The Brief: What a difference a year makes

This time everything was fine.

This time Parliament wasn’t “ridiculous”, unlike at the end of the Maltese presidency in June, when an angry Juncker lashed out at the almost empty hemicycle.

This time MEPs turned out in force, listened attentively and applauded heartily during the Commission chief’s state of the union address.

And this time, there was a stark contrast in tone.

Exactly a year ago, Juncker spoke of an “existential crisis” and challenges represented by migrants and populism.

This time around, he mused about the good trade winds Europe should catch.

But let’s not be fooled. There may have been no drama in this year’s speech, but it teemed with proposals for broad reforms that should help Europe “do all the floors” rather than “just repair its roof”.

And it wasn’t all happy and shiny either, despite the wind in our sails.

Juncker did touch on Brexit, calling it a sad and tragic moment, but vowed that Europe would move on.

And he did not miss the chance to slam Turkey once again for “taking giant strides away from Europe”.

But he chose not to single out Poland and Hungary when talking about solidarity and migrants. In fact, not once were the two rogue states mentioned. Was that a message in itself?

Conversely, he gave considerable time to the two poorest EU members: he mentioned Bulgaria three times and Romania five times, promising them the long-awaited entry into the Schengen area and a mechanism to facilitate their adoption of the euro.

A coincidence? Hardly.

The veteran Luxembourger glossed over many of the problems and dismissed his own five scenarios to present a sixth, focusing on his vision: economic, institutional and social reforms that should bring more union to the Union.

And to corroborate that, while he was speaking the Commission sent an elaborate list of ten priorities to the Estonian presidency, urging it to act.

Which should be enough to keep his supporters and critics guessing until this time next year.

It case you missed any of it (it was one hour long!), you can see the full speech and our live coverage and main takeaways here.

The #SOTEU roundup

No treaty change, but radical changes: a single president for the Commission and Council, transnational lists for MEPs, an EU finance minister. Juncker says it’s “now or never”.

On the eurozone, Juncker goes wide but not deep. The EU should narrow the East/West divide but steer clear of a 2-speed Union. Sorry, Macron.

Juncker was friendly to the East this morning with five mentions for Romania and three for Bulgaria. But one big absent: Poland, l’enfant terrible of the EU.

More on the Eastern front: “the EU will be greater than 27”. Juncker winks at accession bids from Serbia and Montenegro, but says it won’t happen under his mandate.

And to appease talk of food apartheid in the East, Juncker said that Slovak fishfingers and Czech chocolate should taste the same across the Union. Wait, what?

Cyberattacks hurt more than tanks and guns- so Juncker gives mandate (and budget) to tackle borderless hackers’ threat.

“Solidarity doesn’t stop at Europe’s border”, Juncker to member states. Investing in Africa is key to stopping migration. So, take your purse out.

Look out for…

Later today, at 18:30EURACTIV France will host a FACEBOOK LIVE conversation with Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, in partnership with the Jacques Delors Institute.

Views are the author’s

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