Big on big issues, modest and small on small things
EC President Jean-Claude Juncker addressed Wallonia and Flanders parliaments
Maria Koleva, Brussels
11 May, 2018
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker never misses opportunity to pay tribute to Belgium and its people for hosting the European institutions. He expressed it very clearly a week ago during the debate on the future of Europe with Belgium's Prime Minister Charles Michel, saying that Belgium “welcomes us with great hospitality and generosity”.
And it was not a surprise that for marking Europe Day, he decided to address both the Wallonia and Flemish parliaments of Belgium. On 8 May he was at the Parliament of Wallonia, in Namur, and on 9 May he addressed members of the Flemish Parliament, in Brussels.
He also met with the Minister-President of Wallonia Willy Borsus and with Minister-President of Flanders Geert Bourgeois.
Addressing the Flemish parliament, prior to presenting the draft EU long-term budged and explaining the priorities for a Europe that protects, empowers and defends, he underlined that he placed a great importance on the dialogue with the national and regional parliaments. When I took the office, I told the Commissioners not to stay locked at the 'Berlaymont bunker' but to travel across Europe and talk to the citizens. He stressed that so far he and the commissioners have held over 500 Citizens' Dialogues and on 778 occasions visited the national and regional assemblies in all 28 EU countries.
Repeating the leitmotiv that “Europe has to be big on big things and small and modest on small things”, he pointed out that the current Commission is putting on the table 21 initiatives per year, compared with the previous Commission that presented about 130 initiatives each year.
It is not my vision that the EU should become a United States of Europe, he also told lawmakers. On the investment plan that he proposed three and a half years ago, he noted that firstly all called it Juncker Plan, just to identify who should be responsible when it fails. But as it works well, now it is called simply European Fund for Strategic Investments, “but it is exactly one and the same thing,” Juncker said. Till now, this plan has generated investments of €285bn in 27 countries and its level by 2020 will reach €500bn. In Belgium, up to now were mobilised €6bn under this plan.
He reassured Wallonia parliamentarians that the 5% cut in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) proposed in the EU budget for 2021-2027 “is not a massacre”, and after the reduction €365bn will be available to prop up the sector. He specified that CAP is re-profiled as to help the small farms and dismiss spending for example “on bike paths in Bavaria”. He also clarified that the suggested new element of flexibility will allow governments and national authorities to navigate between the two pillars - direct payment and the rural development and sustainable development, and according to their priorities they can blend the two pillars.
Focusing on the huge growth potential of the Digital Single Market, he stated that in the future it can contribute to the European economy with €435bn per year. He highlighted also the key tasks concerning Energy Union and the Capital Market Union.