Today saw the EU Commission president, Jean-Claude Junker, give his annual comments on the current state of the union.
Mr. Junker, addressing members of the European Parliament, spoke of what was achieved within the EU last year and what they hope to achieve over the next 12 months. The address set out how the European Commission will look to address the pressing challenges currently facing them, while presenting their list of priorities for 2018.
Mr. Junker said the EU must defend all of its strategic interests, while adding that a new EU framework for investment screening will also be put in place to ensure this.
“Europe must always defend its strategic interests”, he said.
He also spoke of a new industrial policy to be introduced, which aims to improve on innovation, decarbonisation and digitalisation of Eurpoe's leading companies. Junker pointed to recent announcements by car companies to cut emissions and he said he was proud of the car industry. at the moment This could now see Ireland having to introduce a new plan to tackle the high use of petrol and diesel vehicles. France and the UK both recently outlined plans to wean out the use of these fuels by 2020, therefore it could be expected Ireland will follow suit.
Climate change was a main topic of conversation and Junker says the EU will push to make up for the US’ current reluctance to be part of climate change initiatives.
“Set against the collapse of US ambition, Europe will ensure we make our planet great again”, he stated.
Mr. Junker also spoke of new trade agreements to be made with the EU. The aim is to open trade negotiations with New Zealand and Australia, to help increase market options ahead of Brexit. These would help supplement countries such as Ireland, who are set to be significantly hit by Britain’s exit from the EU. Minister Creed, last week, spoke of the need for new emerging markets and mentioned opportunites in China. These increased markets will help Ireland make up for a potential loss of trade with the UK.
Junker warned though that the EU needs to be the single currency of the Union, saying it will divide our continent.
"If we want the euro to unite rather than divide our continent, then it should be more than the currency of a select group of countries. The euro is meant to be the single currency of the European Union as a whole.", he said.
Mr. Junker concluded by stating there is still a lot of work yet to be done and called for unity in the fight to make Europe great again.
"We started to fix the roof. But we must now complete the job now that the sun is shining and whilst it still is... So let's throw off the bowlines, Sail away from the harbour and catch the trade winds in our sails.”, he concluded.
A plenary debate followed the address by Junker, which opened up dialogue between Parliament members and European Council members as the look to prepare the Commission Work Programme.