On top of delivering his State of the Union address at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday (14 September), the European Commission chief will this week field questions from bloggers ahead of the EU’s first 27-state post-Brexit summit. EURACTIV France reports.
When he took up Europe’s top job, Jean-Claude Juncker said his would be the “last chance Commission”. On top of an unprecedented refugee crisis, the rise of populism and the departure of the United Kingdom, the EU executive also has to manage a rebellious eastern bloc, which refuses to be overruled by the founding countries on issues like the revision of the Posting of Workers Directive.
Earlier this month, French Commissioner Pierre Moscovici even darkly suggested that this may not be the last chance Commission, but “the last Commission”.
On Monday (12 September), Parliament will interview the UK’s new nominee for the executive, Julian King, whom Juncker wants to install as Commissioner for Security. While MEPs seem well disposed to the UK’s ambassador to France, the question of whether a country in the process of leaving the bloc can be placed in charge of its security is likely to make his hearing uncomfortable, and may well undermine King’s legitimacy as a candidate.
Social Europe remains an empty promise
According to euractiv.fr’s sources, a good portion of Juncker’s second State of the Union speech will be dedicated to social issues. But the European Commission’s record of failing to follow up its promises with actions is likely to leave the left of the European Parliament unconvinced by any new promises.
“He will have to demonstrate that he has been balanced in implementing the deals we made with the right,” said Sylvie Guillaume, a French Socialist MEP and European Parliament Vice-President.
And the social question is at the heart of another item on the Parliament’s agenda for Wednesday. MEPs will vote on a report on social dumping by French Socialist Guillaume Balas, which was adopted by a large majority in the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs committee this summer.
But Juncker’s own centre-right EPP group now seems to be questioning the relevance of the text. By splitting up the vote, they hope to remove any controversial elements from the final report, like the creation of a road transport agency and the suspension of work on sites which have breached the EU’s posted workers legislation. This is further evidence of the European right’s lack of appetite for addressing social questions, which is placing the Parliament’s grand coalition under severe strain.
Uncertainty over Parliament presidency
Juncker will also be summoned by the EPP leadership, which intends to slap him on the wrist for comments he made earlier this summer. In July, the Commission President said it was well known that Martin Schulz would stay on as President of the European Parliament until the end of the legislature.
But the EPP is not prepared to accept this change to the original agreement, under which the German Social Democrat Schulz would hand over the presidency to a member of the centre-right group half way through his mandate. Several candidates have already announced their intention to stand for the position, including a number of French MEPs, who are unwilling to deviate from the convention of the mid-mandate change of presidency.
If Schulz is replaced by an EPP candidate, the centre-right will control the Parliament, the Commission and the Council.
Contacting a younger audience
On Thursday (15 September), Juncker will face a new kind of challenge: he will be interviewed by three ‘YouTubers’ from Poland, Germany and France, chosen for their young audiences. Subscribers to French blogger Laetitia’s YouTube channel are more used to getting advice about vegetarianism or hair removal than European politics.
And finally, the European Commission chief’s busy week will reach its climax on Friday (16 September) with the first 27-state European summit organised by the Slovak presidency in Bratislava. On top of a packed agenda covering security,
On top of a packed agenda covering security, defence and youth employment, the summit will also concentrate on setting out a new vision for the Union in time for the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome next March. Under the current circumstances, this is no easy task.