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Setting Europe in Motion: President-elect Juncker’s Main Messages from his speech before the European Parliament

Jean-Claude Juncker | President-elect of the European Commission | Statement in the European Parliament plenary session ahead of the vote on the College | Strasbourg, 22 October 2014

Time for Action

“From Ukraine to Syria, to the Middle East and North Africa, our neighbourhood remains shaky and unstable. Scores of immigrants arriving at Europe’s external frontiers in search of a better future remind us of the need to reconcile the quest of solidarity with the demand for safe borders. And cross-border health threats like the Ebola epidemic have seized citizens with an understandable degree of fear.

We cannot and will not sweep these mounting problems under the carpet. We cannot and will not turn a blind eye. That is why I insist that the time for European action is now. That is why I state loud and clear in front of this House that Europe’s problems cannot be put on the back burner.”

Breaking out of Silo Mentalities

“When I presented my new team on 10 September, I wanted to show that I wish to deliver quickly and effectively. That is why my Commission will not only look different but will also work differently. Not as the sum of its parts, but as a team. Not through silo mentalities, clusters and portfolio frontiers, but as a collegiate, political body. I want a political, executive Commission at the service of the common good and of Europe’s citizens.”

Addressing Concerns

“The hearings have revealed a broad consensus around the team that I have proposed. You have, however, also expressed some concerns – during the hearings and in your contacts with me. I am ready to swiftly address the issues that you identified as relevant to the functioning of the new Commission.

I listened to you carefully and will briefly explain how I want to address your concerns on a number of issues:

  • A new Slovenian Commissioner, Violeta Bulc, passed her hearing in record time. This was possible thanks to the portfolio changes completed without any delay. Violeta will be responsible for the Transport portfolio, while Maroš Šefčovič, an experienced member of the outgoing Commission, will be Vice-President in charge of Energy Union.
  • I have decided to enlarge Frans Timmermans’ remit to include the horizontal responsibility for sustainable development. As you know, sustainable development is a principle enshrined in the EU Treaties (Article 3 TEU) and should thus be taken into account by all institutions in all their actions and policies. It is also part of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights for which Frans is horizontally in charge. Sustainability and environmental concerns are important to our citizens. We have the tools to address them in the new Commission: with powerful green portfolios that have big budgets and regulatory teeth.
  • Responsibility for medicines and pharmaceutical products will stay with the Directorate-General for Health because I agree with you that medicines are not goods like any other. The relevant policy will be developed jointly by Vytenis Andriukaitis and by Elżbieta Bieńkowska, who showed her incredible talents in her hearing.
  • Space policy can make an important contribution to the further development of a strong industrial basis in Europe – one of the priorities of my Commission. It is for this reason that I have decided it will remain in the remit of the Directorate-General for the Internal Market and Industry, in the safe hands of Elżbieta Bieńkowska.
  • Last but not least, I have decided to place Citizenship under the responsibility of Dimitris Avramopoulos Commissioner in charge of Migration and Home Affairs – issues, very close to the heart of Europe’s citizens – who will work in close cooperation on this matter with Justice and Consumers Commissioner Vera Jourova. I wish at the same time to reiterate my confidence and trust in Tibor Navracsics who performed excellently in his hearing and demonstrated a strong European commitment – which is why you considered him qualified as Commissioner.”

Investor-to-state disputes

I took note of the intense debates around investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations. Let me once again state my position clearly, that I had set out on 15 July in front of this House and that you will find in my Political Guidelines: My Commission will not accept that the jurisdiction of courts in the EU Member States be limited by special regimes for investor-to-state disputes. The rule of law and the principle of equality before the law must also apply in this context.

The negotiating mandate foresees a number of conditions that have to be respected by such a regime as well as an assessment of its relationship with domestic courts. There is thus no obligation in this regard: the mandate leaves it open and serves as a guide.

I had thought my commitment on this point was very clear but I am happy to clarify and reiterate it here today as a number of you have asked me do so: In the agreement that my Commission will eventually submit to this House for approval there will be nothing that limits for the parties the access to national courts or that will allow secret courts to have the final say in disputes between investors and States.

I have asked Frans Timmermans, in his role as First Vice-President in charge of the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, to advise me on the matter. There will be no investor-to-state dispute clause in TTIP if Frans does not agree with it too.

I am confident that – with your support – we can negotiate an ambitious trade agreement with the U.S. along these lines, with full respect of European interests and the rule of law.

Bridging the Investment Gap

“Let me be clear when I say that my Commission, like every Commission before it, will treat Member States equally. And we will be tough when we need to be tough. It is time we had a real ‘grand bargain’, a broad coalition of countries and the main political parties who will work together on a three pillar structure: structural reforms, fiscal credibility and investment.

The response to the current economic challenges cannot be top-down. I do not believe in miracles – there is no magic bullet or growth button to push in Brussels. Structural reforms, fiscal credibility and investment at national and EU level have to go hand in hand.”

“The level of investment in the EU dropped by just under €500 billion, or 20%, after its latest peak in 2007. We are facing an investment gap. We have to work to bridge that gap.

Europe can help make this happen. As you know, I intend to present an ambitious €300 billion Investment package for Jobs, Growth and Competitiveness.

I will not now tell you all the details of what this package will contain. How can I when my new Team has yet to even meet to discuss it?

You will just have to have a little faith. You have my word that my College will start working on this day and night from the moment we take office.

If you give us your support today, we will present the Package before Christmas. This is not a promise, it is an affirmation.”

The First legislative initiatives of the Juncker Commission

“Every day, Europe is losing out by not unlocking the great potential of our huge digital single market. Jobs that should be there are not being created. Ideas – the DNA of Europe’s economy! – do not materialise to the extent they should. Let us change this for the better.”

“In tomorrow’s increasingly competitive world, Europe will only be able to thrive if we get it right on Energy Union.

In view of the discussions that will take place in the coming days on this, I would plead with Member States to find an agreement in the European Council so that we can go to Paris with a clear mandate. We all have to be pulling in the same direction if progress is to be made.”


“Citizens are losing faith, extremists on the left and right are nipping at our heels, our competitors are taking liberties. It is time we breathed a new lease of life into the European project.

Huge challenges await us. It is up to us to shape these challenges. If we want a role to play in the future we have to play it now. It is up to us to ensure that the handwriting of the European Social Model is clearly visible in everything we do. Because Europe is the protective shield for all of us who can call this magnificent continent their home.

I stand here in front of you, in this House that is the beacon of European democracy, and call upon you to set Europe in motion again.”