Juncker reviews woes facing EU, calls for Syria policy

European Commission president says he wants EU to have place at table deciding Syria's future

Juncker reviews woes facing EU, calls for Syria policy

World Bulletin / News Desk

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, on Wednesday called for a distinct European strategy for Syria in his annual State of the EU speech.

Highlighting the threat to Europe from Daesh-trained terrorists, he said the EU’s foreign affairs representative Federica Mogherini should be made the EU’s foreign minister so that member states could “pool their forces to achieve leverage in international negotiations”.

He added: “This is why I call today for a European strategy for Syria. Federica should have a seat at the table when the future of Syria is being discussed so that Europe can help rebuild a peaceful Syrian nation and a pluralistic, tolerant civil society in Syria.”

Juncker told the European Parliament in Strasbourg that the commission would also propose a European defense fund by the end of the year to “turbo boost and research and innovation” and strengthen Europe’s defense.

The president began his speech by outlining the troubles the EU has faced over the past year. “I am not going to stand here today and tell you that everything is now fine,” he said. “It is not.”

According to a text of the speech on the commission's website, he added: “Never before have I seen such little common ground between our member states, so few areas where they agree to work together…

“Never before have I seen national governments so weakened by the forces of populism and paralyzed by the risk of defeat in the next elections. Never before have I seen so much fragmentation and so little commonality in our union.”

Unemployment, social inequality, public debt, refugee integration and security threats were among the problems facing the EU, he said, proposing a 12-month plan to tackle the issues.

“Europeans are tired of the endless disputes, quarrels and bickering,” he told parliament. “Europeans want concrete solutions to the very pertinent problems that our union is facing. And they want more than promises, resolutions and summit conclusions.

“They have heard and seen these too often. Europeans want common decisions followed by swift and efficient implementation.”

Calling on Europe to “stay true to its values” of open and tolerant democracy and pluralism, he warned that tolerance “cannot come at the price of our security”.

Referring to border security, he said Frontex, the agency that is due to be replaced with a new European Border and Coast Guard, had more than 600 staff at the border of Turkey and Greece and more than 100 in Bulgaria. He called for an extra 200 to be deployed to Bulgaria.

Juncker highlighted the reunification of Cyprus as one area where “Europe is a driving force”. Reunification talks between the Greek and Turkish communities on the island resumed in May 2015 and are expected to be resolved by the end of this year with the formation of a federal administration.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 14 Eylül 2016, 17:13