Juncker’s vision for the future of Europe

In 2014 I was rooting for the election of Jean-Claude Juncker, considering him to be the best candidate to succeed the less than dynamic and imaginative José Manuel Barroso. He was known as a strong supporter of a more integrated Europe, which I consider a must if the European Union wants to survive and play a political role commensurate with its size and economic importance. Twenty-six of the 28 prime ministers and heads of states voted for him. There were only two prime ministers who didn’t: David Cameron of the United Kingdom and Viktor Orbán of Hungary.

I guess I was hoping for some quick policy changes that would indicate a tighter European ship, but what followed was crisis after crisis: 2015 saw another Greek bailout and the refugee crisis, and in 2016 the British voted to leave the European Union. Juncker’s tenure didn’t look like a success.

It seems, however, that quietly, in the background, the commission president managed to achieve 80% of what he and his team proposed for the 2014-2019 period. A senior commission official told Politico that on areas outside the commission’s tradition purview, like security and defense, “We’ve done more in six months than in the last 60 years, that’s all him.” Brexit last summer was the low point for the European Union, but since then some of the EU’s woes have subsided. A lot fewer migrants are arriving on the continent, Greece’s bailout seems to be working, and populist voices have quieted after a number of national elections. The Eurozone’s economy has been steadily growing, and unemployment, although still high, is back to its 2009 level.

Photo: Patrick Hertzog / AFP

Unless one is a keen observer of the European Union, these accomplishments are often swamped by the petty quarrels initiated by the Visegrád 4 countries. As Zsolt Kerner of 24.hu put it, “From Hungary the exact state of the European Union is distorted because of the government propaganda,” but the Juncker administration’s accomplishments are considerable.

Until now Juncker hasn’t made any effort to outline his vision for a more closely integrated Europe. But today he put forth some startlingly innovative proposals that could, if adopted, fundamentally change the very nature of the European Union. Leonid Bershidsky, a Russian journalist who works in Ukraine nowadays, wrote an opinion piece in Bloomberg in which he sympathizes with Juncker’s plans but notes that there are quite a few important European politicians, for example Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, who will most likely oppose a structure which, although “the word wasn’t uttered, … would be a federation.”

A summary of Juncker’s speech can be found on Euronews.com, and therefore there is no need to cover the whole speech here. Instead, I will concentrate on those items that speak directly to Juncker’s vision of a United States of Europe. First, as opposed to Merkel and Macron who would like to see a two-speed Europe or a core-Europe of countries using the euro as their currency and the periphery of countries mostly found in the eastern half of the continent, Juncker wants all countries, with the exception of Denmark which is exempt, to adopt the euro as they promised at the time of their adherence to the Union. He would entice the countries whose leaders are hesitant to take the step with generous financial incentives for the transitional period. Once there is a common currency, the Union should have its own common minister of finance in charge of the economy. That person could be one of the commissioners, who would also be one of the vice presidents of the commission. One reason for the Hungarian government’s hesitancy to join the Eurozone is Viktor Orbán’s reluctance to lose the independent Hungarian central bank, which has been the source of all sorts of questionable financial moves benefiting his government. Once in the Eurozone, the head of the Hungarian National Bank would just be one of the members of the European Central Bank.

In order to achieve “a Union of states and a Union of citizens,” he proposed merging the functions of the presidents of the European Commission and the European Council. This is an excellent idea not only because, as he put it, “Europe would be easier to understand if one captain was steering the ship” but because it would also make for less friction between the nation states and the center. Apparently, the idea is not new. In fact, the Lisbon Treaty’s wording intentionally allowed for such a merger in the future. This single president would be elected in a pan-European campaign with transnational lists. Juncker didn’t elaborate on how this would work, and it is not at all clear whether even his own party, EPP, would support such pan-EU lists. Optimistically, he believes that he will be able “to convince the leaders of [his] parliamentary group to try to follow this idea.” Juncker’s powers of persuasion are said to be extraordinary because he is able to change even Angela Merkel’s mind.

