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Friday 22 August 2014

Juncker calls for €300bn stimulus as he's elected to top European job

Tom Korkemeier 
and Colm Kelpie

Published 16/07/2014 | 00:00

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Newly elected European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker
Newly elected European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker

NEWLY-installed European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker has called for a €300bn public-private investment programme to help kick-start the sluggish European economy and create jobs.

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The controversial candidate was confirmed as president by the European Parliament yesterday as he called for a "reindustrialisation" of Europe.

He promised a work programme due to be delivered in February that would outline investments in energy, transport and broadband networks as well as the development of industry clusters.

The former Luxembourg prime minister was backed by a majority of MEPs at a hearing in Strasbourg as he cleared the final hurdle to take on the top job in Europe, which was held by Jose Manuel Barroso.

"I don't want a Europe that just watches others while they are acting, sits there twiddling its thumbs while others move ahead," Mr Juncker said.

"I want a Europe that is at centre stage."

Mr Juncker told MEPs that the investment programme would draw upon the European Investment Bank, the private sector and existing budget resources without impacting on the bloc's strict rules on budget deficits and debt reduction.

Belying his reputation as a grey back-room fixer, Mr Juncker - whose candidacy was vehemently opposed by British prime m inister David Cameron - spoke with passion of his ambition to "reindustrialise" Europe and put the European Union's 25 million unemployed, many of them young, back into work.

Mr Juncker acknowledged many Europeans had lost confidence in the EU and said only economic results and full employment, not endless debate over EU institutions, would restore their trust.

Eurosceptic parties topped May's European Parliament elections in France and Britain and won more than a quarter of the seats in the Strasbourg-based assembly.

In a secret ballot, the EU assembly approved Mr Juncker by 422 votes to 250, with 47 abstentions and 10 spoiled ballots.

Mr Juncker sought to reassure Germany and other north European fiscal hawks that the 28-nation bloc's strict rules on budget deficits and debt reduction would be maintained.

However, his emphasis on public investment, reaffirmation of a target of raising industry to 20pc of EU economic output and his call for a minimum wage in each EU country, were designed to appeal to the left.

To British sceptics demanding a return of powers from Brussels to national capitals, he declared that Europe could not be built against nation states.

At a hearing last week Mr Juncker said austerity and budget discipline must be maintained in Europe.

Mr Juncker - backed by Angela Merkel for the top European job - said anybody who believes austerity is finished was wrong.

Irish Independent

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