Jean-Claude Juncker used his speech to assess the situation in Europe – and it is a challenging one. According to Juncker, yesterday’s world has not existed since Obama, who was in favour of America First and put US interests right at the top of his diplomatic agenda. Trump then followed suit, and Biden is doing the same today. On the other side there is China, an important trading partner but also a systemic competitor and rival. According to Juncker, Europe has been astoundingly naive in the way it has dealt with the country in recent decades. “Now the Chinese are everywhere, and we have been reduced to spectators.”
With this in mind, he insists that “if we don’t deal with this, we will be dealt with”. However, Juncker’s analysis concludes that there is a general lack of action in this area. Foreign policy example: The principle of unanimity still applies here. This weakens Europe’s influence in the world. Euro example: According to Juncker, it is absurd that aircraft are still accounted for in dollars rather than euros. Trade example: The EU has trade agreements with 72 countries around the world, but more are needed. Nevertheless, 40 million jobs in Europe depend on international trade relationships. Defence example: There are 30 different types of helicopter in Europe compared to just one in the USA.
Finally he gave the example of digitalisation with a dig at Germany, where online access legislation applicable to hundreds of government services was passed in 2017. Just 16 of these projects have been implemented to date. “If we continue to be this slow, we will lose the race,” Juncker said, before suggesting that the EUR 750 billion allocated to the EU recovery plan should be used for future-focused projects including digitalisation. Juncker: “This is precisely what Italy is doing. Instead of making fun of the Italians, we should be looking more closely at what they do well.”