Juncker proposes a European Social Standards Union

In his state of the Union speech, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker made a strong call for European unity and a positive agenda at the benefit of EU citizens, despite current challenges. To avoid social fragmentation and social dumping in Europe, he proposed that Europe should establish a European Social Standards Union, beginning with an agreement by Member States on the European Pillar of Social Rights. With regards to employment, Juncker insisted that there should be no second class workers and suggested to create a common European Labour Authority to assure fairness in the single market and the respect of labour mobility rules.

Mr Juncker started his annual state of the union speech at the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 13 September by claiming that “the wind is back in Europe’s sails” in light of the current positive growth and employment trends. He argued for using the current window of opportunity to move forward in the framework of a “sixth scenario”. Repeating his criticism of “EU-bashing”, he said that everyone gets credit when the economic outlook is good, but only Brussels gets blamed when it’s bad.

In his one hour speech, the Commission President outlined five priority areas for EU action.

With regards to trade, he laid out conditions for future agreements, including social, environmental, data protection and food safety standards. Remarkably, he called for a new framework for investment screening to assure the defence of EU’s strategic interests.

To increase European competitiveness, he announced a new industrial policy strategy for Europe to become the world leader in innovation, digitisation and decarbonisation.

As far as migration is concerned, he repeated his call for more European solidarity by helping to protect common borders and by supporting member states like Italy that are “saving Europe’s honour in the Mediterranean.”

When referring to the future of European democracy, Mr Juncker insisted that Europe was more than the Euro and the single market. Freedom, equality of opportunities and the rule of law were the guiding principles for Europe as a whole. “It must be a union of equality” for its members and citizens, independently of the size and geography of the country. “Europe needs to breathe with both its lungs, otherwise our union will suffocate.”

Introducing concrete proposals on European democracy, he suggested to unify the presidencies of the European Commission and the European Council into one post. Furthermore, he called for a European Minister of Economy and Finance. With respect to a separate Eurozone parliament, he defended the “community method” with the European Parliament overseeing other institutions. The Commission president also mentioned that the Euro was meant to “be the single currency of the European Union as a whole.

Please find the full transcript of the speech here