The Brief: Will Juncker sugar-coat the #SOTEU?

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

So, Jean-Claude Juncker delivers his much-awaited State of the European Union (SOTEU) address on Wednesday morning. The big question is: will he sweep the threats to the EU’s future under the rug and focus instead on his own ‘vision for a new Europe’ or will he choose to shine a spotlight on them?

We’ve had time to read, dissect, critique and ponder over Juncker’s five scenarios for the future of Europe, ever since they were first presented in March.

In Strasbourg on Wednesday, the Commission president will reveal whether he thinks the future of Europe lies down the path of business-as-usual, focusing on the single market or doing more together.

But there are plenty of issues that form significant obstacles on most, if not all, the options being touted by Juncker.

So will he grasp the nettle or bury his head in the sand? If we look at the main talking points of what is going to be his penultimate SOTEU address, it’s probably going to be a mixture of the two.

For example, will Juncker broach the subject of Catalonia’s upcoming referendum, a matter of utmost concern for Spain? It seems unlikely, given that the Commission’s position on seceding states hasn’t changed since the days of Romano Prodi. Any country declaring independence will leave the EU and have to reapply for membership.

The current Commission president won’t want to bring up any topics (if he can help it) that might cast shade over his positive future of the Union narrative. Especially one that would irritate the eurozone’s fifth-largest economy.

Brexit might be a different story though. One could argue that Juncker would like nothing better than to deliver the entire speech without mentioning the UK, especially given the scant progress made during the recent negotiation rounds.

But it’s a subject he simply will not be able to avoid. Even if he resorts to referring to ‘the EU-27’ ad nauseum, the big boss will not be able to talk about the Union’s future without mentioning the fact that future will be without one of the current members.

Can he turn a blind eye to the fact, for example, that the unresolved issue of future transport to and from the UK is already giving nightmares to businesses on both sides of the Channel?

Since he landed the top job, Juncker has been telling us that his is a political Commission, so he’ll have to talk about migration policy, even though many hold the EU responsible for many of the shortcomings of European efforts to control immigration so far.

Expect the Luxembourger to compromise and highlight the positive aspects of the Union’s policy, and possibly launch a veiled attack on the member states for not fully implementing the relocation plan put in place by his institution. But will he name and shame the increasingly rogue states that are Poland and Hungary?

Europe is not an island and count on Juncker to highlight its place in the wider world.

Trump may have his hands full ignoring climate change while tweeting about the devastating hurricanes in the US, but his impact on Europe, particularly when it comes to climate action, is undoubtedly significant.

Getting a visa to enter the land of the free has arguably never been more difficult. Africa’s best and brightest energy experts found that out the hard way this weekend when a US-Africa energy summit scheduled for later this month was cancelled after too many of their number were denied entry permits.

Juncker could therefore use a marquee event like the #SOTEU to announce Europe’s intention to step into America’s shoes. If he doesn’t, you can guarantee China will.

We will be continuing our build-up to the SOTEU all day tomorrow. On Wednesday,  you can watch the speech live and get all the analysis here.

The roundup

Is Juncker’s secret sixth scenario one that will stir Europe outside of the status quo? Leida Rijnhout and Paul de Clerck at Friends of the Earth Europe surely hope so.

Italy’s done it again. Challenging EU rules on food labeling seems to be the latest fashion in Southern Europe these days.

The Dutch want to breed plants in labs, but farmers warn against “new GMOs”. (No, not those plants).

“You must protect our camembert”, Europe tells the UK on latest divorce item: geographical indications post-Brexit.

The most realistic scenario is “the cliff edge“- quite literally, in fact, if the UK and the EU don’t sort out post-Brexit transport.

Current greening measures are counterproductive and contradictory. The future CAP must undergo a thorough check to form “a new contract between farmers and society”.

Poland’s planning to phase out coal with…nuclear. After Finland, another Russia-wary EU state turns to uranium to avoid dependency on Soviet gas.

Christian funds, Islamic investors, China and EU institutions are all eager to jump on the green bond market. But to keep it from greenwashing, investors must behave responsibly- write Harald Lund and Elisabeth Lannoo.

European aid is being hijacked for security and migration concerns – this tarnishes the EU’s credibility as a global development actor, writes Fanny Woirzwinkler of Global Health Advocates.

Diamonds are a President’s best friend… Zimbabwe’s Mugabe owns 50% of companies yet accuses them of “robbing” the country. Surreal.

Look out for…

EU Commission chief Juncker briefs commissioners in Strasbourg on Tuesday on the much-awaited State of the Union speech.

Views are the author’s

Subscribe to The Brief

Subscribe to our newsletters


Want to know what's going on in the EU Capitals daily? Click here!