“We need more Europe in our Union, We need more Union in our Union,” Juncker said, early in his speech. The President brought to the European Parliament hemicycle in Strasbourg one thing that was missing even more: More vision, in our union.
“No wind favours he who has no destined port,” Juncker said, quoting one of the most significant philosophers of the French Renaissance, Michel de Montaigne, and pointing to the Union’s greatest problem: a crisis of identity, in a Europe that has no long-term collective targets and ambitions.
Juncker mapped the EU’s destined port, and brought a European vision back to the heart of Europe, after ten years of the struggling (non-)leadership of José Manuel Barroso. A leadership which led to a European Union “Where solidarity had started to fray at the seams. Where old daemons sought to resurface,” as Juncker said.
European citizens now look to a Europe that is going to lead the way on climate change. A Europe that will claim its place in the world’s economy with a more unified voice, and a truly pan-european labour market. A Europe that protects its citizens savings at the EU level, and with a single currency that is stable and strong. A Europe that will not be afraid to take historical responsibility to share the economic and even structural burden of crises around the world, when it comes to saving human lives. A Union which will be fair to all its members, with the question of Britain’s slow pace of EU integration properly addressed.
Perhaps one of the boldest statements of the President, was one that reaffirms Europe’s position on the world map of international conflict resolution. Juncker told the European Parliament, and the world:
“We have more than 40 active conflicts in the world at the moment. While these conflicts rage, whilst families are broken and homes reduced to rubble, I cannot come to you, almost 60 years after the birth of the European Union and pitch you peace. For the world is not at peace.”
Juncker implied with these words, that the EU is going to have an ever-stronger role to actively play on the world stage. While to some that might be worrying when combined with his threat towards Russia, that, “The EU must … make clear it is prepared to engage,” Juncker’s delivery sought to bring new impetus in Europe’s resolve to solve crises. Crises, which are destroying homes, and less altruistically, causing massive influx of migrants and refugees to Europe. Not only was President Juncker giving Europe strength, but a humanity which the EU has lacked in its mainly technocratic number-crunching modus vivendi of the last 60 years.
A closing thought. Juncker made it clear, in his closing, that he is seeking to build a legacy for future generations; to mark this moment time as a turning point for the EU; to build European history.
Juncker was the longest-serving head of any national government in the EU, and one of the longest-serving democratically elected leaders in the world, by the time he left office. He’s done it all, and wants only one thing, as echoed in the last words of his speech: For “our grandchildren” to feel “pride”.