He also proposed that the new office of the EU chief prosecutor, which until now was supposed to have jurisdiction only over EU financial matters, would from here on get involved in the fight against terrorism. Hungary was one of the countries which for obvious reasons refused to accept the idea of an EU prosecutor’s office, but perhaps if the office is also involved with terrorism it would be more difficult to turn against the proposal.

Finally, Juncker suggested getting away from the need for unanimity in the decision-making process. Again, this is a complicated affair, but there would be a way via the so-called “passarelle clauses” in the current treaties, which would allow the process to move from unanimity to qualified majority voting in certain areas, provided all heads of state and government agree to do so. Juncker insists on using this tool in decisions on taxation and foreign policy.

There are practically no Hungarian opinion pieces on the Juncker speech yet, but Magyar Idők published an MTI report under the headline “Juncker promises a more united and more democratic union.” MTI reports are not supposed to add comments to its press releases, and therefore I was quite surprised to read that “this 70-minute speech by Jean-Claude Juncker has been so far his most considered and most measured state of the union speech, which was welcomed by the majority of the members of the EP delegations.” I really wonder who is responsible for this sentence.

Some of Juncker’s suggestions would remedy problems the European Union has been battling for many years. If a common currency, common army, and common financial policy were to become a reality, the EU would be on its way to being considered a sovereign entity. Of course, there would still be the question of a common foreign policy, but one cannot expect such giant steps. I’m sure there will be many who will find even that much hard to swallow.

September 13, 2017
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Mike Darwin
Guest

Rather over-optimistic about Greece, populism and cost of Brexit (as is Juncker himself)- and there remains the small problem of how a less than democratic, not to say authoritarian, Hungary and Poland would fit in this integrated EU – a two speed Europe is the realistic and Realpolitik solution (large member states have always bossed it over the Commission) and the virtue of possibly exercising some leverage over new member states that can be forced neither to adopt the Euro, nor take refugees, nor re-democratize.

Marty
Guest

Hungary is not in a position to adopt the euro. Its economy is not competitive and diversified enough. In every indirect metrics (current education levels and trends, capital expenditure trends, work ethics, political-legal stability, already existing competitive industries on which to build etc.) the situation is terrible.

The adoption of the euro does not depend on meeting the Maastrict criteria but on whether the economy is competitive enough to grow within the confines of a single currency. Or put it other way is Hungary’s economy (and political environment which takes policy decisions) like Germany’ or Austria’s or more like Greece’s and Italy’s?

Hungry needs the option to devalue its currency (the forint) as Italy did periodically when it still had the Lira. Hungary may not choose to devalue the forint even for a longer period but it needs the option.

Actually I don’t think that the Hungarian economy will be in a position to be able to adopt the euro in the foreseeable future.

Roderick S. Beck
Guest

Being able to devalue the currency is a crutch. It is time that Hungary was forced to make the hard reforms required.
1. Large scale immigration.
2. Easy formation of companies.
3. Less regulations.
4. Lower social taxes.
….

Aida
Guest

Juncker’s “vision” is optimistic but more importantly unrealistic. In the unlikely event that he is able to persuade Merkel, Macron, the Dutch, the Danes, to mention but a few, he may meet with the repeat chorus complaining of the failure to address the EU’s democratic deficit.
I am encouraged however by the chorus of anti Juncker near hysteria in the English media. They represent a world view which has gained traction as a result of last year’s referendum.
As for Hungary and the V4 they represent a corrosive force and rather than leave as the UK they will stay, because of the money and disrupt the Union for domestic political reasons. I wish Juncker success. I hope his prediction will come true sooner rather than later that the UK will soon regret Brexit.

