Juncker rallies support for EU in State of Union address

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European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, September 9, 2015. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

Jean-Claude Juncker is expected to urge unity within the EU when he delivers Wednesday’s keenly anticipated State of the Union speech. It’s the first time he’ll be outlining policies for the union since Brexit.

European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker was set to unveil plans to boost prosperity and security in the European Union, a project that has been shaken by a number of challenges – not least Britain’s vote to leave the bloc.

The annual speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg comes two days before the 27 EU leaders meet for a special summit on the future of the EU in Bratislava.

Juncker’s spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, said it was a “big European week” and added that the Commission chief would be “working for the unity of our member states, delivering for citizens.”

Juncker is expected to propose a major extension to the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), as well as a new fund to foster the private sector in Africa as way of curbing emigration to Europe. He is also expected to focus on the digital economy and measures to help young people hit by the eurozone debt crisis in southern Europe.

The speech by the 61-year-old head of the EU’s executive arm aims to set the scene for Friday’s summit with a “positive agenda for the coming 12 months – backed by concrete proposals,” according to a Commission official.

EU leaders are trying to establish stability after the UK’s decision to become the first country to leave the bloc on June 23. Apart from moving forward without Britain, EU countries are also grappling to tackle an increasing terror threat and the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War.

At the Bratislava summit, leaders are set to start working on a roadmap for the future, including a joint initiative by France and Germany for a “more active” European defense policy without Britain.

In a summit invitation letter published late Tuesday, EU President Donald Tusk said it would be a “fatal error” for the EU to ignore the lessons of Brexit, adding that Bratislava should be a “turning point” for securing the EU’s borders.

nm/kms (Reuters, AFP)

 

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