The State of the Union debate in the European Parliament, 2016

09-09-2016

The 2016 State of the Union debate in the European Parliament comes at a time of severe challenges for the European Union, ranging from the refugee and migration crisis and the situation in Turkey and Ukraine, to the uncertainties following the UK referendum on leaving the EU, the economic difficulties persisting in many Member States, and more general questions on the future path of the EU. The State of the Union speech by the President of the European Commission constitutes an important instrument for ex-ante accountability vis-à-vis Parliament but it is also aimed at rendering the definition of priorities at EU level more transparent and at communicating those priorities to citizens. It resembles similar speeches in national democracies. The United States for instance has a long-standing tradition of presidential State of the Union addresses, in which the President speaks in the Capitol to a joint session of Congress, thus fulfilling his constitutional obligation. In contrast to the US Constitution, the EU Treaties do not prescribe the State of the Union address, which was instigated with the 2010 Framework agreement between Parliament and the Commission. José Manuel Barroso gave four State of the Union speeches from 2010 to 2013, marked mainly by the economic and financial crisis. Last year’s speech by President Jean-Claude Juncker took place in a wider context of political agenda-setting that started with the Spitzenkandidaten process in the run-up to the 2014 European elections, the election of the Commission President and the adoption of the 2015 Commission Work Programme. The 2016 debate marks in contrast the second year of the Juncker Commission, with President Juncker’s ten priorities, around which the Commission organises its work, increasingly being the basis on which the delivery of the Commission is examined. This briefing updates an earlier one, from September 2015. See also our briefing from then on 'The US President's State of the Union Address'.

The 2016 State of the Union debate in the European Parliament comes at a time of severe challenges for the European Union, ranging from the refugee and migration crisis and the situation in Turkey and Ukraine, to the uncertainties following the UK referendum on leaving the EU, the economic difficulties persisting in many Member States, and more general questions on the future path of the EU. The State of the Union speech by the President of the European Commission constitutes an important instrument for ex-ante accountability vis-à-vis Parliament but it is also aimed at rendering the definition of priorities at EU level more transparent and at communicating those priorities to citizens. It resembles similar speeches in national democracies. The United States for instance has a long-standing tradition of presidential State of the Union addresses, in which the President speaks in the Capitol to a joint session of Congress, thus fulfilling his constitutional obligation. In contrast to the US Constitution, the EU Treaties do not prescribe the State of the Union address, which was instigated with the 2010 Framework agreement between Parliament and the Commission. José Manuel Barroso gave four State of the Union speeches from 2010 to 2013, marked mainly by the economic and financial crisis. Last year’s speech by President Jean-Claude Juncker took place in a wider context of political agenda-setting that started with the Spitzenkandidaten process in the run-up to the 2014 European elections, the election of the Commission President and the adoption of the 2015 Commission Work Programme. The 2016 debate marks in contrast the second year of the Juncker Commission, with President Juncker’s ten priorities, around which the Commission organises its work, increasingly being the basis on which the delivery of the Commission is examined. This briefing updates an earlier one, from September 2015. See also our briefing from then on 'The US President's State of the Union Address'.