wrfree
Guest
Mr. Juncker by now is pretty far in his perception of the EU’s ‘squeaky wheel’ who screeches like chalk on a chalkboard. I do not doubt his political skills but I would suggest that he should keep in mind the ‘renewal’ Magyarorszag is going under as it appears it will not be going away into the ether anywhere anytime soon. It’s a full speed ahead operation. It’s his choice to go out with a flak jacket but in the back of his mind is he ready for continuing fisticuffs with a country that has a chip on its shoulder which has been irking it to no end? It’s deep-lying and festering issues with the past continue both to infect the present and future operations of the EU. Magyarorszag is on a journey that Mr. Juncker will have hard time stopping. As long as VO is up in the big chair that will be life at the EU ranch. And even then in the instance of getting Magyarorszag to heel to the ‘rules’ it will then come about probably to experience the feeling of a wild boar harnessed and roped in. We should hope Juncker has a plan dealing with Magyarorszag.… Read more »
Guest

While I’m all for a European Union aka United States of Europe I fear that many people, many partner countries are just not ready for this. So maybe the two-tier EU is a workable compromise?
And sometimes I even have the feeling that the “Balkan” countries (and that includes Hungary and Poland) really don’t want to belong and should be pushed out again – maybe into a loose association like Turkey.
If the then can watch the success of the core EU they might change their minds – if not, ok.

Not too much OT:
German automotive industry had a few hiccups right now – this translates into problems with the growth of Hungarian industry:
https://bbj.hu/economy/declining-auto-sector-output-stalls-industrial-growth_138685

Member

@ Wolfi I have the same attitude to these countries. For now I oppose to the access of new balkan countries. I doubt their commitment to democratic values. They only could improve Orbans potential against the union.

Roderick S. Beck
Guest

The Baltic states, Romania, and Bulgaria are not in the same camp as Hungary and Poland. Nor would the Ukraine.

Observer
Guest

Roderick

The Balts maybe, but BG ROM have a very similar societal profile. Hu started way ahead and nobody thought it would go down like this, did u?

:Bastiat2
Guest

I am afraid you are mistaken Juncker, who is, after all a minor socialist career politician, with Mario Draghi, who is the only one calling the shots in Europe, to the tune of 80 billion Euros being thrown at the face of Europe every month. This money buys sovereign obligations (contrary to the statutes of the ECB) and, more recently private sector obligations as well, therefore biasing all prices in Europe. Without true prices no market economy can work efficiently.

Then, Juncker’s proposal to give Euro, this Frankenstein monetary monster, to all member states, by force if necessary, and letting Romania and Bulgaria within the Schengen border is simply insane.

Guest

Bastiat is a Fidesz troll and a stupid liar in addition – the creature has appeared here before …

Roderick S. Beck
Guest

Mario’s polices appear to be a success. Who said that private capitalist economies were inherently stable? They are not.

Petofi
Guest

For all those doubters, and mental midgets who fling the epithet of ‘racist’ around at poor, innocent me…see Budapest Beacon, 9/14/17.

The truth will out!

Hajra Magyarok!!

Petofi
Guest

correction: see, budapestsentinel.com

exTor
Guest

You couldn’t provide a link ???
I notice you’ve gone upscale.
Make that uppercase, Petőfi

MAGYARKOZÓ

Petofi
Guest

I’ve got a Dell/windows and can’t find the copy/paste function…

Ferenc
Guest

Budapest Sentinel seems to have integrated into the Budapest Beacon, with the translated article stemming from the Sentinel.
PS: truely no clue what you mean with your comment…

Petofi
Guest

@ Ferenc

‘what did you mean…’?

Simply, I’ve maintained that Orban is a tzigane and thinks/operates like one–a malevolent tzigane.

Aida
Guest

Gipsy or not he is a thief and a Hungarian thief. Of course you are a racist. Enough said.

Petofi
Guest

@Aida

I went out to the backyard and asked my wife to get me a spade. Suddenly, 4 blacks appeared on the neighbours fence and hissed at me, “RACIST”…ahem.

Petofi
Guest

@ Aida

Example#2:

Quite a few years ago when I still lived in Toronto,
the hottest drug corridor was Jane/Finch, populated
by Jamaicans. One newspapers reporter had the audacity to point the prevalence of Jamaicans and was immediately attacked by the professional, black, self-victimizing leadership as…RACIST.

