State of the Union debate: Strengthen EU as a global player 

Press Releases 
Plenary session 
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivering his last State of the Union speech in the European Parliament © European Union 2018  

President Juncker called for the EU to speak and act as one on a global stage, defend its democratic values and turn its back on poisonous nationalism.

“The EU is a global payer, but must also become a global player”, said Jean-Claude Juncker in his speech on the State of the Union 2018. “There are no guarantees that our allies of yesterday will remain our allies of tomorrow”, he added, announcing further proposals to strengthen the Defence Union, step up protection of EU external borders and reinforcethe Euro as an international currency. ”It is absurd that the EU pays 80 % of its bill for energy imports in dollars...whilst only 2% of those energy imports come from the US”, he said.

Juncker highlighted the difference between enlightened patriotism and unhealthy nationalism. “Article 7, must be activated where media freedom and the rule of law are under threat”, he said. “There is no democracy without a free press. (...) Respecting judiciary decisions is not an option, but an obligation”. Europe must also shield its democratic process from international and private interests.

EP President Antonio Tajani said: "The European Parliament wants, more than ever, to be at the heart of democracy. We need to give the power of initiative to the European Parliament. We are the only Parliament in the world that cannot initiate legislation. "

"As for Africa, EU action is going in the right direction, but more resources are needed: at least 50 billion euros, to offer opportunities to Africans in their homeland and to stop migration.", he added.

Click on speakers’ names to view individual statements.

Jean-Claude JUNCKER, President of the Commission (part 1)

Jean-Claude JUNCKER, President of the Commission (part 2)

Jean-Claude JUNCKER, President of the Commission (part 3)

Remarks by Antonio TAJANI, European Parliament President

Manfred WEBER (EPP,DE): Beyond successes like a stable growth rate in the EU, reduced migration or a united Europe in the face of Brexit, Weber wants a “new fair deal” for Europe: “Europe cannot be called united if living standards are not equal.” He also called for swifter decision-making by increasing voting by qualified majority in the Council: “Europe is an economic giant, but also has to become a political one!”

Udo BULLMANN (S&D, DE) acknowledged Juncker’s “political” leadership of the Commission, but did not share Weber’s positive assessment. “We are still in a transformational period, in crisis”. He called for a new compact for central Europe focusing on safe energy and cohesion and a new masterplan for the South, focusing on youth employment. “But we also have to look North”, referring to Brexit and Swedish elections.

Ryszard Antoni LEGUTKO (ECR, PL) viewed Juncker's investment plan positively while he labelled the EU migration policy as a failure. “The real question is if the EU is in a better shape now than when you took up office four years ago and the answer is “no”, he said, pointing out East-West and South-North divisions.

Guy VERHOFSTADT (ALDE, BE) emphasised that “the real question is if we can put the legacy of the current Commission into practice?” He called on “all pro-Europeans to be united against alt-right and authoritarian tendencies” and wants measures to be tabled by the Commission to protect European elections from foreign meddling.

Ska KELLER (Greens/EFA, DE) stated that the EU and its citizens “can be strong if we don’t make ourselves weak”. On climate change, in her view the biggest challenge of today, the Commission is “too timid”, for example by not going far enough in the proposed long-term EU budget and in the reform of the EU’s agricultural policy.

Gabriele ZIMMER (GUE/NGL, DE) deplored that decent levels of prosperity have still not been reached in many EU countries following the financial crisis, with people not benefitting from growth and workers’ rights being cut. She deplored too much “crisis management to the detriment of the poorest”.

Nigel FARAGE (EFDD, UK) said Juncker’s speech was a call for more centralisation of power, ignoring the “populist revolt” in many member states. He encouraged the Commission to strive for a free trade deal “Canada+ style” with the UK.

Nicolas BAY (ENF, FR) called the Commission’s action “opaque, anti-democratic and punishing”, with regard to Poland, Hungary and the UK. He outlined his group’s opposition to international free trade agreements.

Catch up with the entire debate