POLITICS & POLICY
On Thursday September 14, Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker delivered his 2016 State of the European Union speech. Juncker touched on many topics ranging from Brexit to the migration crisis, from the importance of investments to the issue of security and defence along European borders. In a key passage of his speech, Juncker addressed the importance of preserving a fair social playground for the development of a true European social market economy. “Solidarity is the true glue that keeps our Union together”, he claimed, adding that the Commission is expecting to set up a European Solidarity Corps by the end of the year aimed at increasing transnational shared human and working experiences.
In the meantime the refugee crisis continues to tear the continent apart. According to Die Welt, Viktor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister, stated that “Nichilist personalities have occupied the European elites […] They use the migration crisis with the aim of destroying the nation state based on Christianity”. More importantly, on the occasion of a Polish television debate, Orban vowed to kick off a “Cultural counterrevolution” hand in hand with his Polish colleague and Prime Minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Martin Schulz reacted to the Hungarian PM’s statement by saying that “he doesn’t understand” the meaning behind Orban’s words.
To make matters worse, over the week Hungarian and Luxembourger politicians have been involved in a harsh exchange of views on the refugee crisis. In the run-up to the referendum on migrant quotas which will be held in Hungary on October 2–the Hungarian population will be asked whether it accepts the relocation of refugees to its country on the base of EU institutional agreements–Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister, Jean Asselborn, claimed that Hungary should be expelled from the EU on the base of its attitudes towards migrants. Hungarian Foreign Minister, Peter Szijjarto, responded in kind, accusing his colleague of being “arrogant, and frustrated”. “He’s not a politician that needs to be taken seriously”, he added. The conflict escalated while European institutions decided to cut 2017 budgetary funds to poor regions in Eastern Europe in order to increase spending on migrants.
Meanwhile, Odyssea Voudouris, Greece’s General Secretary for refugees in the Interior Ministry, resigned his position because of growing tensions linked to the integration of refugees in national schools. According to the Greek newspaper Ekathimerini, more than 60,000 migrants are stranded on Greek islands. However, a positive message came from Germany, where Bärbel Kofler, the Federal Commissioner for Human Rights, vowed to swiftly and better welcome migrants coming from Greece. At the same time, the Rumanian Prime Minister, Dacian Cioloș, called for better controls at the borders of Europe. “We have to stop uncontrolled immigration”, he said.
Discussions on post-Brexit scenarios continue to be a big part of the European public debate. The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, sent a letter to the European heads of State gathering in Bratislava later this week, in which he urged all European leaders to learn the necessary lessons from Brexit, and to take a “coolheaded” approach in the negotiations with the UK. Negotiations, he wrote, should be aimed at finalizing a deal that is in line with the provisions of European treaties. Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, seems to have already drawn clear consequences from the EU-referendum. On Tuesday, he stated that the EU has no more authority to push for further integration at this point. On the same day, the European Commission Chief Brexit negotiator, warned that “talks with the UK will be though”, mirroring the declarations made by David Davis, the British Brexit Minister, earlier this week. Moreover, on Tuesday, Davis admitted that the House of Lords could have the power to hinder the activation of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, and thus an effective exit from the Union. The Brexit Secretary also called for the upper House to accept new legislation enabling a clean withdrawal from the EU.
“The internal market is not a place where Eastern European workers can be exploited or subjected to lower social standards. Europe is not the Wild West, but a social market economy”.
Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission delivering his 2016 State of the Union speech in the European Parliament.
The amount that the European Investment fund should reach by 2022, according to Jean-Claude Juncker.
The number of refugees that have been rejected by Germany since the beginning of the migration crisis.
Source: Die Welt
Photo Credits CC: euranet_plus