Juncker: EU must become a true global player

The European Union must strengthen its efforts to become a world power, EC President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Wednesday in his State of the Union address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. “Whenever Europe speaks as one, we can impose our position on others,” he pointed out adding that “the geopolitical situation makes this Europe's hour”.

Juncker, who is entering his final year as EC president, urged EU states to rein in angry divisions over budgets, immigration and other issues in order to capitalise on a chance to shape the world. He made no direct comment on Trump's policy but aides said the geopolitical situation he spoke of was a US retreat into what Juncker described elsewhere in the speech as “selfish unilateralism”.

In repeating his support for deeper economic integration, he also pushed the idea that the euro should challenge the dollar as the world's leading currency, calling it “absurd” that the EU pays for most of its energy in the US currency despite buying it mainly from the likes of Russia and the Gulf states. He said airlines should also buy planes priced in euros not dollars.

Juncker renewed calls for states to push ahead in developing an EU defence capability independent of the US-led NATO alliance and to embrace Africa through investment and a sweeping new free trade area, part of a strategy to curb the flow of poor African migrants which has set EU governments at each other's throats and fuelled a sharp rise in anti-EU nationalism

With an eye on next May European elections, Juncker proposed new vigilance, and penalties, for attempts to manipulate voters. As the centenary nears of the end of World War One, he recalled how Europeans were taken totally by surprise by its outbreak and urged more respect for the EU as a force for peace against nationalistic “poison and deceit”.

He also spoke with regret about Britain's impending exit from the bloc which will mark his five-year mandate and warned PM Theresa May that the EU would not compromise its single market to let London pick and choose which rules to obey.

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