juncker’s task to help set the stage for that ongoing debate, rather than stake out his own singular vision of the Union.

Meanwhile, what became of the vision in Juncker’s 2015 address? The Commission president pleaded with Europeans to remember their history and open their hearts and their doors to refugees, adding that difficulties the Union faced meant 2016 would be a “time for honesty, unity and solidarity.”

But he also made a series of calls to action and and political promises. Here’s a look at what he delivered on, and what got left on the drawing board:

Overall vision

Claim: “We need more Europe in our Union. We need more Union in our Union.”
Reality: The U.K. has voted to the leave the EU, meaning fundamentally that there is both less Europe and less Union in the EU compared to a year ago. Leaders have also mostly struggled to find common ground, leading Tusk to push for an EU that does less but better, which is similar to the rhetoric of Frans Timmermans’ “Better Regulation” agenda, all of which hints at less Union.
Refugees and migration

There has been significant policy change at the EU level since the last State of the Union — from Juncker’s original focus on relocating refugees across Europe to a new emphasis on stopping them ever getting here. The EU-Turkey deal was the most significant sign of that shift away from Juncker’s and Angela Merkel’s 2015 open door policy.

Claim: “Cheap ships are now harder to come by” and “the central Mediterranean route has stabilized.”
Reality: Dangerous crossings from Turkey to Greece have been greatly reduced; the number of crossings from Libya to Italy is more or less the same but casualties are higher in 2016 than 2015.

Claim: Juncker wanted to create “a fully operational European border and coast guard system.”
Reality: National leaders have agreed to this vision and began work to make it fully operational by the end of 2016, though that appears to be an optimistic timetable.

The roaming limits outraged consumers, members of the European Parliament and the telecoms industry

Claim: “We need more Europe in our asylum policy. We need more union in our refugee policy … We have collectively committed to resettling over 22,000 people from outside of Europe over the next year.”
Reality: National leaders agreed to a relocation and resettlement scheme, and about 9,000 of the 22,000 have been moved. The EU also agreed a deal with Turkey to limit asylum seeker flows from


Claim: “The Commission will come forward with a well-designed legal migration package in early 2016.”
Reality: The Commission did propose a reform of the EU-wide “Blue Card” system to replace national skilled migration schemes as well as a permanent resettlement framework.


Claim: That despite its differences Europe could claim to be “by far the wealthiest and most stable continent in the world.”
Reality: The EU trades places with the U.S. for the biggest economy, depending on global exchange rates. However, the EU has close to 200 million more citizens, so its GDP per capita is much lower than in the U.S. When Canada is added into the mix, it’s clear Europe is not the richest continent. Over the last year the EU’s economic indicators have been stable. Unemployment still hovers around 10 percent, inflation is around zero, and economic growth is about 2 percent.

Claim: “The crisis is not over. It has just been put on pause.”
Reality: Juncker is correct. The situation in Greece is less urgent, and the economy has experienced some improvement, but overall the Greek bailout remains precarious. Few of the Syriza government’s promises have been delivered, and many Greeks continue to suffer from the country’s debt problems.

National economic reform

Claim: “The Commission will provide tailor-made technical assistance [to Greece] … the main task of the new Structural Reform Support Service.”
Reality: The service was created, with its own Director General Maarten Verwey. The Commission proposed a budget of €142.8 million, but the European Parliament and Council of the European Union have not signed off on the plan. Greece is the top priority of the service and in February Juncker gave it responsibility to “coordinate all the Commission’s efforts in facilitating the process for the reunification of Cyprus.” Slovakia and Bulgaria are also receiving support, and at least two other countries have confidentially requested support according to a Commission source.

Financial transaction tax

Claim: That the Commission would fight hard to finalize by the end of 2015 the Financial Transaction Tax, to which a minority of EU countries agreed to join in principle.
Reality: Despite being a five-year-old voluntary proposal, the tax plan remains stalled in Council discussions. The proposed tax faces collapse if just one more country withdraws its involvement after Estonia backed out and reduced the number of participating countries to 10.

