Jean-Claude Juncker calls for EU to be a global player

The European Commission president pledged to strengthen the EU border and a new trade agreement with Africa. Juncker pushed for strengthening the bloc's international role, as the US retreats from the world stage.

European Commission (EC) President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Wednesday that the EU must "become a more sovereign actor on the world stage." Juncker spoke at the State of the EU annual address that is set to be his last, as he is not seeking re-election.

The EC president tackled the various challenges that the bloc faces, such as migration policy, strengthening the euro, the upcoming exit of the UK from the EU and the rise of far-right parties. Juncker's speech comes just eight months before the upcoming EU parliamentary elections of 2019.

"If Europe were to unite all the political, economic and military might of its nations, its role in the world could be strengthened. We will always be a global payer but it is time we started being a global player too," the EC president said, outlining his vision for the continent.

What Juncker proposed:

Read more: Young Europeans believe in the EU, fear Donald Trump

Why migration is such a hot topic: One of the biggest challenges for the bloc is the recent influx of migrants stemming from the crisis in Syria and from Africa, crossing the Mediterranean. The EU's quota system for refugee sharing has caused a split among its members. Countries such as Hungary and Poland have fought back on EU migration policy, seeking more sovereignty and a say in how many migrants their countries accept.

Read more: Migration study: Europe needs to understand the African context

The controversy surrounding the euro:  The standoff between Greece and the EU over austerity measures highlighted the challenge of having different economies, varying in strength, under a single currency. In 2018, Greece formally ended its last EU bailout program and while this was touted as a success, challenges remain and the threat that a similar crisis still hangs over the bloc.

Read more: Opinion: Post-austerity, Greece gets a second chance

EU unity under threat: The upcoming exit of the UK from the EU has led to messy negotiations and questions about the EU's future. The rise of populist far-right parties all across the continent, who advocate for greater national sovereignty and reduced integration, have posed a threat to the European project, challenged European identity and raised the question of whether other countries could follow the UK's path in the future.

jcg/kms (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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Date 12.09.2018