I suppose one can no longer call a spade a spade…

Member

You mean all Jamaicans are drogues? Now I am disappointed.

petofi
Guest

@ Albrecht Neumerker

I never said that. But Jane/Finch corridor is a noted, and very dangerous, drug zone in Toronto.
Are most Jamaicans drug traders? I don’t know the numbers but a big percentage of Jamaican men are involved in the drug trade.

(However, Jamaican women are another story: they’re the salt of the earth–raise all the kids, keep the house in shape; and work also.)\ You see, when I’m not racist, I’m sexist…)

Member

Don’t zigane. It is not worthy you.

petofi
Guest

Probably not but it’s impossible to fathom why Hungarians would give Orban the benefit of the doubt after 8 years of thieving and lying.

Observer
Guest

I’ll defend the use of the admittedly PIncorrect stereotype – it is perfectly well known in Hu and used more by the Orbán crowd. Its effect is double strength.

Profiling (stereotyping) is a method used in policing, antiterrorism, socio/political area, e g typical voter in a district, etc.

Istvan
Guest
Numerous aspects of Juncker’s speech are absurd and reflect his own egotistical obsession with being the savior of the EU, which he espouses between his binge drinking. I will only take up two aspects of the speech. JC Juncker calls for the EU to have functioning defense union by 2025. Without full control over a modern nuclear arsenal of its own inclusive of ICBMs it will be meaningless. A Russian invasion of Europe can not be halted by conventional weapons it requires tactical nuclear weapons, it requires the threat of mutually assured destruction, it requires an European Air Force many times the size of the existing combined air resources of Europe. The air forces of the future will be largely non-human operated and massively expensive. Because of the ever growing Russian air defense systems they will have to be large enough to overwhelm them. To be viable any European Defense force would also need to have very significant naval forces. All of this does not come cheap and requires reductions in social welfare expenditures Europeans have not been willing to make post WWII. To the extent a European Defense force could have functioning independence from NATO and free Europe from… Read more »
Roderick S. Beck
Guest

A stronger conventional force is a good start and probably enough given the US would intervene.

Jean P.
Guest

Istvan
Your frequent mention of Juncker’s “binge drinking” reminds me
of general Grant, another notable binge drinker who became president of the United States.

Ferenc
Guest
OT – ‘Soros journalists’ being listed There seems to be lot going on in the Hungarian media about journalists themselves. 2017.Sep.05 the blog 888.hu (note I will not give links for 888) published an article entitled “The List: Introducing Soros’ foreign propagandists”, and publishing a list with 8 journalists. (full translation incl.intro with updates about this case 2017.Sep.12 published by the Beacon/Sentinel – https://budapestbeacon.com/list-introducing-soros-foreign-propagandists/ ) After the original article there were quit some, even international reactions: -Sep.06 the Hungarian journalists association (MUOSZ) – https://muosz.hu/hirek/2017/09/06/muosz-eliteli-az-ujsagirok-listazasat/ -Sep.08 interview with MUOSZ president – http://www.atv.hu/videok/video-20170908-ujsagirokat-listaz-a-kormanykozeli-portal -Sep.08 alert on “Platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists [Council of Europe]” – https://www.coe.int/en/web/media-freedom/all-alerts (filter for Hungary), incl.link to the French “Le Monde” -Sep.11 blog 888 is replying and writing an open letter to MUOSZ, claiming others are applying double standards, but that they (and pestiscracok) are ‘playing with open cards’. -Sep.11 blog pestibulvar, reacts – http://pestibulvar.hu/2017/09/11/vallaljuk-a-sajtopert/ – and asking the ‘secret staff’ of those media to show their ‘open cards’ -Sep.12 blog 888 continues their ‘Soros List’ series with an article about one of the 8 on their original list. A long intro, to get you into the picture, but this whole listing… Read more »
Member

Blacklisting journalists is one of the Orbanites favorite tactics. Orban drew up a list himself back in 2000 (or thereabouts) while his buddy Istvan “Eat Shit” Lovas created something called the “Kontroll Csoport” to name and shame foreign journalists. These lists never came to anything; it was just Orban’s way of brandishing his MSZMP roots.

