Thursday 30 March 2017

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker wants still more unity

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivers his State of the Union address (AP)
EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivers his State of the Union address (AP)

The EU needs to unite to move forward in the face of widespread opposition to more powers being centralised in Brussels, the European Commission president said on Wednesday.

Jean-Claude Juncker said in his State of the European Union address to the European Parliament that the EU "still does not have enough Union".

He said that EU integration cannot be for individual member states to manage alone, and insisted that "too often national interests are brought to the fore".

Mr Juncker's speech has been hotly anticipated for weeks as the EU struggles with multiple crises, including the influx of migrants over the past year and the shock June referendum in Britain to leave the EU, the first member state ever to walk away.

Britain still has to officially trigger the exit negotiations and Mr Juncker said "we would be happy if the request for Brexit could happen as quickly as possible so that we could take the specific steps which need to happen".

There are fears the EU is facing paralysis until Britain decides to move.

Mr Juncker also warned that Britain should expect not to get the same access to the EU's unified market as if nothing had happened.

"There can be no a la carte access to the single market," he warned.

The British exit has given rise to much soul-searching among the remaining 27 nations, and their leaders will meet in Bratislava on Friday to plot the way ahead.

It has already been cast as a fight between those backing less Europe - exemplified by several eastern nations - and those who still want to forge ahead with more unity.

As such, Mr Juncker's centralised EU Commission has come under pressure, accused of being a power grabber at the expense of the freedoms of the member nations.

"People in Europe don't want this petty envy between the various institutions," he said. "They want results. The next 12 months are decisive if we want to realise our union."

AP

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