José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, will on 12 September address the Parliament in his annual State of the Union speech where he will outline the main challenges the European Union faces today. The Parliament's political group leaders expect Mr Barroso to focus on ways in which deeper economic and political integration could help the EU to overcome the crisis.
"There is no magic recipe for getting out of this crisis," said Joseph Daul, the French leader of the Christian Democrat group. "We need the political will and courage to tell our citizens the truth and deepen Europe's political integration." He added that the EU must work on a new vision that will result in a closer and more sustainable economic and fiscal Union so that it becomes strong enough to weather the next storm. "Europe must make the choice of joining forces; either we accept this or we sink separately," he warned.
Hannes Swoboda, the Austrian leader of the Social Democrat group, explained that Mr Barroso would have to find in his speech a response to the current heated debates about more or less European economic integration and more or less solidarity between European member states. Mr Swoboda said he hoped for clear words on a roadmap towards more European economic integration, a fully fledged banking union and a stronger political union.
"Already much time has been lost through half measures and political short-sightedness," said Guy Verhofstadt, the Belgian leader of the Liberal Democrat group, adding that the EU needs strong measures to strengthen fiscal and economic integration and agreement on the EU's next long-term budget to stimulate investment and create jobs. "By pooling budgetary resources at EU level member states get better value for money than by duplicating efforts at national level." His group demands speedy progress in developing the four pillars of a banking, economic, fiscal and political union early this autumn, on the basis of legislative proposals from the Commission, he said.
Rebecca Harms, the German co-chair of the Greens/European Free Alliance group, remarked: "Barroso has already stated what is needed for a functioning economic union: a banking union; promoting economic recovery through sustainable investment; a debt redemption fund; and better democratic control. The State of the Union speech provides him with an opportunity to deliver this message in a clear and convincing manner to European citizens, but he needs to back up his rhetoric by exerting pressure on EU governments in the Council to finally take the necessary action."
Martin Callanan, the British leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, said: "My group would like to see president Barroso set out an ambitious road map for how the EU can halt its collapse in global competitiveness, reduce the interference of the EU with our lives and our wealth-creating industries, and reinvigorate the Single Market." However, he added: "I fear that we will hear calls from the Commission and other group leaders to misuse this crisis as an opportunity to ram through a significant federalisation of the eurozone that they would never be able to achieve in calmer times."
Gabriele Zimmer, the German leader of the Confederal Group of the European United Left - Nordic Green Left, said: "If Mr Barroso stands up to announce his desire to seriously tackle this crisis – to halt the vicious cycle of austerity that is killing our economies and to back a growth and jobs package worthy of the name – my applause will be deafening. Alas, this is an unlikely scenario. As further useless 'crunch' summits that bring zero solutions are planned, the double-headed mantra of public spending cuts and attacks on democracy drones on in an effort to privatise and liberalise public goods and services to placate anonymous markets. Put people before profit!"
Join the official European Parliament LinkedIn group to discuss the State of the Union address (see the link on the right). You can also debate it on Twitter using the #SOTEU hashtag.