The EU machinery is slowly returning to activity this week after the summer pause. Juncker’s last State of the Union address to this Parliament in two weeks will guide the final period of his Commission. But above all he will polish his record and offer his farewell vision about the future of Europe.
Juncker and his Commissioners, and other senior officials will hold tomorrow and on Friday an off-site seminar to discuss his speech over some finger food during the day and a few drinks at night.
Commissioners will raise the key messages he should deliver to the MEPs and will remind his president the main concerns of their compatriots.
Armed with his results, he will argue before the European Parliament’s plenary (and voters) that the bloc is better off than when he took office in 2014.
But as many authors have said and studies have shown voters’ emotions and feelings are more important than facts. And despite what the migration debate could suggest, political campaigns have proven that hope is a more powerful force than fear.
For that reason, candidates should not forget that they will be asking for the vote of a young generation of Europeans that, for the first time since the European project began, could be worse off than their parents.
Millennials and the Generation Z need to feel inspire by how “belonging to Europe enabled us to become a better, more confident version of ourselves”, a not so millennial Bono dixit.
A more robust eurozone, a single digital and energy market, or more democratic European institutions would be part of the solution.
But that should not be the primary focus of the message and certainly not the end station of the political efforts.
That does not mean that Europe will reconquer the ground lost again to Euroskeptics and populists with lofty words and well-crafted messages.
Results are needed, but as we argued in The Brief in the past you should aim for the stars.
The European Commission is committed to pursue its “big on big things and small on small things” motto. Some big (or bold) proposals crashed against the member states’ immobility, including the deepening of the eurozone.
But in other cases ambition was inexistent because decision makers and officials could not think out of the box.
Like in no other election, next May European voters will split over their stance on the EU, rather than over their socialdemocrat, liberal, green or conservative ideas or ideals.
But that should not be limited to a ‘more or less Europe’ debate. Even more since the staunchest pro-Europeans are struggling to see whether the future of Europe is ‘more Europe’.
European decision makers need not only to regain citizens’ trust but also bring them some hope.
It may seem a big word for a single speech, but certainly the best legacy Juncker could leave behind as he faces the final act of his three decade pro-European career.
By Sam Morgan
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Views are the author’s