State of the Union address: EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker calls for the euro area to be expanded to include all Member States (Euro 27) and the appointment of a European Minister of Economy and Finance.

GD/AD – 09/2017

At a time where there is a strong need to have a clearer strategy for the future of the EU, President Jean-Claude Juncker presented his vision for the future of the European Union before the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 13 September 2017. This was done against the backdrop of his rather alternative sounding strategic scenarios from early spring. At the core is an uncompromising avowal to ‘carrying on’ supplemented by a deepening of substance and content. For example, he called for all EU countries to join the Euro as quickly as possible. 

His vision also covers details such as the issue of a combined leadership position as ‘captain’, as well as a central European Minister of Economy and Finance with interinstitutional powers for national budgets. Juncker’s clarification has clearly defined a ‘deepening of existing similarities’ which was presented as one of the other options in his strategic scenarios.  

Euro-26 is already contractually agreed

As expected, the reactions of politicians and opinion leaders has differed widely. The spectrum ranges from complete rejection through to more or less unrestricted direct agreement. The German Federal Government welcomes Juncker’s proposal as seen in comments by Minister for Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel: ‘Jean-Claude Juncker has shown the right way forward for unifying our continent’, but he also points out in a less euphoric tone to the current ‘valid legal situation’. According to this, all countries not in the euro area, other than the UK and Denmark, are ‘duty bound’ to join the euro. To do this, certain conditions must be met and this is a lengthy process.  

There has been harsh criticism from some EU countries. For example, many people in Sweden feel that being forced to adopt the euro is a political imposition. Following a referendum in 2003, which resulted in a clear ‘no’ to the euro, no government has tried seriously to introduce the common currency. According to Swedish political experts, a second referendum would be political suicide for any party.  

No mention of reducing debt

French observers pointed out the differences to Macron’s vision of ‘founding a new EU’, namely a two-speed Europe at different depths and multiple European parliaments. In terms of unresolved day-to-day problems, both proposals seem to cause more issues than they solve. Greater overall consensus in the EU is unlikely to be achieved this way. It was also striking that there was no mention of the increasingly untenable debt situation in the euro area. Ultimately, there would be hardly any country, except Germany, who are able to reduce their debt. It would seem that Juncker’s vision, which is more political than socio-economic, sweeps this under the carpet.  

Link to the State of the Union Address

The authorised version of the State of the Union Address 2017 and other related documents can be viewed at a special webpage set up by the European Commission.