Lead MEPs from Parliament’s political groups reacted on Wednesday to the Commission’s Future of Europe White Paper, presented by its President Jean-Claude Juncker to the full House. Some MEPs welcomed the Commission’s decision to outline five possible paths for the EU to take in the coming years, while others criticized it for not picking a clear preferred path or providing concrete examples.
Click on names to watch individual statements
Opening the debate, Parliament’s President Antonio Tajani urged that the “future of Europe” debate, begun by the three reports voted at Parliament’s previous plenary session, “must go on”. He stressed that the upcoming Rome Treaty 60th anniversary celebrations must be “an opportunity for the institutions to listen more closely to citizens, in order to address their concerns”.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (part. 1) presented five possible replies to the question “ Quo vadis Europa“, stressing that this means a “Europe of 27”. “Our task today is to show what Europe can and cannot do”, he said, pointing out for example that “Europe alone cannot be held responsible for fighting unemployment”. “We cannot offer the moon. In some cases, all we can do is offer a telescope“, he said.
Mr Juncker listed five scenarios:
“nothing but the single market”,
“those who want more do more”,
“doing less more efficiently”, and
“doing much more together.”
”I shall not tell you my absolute preference today, because it is not up to me all to take this decision”, he said, inviting the European Parliament, national parliaments, governments and citizens to contribute to the debate. The Commission will go on listening until September, when in the annual State of the Union address and having consulted the European Parliament rapporteurs, a conclusion may be drawn.
Jean-Claude Juncker (part.2)
Jean-Claude Juncker (part.3)
Esteban Gonzales Pons (EPP, ES) thanked Mr Juncker for choosing to present his White Paper in Parliament and underlined that the House must be “fully involved” in the subsequent debate. He agreed with Mr Juncker that we have to “align expectations with reality” and urged member states to “stop blaming Europe for what Europe cannot do because it does not have the tools”. “This is a wrong and dangerous game and Brexit is one of its consequences”, he concluded.
S&D leader Gianni Pittella (IT) told Mr Juncker “Your paper includes five options, and I believe that by putting these five options on the table as realistic scenarios, you are playing into the hands of all those who want to weaken the European Union or even get rid of it”. (…) “You put five options on the table, but I can only see one: to work together as Europeans and do much more together”, he added.
Ulrike Trebesius (ECR, DE) said that past hopes in Europe and the Eurozone have fallen victim to centralism and delusions of grandeur. The EU should concentrate on fewer policy areas and become more efficient, e.g. in fighting terrorism and protecting its borders. "Times have changed, we need more flexibility and to adapt our institutional set-up", she said.
Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE, BE) stressed the need to start a further inter-institutional reflection on the future of Europe. He also said that the EU currently lacks real capabilities to address many of today’s challenges, and urged EU countries to stop using the unanimous vote rule to block vital efforts to move the Union forward. “But how convince EU leaders at national level to take the steps that we so desperately need?” he added.
“We need to listen to the citizens”, stressed Patrick Le Hyaric (GUE, FR), calling for another, “bottom-up” scenario, which takes account of people’s aspirations for justice, equality, solidarity, environment protection and public health. “Otherwise, we’ll fail to meet the challenge”, he warned.
Philippe Lamberts (Greens, BE), urged the Commission to consider proposing a radical change of direction, so as to halt the explosion of inequality. "To reconquer citizens' hearts and spirits, we need to (...) ensure peace and shared prosperity, and abandon fiscal and social competition", he added.
For the EFDD group, Gerard Batten (UK) said that the White Paper recognizes the problems facing the EU, “but fails to understand that many of these were created by the EU in the first place”.
For the ENF group, Vicky Maeijer (NL) said that the EU is collapsing. “We in the Netherlands said no to the European constitution, no to the trade agreement with Ukraine, and it is time we said no to Europe.”
Jean-Claude Juncker (conclusions)