Foreign policy

Claim: “Our foreign policy must become more assertive.”
Reality: The EU helped engineer the deal that brought Iran back into the global economy, and sent a delegation of eight commissioners to Iran to grease the wheels of future relations. Juncker himself traveled to St. Petersburg to engage Vladimir Putin during the EU’s ongoing sanctions against Russia, but there has been little progress in Ukraine or the conflict in Syria.

African development

Claim: The Commission will establish “an emergency Trust Fund, starting with €1.8 billion” from the EU budget and matched by national funds.
Reality: The Commission did create a fund, but has received only €82 million in national contributions. Only the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium and Denmark have pledged more than €5 million, meaning the Commission has allocated 20 times more than all 28 national governments combined.


Claim: “To adopt an ambitious, robust and binding global climate deal.”
Reality: The EU succeeded in showing global leadership, alongside France, to seal the Paris climate deal. It now faces the “nightmare scenario,” in the words of climate commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete, of the deal coming into the force globally before slow-moving EU countries ratify it.


European commission president decries attacks on Poles in wake of Brexit vote

Jean-Claude Juncker warns of splits and fragmentation across Europe during state of the union address
The president of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has condemned attacks on Polish people in the UK in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.

Jennifer Rankin in Strasbourg
Wednesday 14 September 2016 10.52 BST

“We Europeans can never accept Polish workers being beaten up, harassed or even murdered in the streets of Essex,” Juncker said in his annual state of the union address to MEPs in Strasbourg. Five Polish people have been attacked in the Essex town of Harlow since the EU referendum, including one man who died from his injuries.

As he set out a series of security and economic measures aimed at uniting Europe in the wake of the Brexit vote, Juncker urged EU member states to take greater responsibility for explaining the value of the European project.

Declaring that the next 12 months would be crucial for the EU, Juncker said a united Europe could only be built if it was better explained and better understood. He highlighted the British referendum as a warning that the EU faces a battle for survival against nationalism.

“The European Union doesn’t have enough union,” he said. “There are splits out there and often fragmentation exists … That is leaving scope for galloping populism.”

40-year-old Arkadiusz Jóźwik died after he was beaten by teenagers in Harlow, about 30 miles north of London, in late August. Essex police said Jóźwik and a second Polish man who survived were apparently the victims of an unprovoked attack. The motive is unknown, but one line of inquiry is the possibility of it being a hate crime.

Three other Poles have been attacked in the town, and there have been reports of further incidents across Britain. Following the attack on Jóźwik, the president of Poland, Andrzej Duda, wrote to church leaders in Britain asking them to help prevent attacks on Poles living in the UK and combat a climate of “aversion and animosity”.

Juncker’s speech in Strasbourg did not dwell on Brexit, though he repeated that Britain could not have “à la carte access” to the single market.

The European commission president has previously criticised the former British prime minister, David Cameron, for failing to prepare the ground for the Brexit referendum and launching the four-month campaign after years of sniping directed at Brussels.

Juncker said he would ask his team of 27 EU commissioners to increase the number of visits made to national parliaments to discuss EU policies. “[Europe] can only be built with the member states not against the member states,” he said. “We do listen to our citizens and we would like to do that more intensely.”

The 55-minute speech amounted to a sprawling laundry list of subjects, ranging from Europe’s contribution to 70 years’ of peace to roaming charges and the price of milk. “I will not accept that milk is cheaper than water,” he said, in a nod to Europe’s farmers.
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The EU executive hopes to find common ground with a plan to boost the EU’s infrastructure fund by increasing its value to €500bn (£425bn) by 2020. Juncker also called for speedy implementation of a recently agreed law to create an EU border and coastguard to ensure better control of migrants and refugees arriving from the Middle East and Africa.

In a tacit acknowledgement that commission plans for refugee quotas were in trouble, he said solidarity cannot be forced, but “must come from the heart”. Hungary, Poland and other central and eastern European countries have accused the commission of blackmail over proposals that would oblige them to pay for not giving refuge to people fleeing war.

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