Jean-Claude Juncker’s 2017 State of the European Union (SOTEU) speech was marked, particularly compared with last year’s offering, by a renewed sense of optimism, but also by the urgency of serious institutional reform.
The Commission President covered a wide range of issues and challenges. The overall thrust of his message is that the EU now has the wind in its sails and must seize the opportunity to push ahead, taking further steps to underpin the integration process. That the wind has changed tack is evidenced by the defeat, for now at least, of the populist surge, the slo-mo train-wreck that is Brexit – which has revealed much anti-European rhetoric as simple untruths, and brought home the advantages of close economic integration – and not least the steadily improving economic situation, which has now broadened to many countries badly mauled by the crisis. Unemployment, as Juncker noted, is at a 9-year low.
Perhaps aware of the criticism that the EU is seen as too technocratic and fails to inspire emotions, the Commission President did emotion with a capital E, intertwining personal reminiscences with appeals to values including equality, freedom, the rule of law and transparency.
But it was not just mood music. [Read more…]