Chapter News

Remarks by President Jean-Claude Juncker at the Panel discussion on the “State of the European Union” with European Parliament President Schulz, European Council President Tusk and Prime Minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi

Dear friends,

I was a member of the Council of Ministers for 30 years. I was Prime Minister of my country for 19 years and so I can say, without being arrogant, that I have experienced European daily life in different functions. Why is it so difficult now?

It was never easy. But what has changed is the general atmosphere and the personal beliefs and convictions of those being in charge of the European projects.

In former times, we were working together, I remember the highly exciting period when we were preparing the Maastricht Treaty and when, step by step, we were moving into the direction of the single currency.

Of course we had our debates. But nevertheless, there was this shared sentiment among the Finance Ministers – and later on the Prime Ministers – that we were in charge of a big piece of History.

This has totally gone.

The other day I was saying that we have full-time Europeans when it comes to taking, and we have part-time Europeans when it comes to giving. In former times, all those implied in the project were full-time Europeans. Now we have too many part-time Europeans.

That is a problem because some of our colleagues in the European Council are listening exclusively to their national opinion, but not only in the European Council, the Parliament is not really better than the European Council – the Commission, of course, is something different. And if you are listening to your national opinion, you are not developing what should be common European sense: a feeling for the need we have to put together our efforts.

President of the President of the European University Institute in Florence (EUI),  Joseph H. H. Weiler: Why are the demagogues succeeding in our Member States? And why are these populous movements, which are becoming mainstream in some countries, also becoming at the same time anti-European?

President Juncker: We are observing an increasing gap between public opinions and the European policy-makers. Unfortunately there is no European public opinion; the public opinions are still divided in national categories.

When we were campaigning – Martin and myself – we were saying when it came to migration that this is a European problem. In spring 2014, it was an Italian problem, a Maltese problem… It was not a Greek or Turkish problem. And both of us were saying we need a European response because we cannot let Italy alone. Everyone in Europe was applauding. Nobody objected.

When, as the President of the Commission, I was trying to bring acts and words on a coherent line, when we were proposing our migration agenda, suddenly we rediscovered that not everyone who was applauding was sharing our views.

The reason to explain the gap between public opinions and the doings and the takings of the policy-makers is that we are not speaking, when we are speaking of Europe, in a proper way. Even the most convinced Europeans, from time to time, when they have to explain European decisions, are explaining it on the basis of national reflexes, national reactions.

President of the EUI Joseph H. H. Weiler: Mister Juncker, being President of the Commission, having gone through the ‘Spitzenkandidaten’ exercise, has it made a difference to how you feel about your function, to its legitimacy – has it made a difference?

President Juncker: Jetzt haben wir durch die Spitzenkandidaten mehr Transparenz in die Entscheidungsprozesse gebracht. Ich glaube, das wurde von vielen, auch Regierungschefs, unterschätzt, dass dem Europäischen Parlament hier neue Rechte regelrecht zuschwommen sind, von denen einige Regierungschefs dachten, sie wären bei ihnen geblieben. Und es hat sich in den zwei, drei ersten Tagen nach der Wahl bewahrheitet, dass eine neue Ära angebrochen ist.

Die Bürger Europas wissen nächstes Mal – weil sich das jetzt herum gesprochen hat – wer Sozialisten wählt, kriegt den, wer Christdemokraten und Konservative oder andere wählt, kriegt den.

Und für den Kommissionspräsident macht das schon einen Unterschied, durch eine Wahlprozedur gegangen zu sein, in fast allen europäischen Ländern Wahlkampagnen geführt zu haben, auf fast allen europäischen Fernsehsendern Farbe bekannt zu haben und dann vom Europäischen Parlament gewählt zu werden, dessen Mitglieder ja auch ihre nationalen Souveräne repräsentieren.

Diese Prozedur, und auch das Bekenntnis des Europäischen Parlamentes zu dem logischen Ergebnis zu dem diese Prozedur geführt hat, hat die Position des Kommissionspräsidenten sehr gestärkt.

Ich habe dem Parlament gesagt: “Ich bin nicht der Sklave des Rates, aber auch nicht der Lakai des Europäischen Parlamentes.” So einen tollkühnen Satz kann man nur sagen, wenn man sich von einer breiten Mehrheit des Parlamentes getragen fühlt.


Compliments of the European Commission