European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker outlined his post-Brexit vision for a confident EU in his state of the union address on Wednesday (14 September), speaking of a Europe that has bounced back from the economic downturn and regained the political ground from populists and eurosceptics.
Juncker, in his second to last state of the union speech, has argued for a more united and effective EU that is based on freedom, equality and the rule of law, and signalled that he wants all EU countries to become full eurozone and Schengen area members by 2019 - except those with opt-outs.
He described a post-Brexit EU with all member states part of the banking union, where there are funds to protect the euro, reinforced social standards, and a defence union. He also wants to see the EU take on a stronger role internationally.
In a personal tone, Juncker told MEPs in Strasbourg that the "wind is back in Europe's sails", but warned that the "window of opportunity" for reforms and winning the hearts and minds of citizens will not stay open forever.
"We have been slowly but surely gathering momentum," said Juncker in his speech, while playing down the issue of Brexit - only specifically mentioning it an hour into his address.
He proposed a special EU summit in Sibiu, Romania, on 30 March 2019 - one day after the UK leaves the bloc - to take decisions on the reformed EU.
One of his other key ideas is to merge the presidencies of the European Commission and the European Council into a single position, in order to have one clear leader of the EU.
"Europe would be easier to understand if one captain was steering the ship," he argued.
In Juncker's vision, the presidential candidate should be allowed to campaign in the European elections, but he fell short of backing transnational lists of MEPs.
Juncker advocated for deepening the integration of the euro area, and called on non-euro member states to join the single currency by 2019.
He argued for a European minister of economy and finance but said it should not be a new position, instead only a reinforced EU commissioner post.
The commission president, however, did not support the idea of a euro area budget and eurozone-parliament.
Juncker Unveils Grand Vision For A United States Of Europe
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker delivered his annual state of the union address on Wednesday, in which he laid out his grand vision for federalist Europe, and urged European Union governments to use economic recovery (i.e., Mario Draghi's nationalization of the bond market), the political weakness in the US and Brexit as "springboards" toward a closer union, built on an expanded euro zone and a pivotal role in world trade. The allegedly unintoxicated Juncker sketched out a vision of a post-2019 EU where 30 countries would be using the euro, with an EU finance minister running key budgets to help states in trouble.
Among the key proposals put forward by the EU Commission president were compulsory Euro membership for the remaining eight European states outside the bloc, for new countries to join the Schengen zone, plans for closer defensive cooperation leading to the creation of a European army in the next decade and easier ratification of EU-wide trade treaties with foreign powers. Tax and welfare standards would converge and Europe, not the United States, would be the hub of a free-trading world.
In short, a blueprint for a United States of Europe.
Some promptly backed Juncker's blueprint: German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said that Juncker’s plan to build a closer European Union based on an expanded euro zone was largely in line with Germany’s vision for the bloc. The German also said that Juncker had discussed with Chancellor Angela Merkel his annual State of the EU speech in which he spoke of a vision of a post-2019 EU where some 30 countries would be using the euro.
Desperate to put the Brexit humiliation in the rearview mirror, Juncker said that “we will keep moving on because Brexit isn’t everything, it is not the future of Europe," Brexit supporters promptly said his speech showed they were right to take Britain out of a bloc set on creating more powerful, central institutions. The most predictable opponent of the hour-long speech, met with stirring applause by a mostly zombified audience, was UK MEP Nigel Farage.
"The message is very clear: Brexit has happened, new steam ahead… More Europe in every single direction and all to be done without the consent of the people,” Farage told the floor.
“The way you’re treating Hungary and Poland already must remind them of living under the Soviet communists. All I can say is thank God we’re leaving because you’ve learned nothing from Brexit.
However, the most focused and principled attack on Juncker’s plans came from Harald Vilimsky, of Austria’s Freedom Party, which prompted Juncker to leave mid-speech, and once again demonstrated the deep splinters within the core of the Union, splinters which make the integration Juncker is seeking impossible.
“What Mr Junker wants de facto is to force the European union into a single state, and we know that the euro is not a success story. The second thing Mr Junker wants is de facto to actually get rid of all the internal borders, we see 10,000, 100,000, millions of African and Arabs are going to be coming to our continent,” said Vilimsky, who serves as the vice-chair of the Europe of Nations and Freedom party within the European Parliament.
“They talk about having a defense union, but no we don’t want that. What we want is Austrians, we’re a neutral country in Austria, we do not want to participate in the defense union. The right road for Europe can only be the road where there is more democracy left to the people, more democracy left to the citizens where people can vote whether or not they want to have Schengen maintained or not, whether they want their borders or not. The vote has to be left to the citizen.”
North Korea vowed on Wednesday to accelerate its weapons programs in response to what it termed "evil" sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council following its latest and most powerful nuclear test, AFP reported.
The U.S.-drafted UN resolution, passed on Monday, bans textile exports, cuts off natural gas shipments to North Korea, places a ceiling on deliveries of refined oil products and caps crude oil shipments at their current level.
It also bars countries from issuing new work permits to North Korean laborers sent abroad and seeks to phase out the practice by asking countries to report on the date for ending existing contracts.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday the latest UN sanctions on North Korea are only a very small step and “are nothing compared to what ultimately will have to happen.” He did not elaborate.
The resolution passed after Washington toned down its original proposals to secure backing from China and Russia, came just one month after the council banned exports of coal, lead and seafood in response to North Korea’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The North's foreign ministry on Tuesday condemned the new measures "in the strongest terms", calling them a "full-scale economic blockade" driven by the U.S. and aimed at "suffocating" its state and people.
"The DPRK will redouble the efforts to increase its strength to safeguard the country's sovereignty and right to existence," the ministry said, using the abbreviation for the North's official name.
Relatively few Americans know many details about how a war between North Korean, the US, South Korean and United Nations force would look. One of them is Rob Givens, who served as the deputy assistant chief of staff for operations of U.S. Forces Korea and as special assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He shares the outlines of what would be a grim struggle, with tens of thousands dead or wounded each day on both sides — and that’s well before anyone who might go mad and use a nuclear weapon. Here’s some of what Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are likely to tell lawmakers on Wednesday. Read on. The Editor.
We often hear war with North Korea is “unimaginable,” but, as North Korea presses ahead with its nuclear and missile tests, the unimaginable is becoming more possible. Gen. Joe Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and President Trump’s top uniformed military advisor, described the potential conflict as, “horrific.” So what would this no-longer-so-unimaginable war look like?
Thousands of aircraft will wage an epic battle across the entire Korean Peninsula. The two American Air Force fighter wings—100-plus fighter aircrafts permanently stationed there — accompanied by our South Korean partners would fight the opening minutes, striking against the North’s aged, but plentiful air forces while also bombing Kim Jong-un’s missiles and artillery.
If the North gains the initiative, we will have to accept higher risk going after targets before establishing our air superiority — meaning we will suffer higher losses. In short order, the air forces in South Korea would be joined by U.S. Navy, Marine, and Air Force fighters from Okinawa and Japan. U.S. bombers from around the globe would also be called in. Every square foot of North Korea would be in range.
North Korea’s casualties would be appalling. The estimates are that we would inflict 20,000 casualties on the North each day of combat.
Allied naval forces would begin the difficult task of hunting for and safe-guarding against the 70-plus North Korean submarines. These would be small, but deadly engagements as our naval forces maneuvered within range of North Korean anti-ship missile batteries. Despite our clear superiority in naval forces, the allied side would lose ships and, most unfortunately, sailors. North Korean mines, torpedoes, and anti-ship missiles would present a direct threat to commercial shipping, making it risky to evacuate foreign national civilians by sea.
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