The interesting thing about 888.hu’s new list is that it includes Sandor Peto, a founding member of Fidesz (formerly known as the Alliance of Young Democrats.) Peto has had a distinguished career at Reuters. It is alarming that Habony & Co. are now trying to harass him. (This kind of thing is a mark of honor for journalists in countries with free presses – a fact that Orbanites cannot seem to get through their thick skulls.)

Mihaly
Guest

Unfortunately not a joke:

https://budapestbeacon.com/soros-plan-national-consultation-coming/

So decision of the ECJ (among other things) is being attacked with a National consultation, just like last year the plan of the distribution of the refugees itself was being attacked by the referendum. It’s getting pretty boring.

wrfree
Guest

OT: Having some in the extended family currently touring Budapest. I’m intrigued how VO’s ‘red carpet’ will stack up for the kulfoldis.

petofi
Guest

@ wrfree

Well, we just left Budapest and I don’t think arriving is any different than leaving. (Come to think of it, it is different with regard to suitcase trolleys.) First off, the good people at the Airport’s arrival post have made disappear all the suitcase trolleys. One must hire the moonlighting bunkos that populate the departure area. Second, the brilliant minds directing the airport revamping have thought it best to tuck the one and only toilet facilities at the far end. For people who take a water pill, it means 4/5 mad dashes through 500 people. Thirdly, the counter people can’t provide the contact with the wheelchair personnel so that it took me 65 minutes before one showed up.

Happy travels.

The ugly, unctuous manner of Hungarians is forever present.

HAJRA MAGYAROK!!

Aida
Guest

Why go there? What do you miss when you are away? I wake up at night and go straight back to sleep when I realise I am not in Hungary.

Petofi
Guest

‘what do I miss?’

Grand-children
Libamaj
Topertu
watermelon
tomatoes

The madness of King Orban…

Aida
Guest

Apart from grandchildren all the rest is available elsewhere.

Marty
Guest
Of course there will be a new legal procedure in the migrant case (see link below). Orban “took notice of” the ECJ migrant quota decision – but will not execute it. Only after a new decision which explicitly says that Hungary must execute the decision will even the question of enforcement arise. Fidesz is a party of lawyers. Non-lawyers will never understand the way of thinking of lawyers. For non-lawyers: This ECJ decision was basically a so-called declarative decision. It simply declared the validity of a decision. But it was not a so-called “marasztaló” decision, a decision which explicitly obligates, binds the losing party to do something (to pay damages, perform the contract, endure the use of his/her land etc.). Only once there is such a binding decision can enforcement be talked about – by its nature a declarative decision simply cannot be enforced. It is simply a statement by the court – in this case categorizing a decision as valid. The EU thinks Orban can be dealt with via cumbersome legal procedures. Nope. Orban only understands credible show of force and will only react to such credible threats. In Orban’s world white glove diplomacy is for pussies. Everybody knows… Read more »
Roderick S. Beck
Guest

I suspect the EU is quite aware that taking away the money is the end point of the journey.

Marty
Guest

The EU can’t and won’t take the money away. It’s high time you realize that. If it could it would’ve done it long ago.

The EU is a totally imperfect creation which thus can be used by people like Orban who is a lawyer. Orban and his people simply don’t understand concepts like cooperation. They always ask: what’s the potential ultimate legal damage? If the answer is there’s nothing or maybe something vague in 5 years time, then he does it.

For him it’s fun showing the world every day that the EU is impotent and irrelevant. This is also what Putin wants and Orban is the best agent Putin has. Plus the money Orban pocketed from the EU will always be his, nobody will take that away even if Hungary is kicked out of the EU and we talk about billions of euros he stole.

Jean P.
Guest

“The EU can’t and won’t take the money away.”
Of course they can. If Orban breaks the contract with the EU, the EU is not bound by that contract any more.

Guest

In the end it doesn’t really matter to most people in the EU whether the money goes to Hungarians in general or just to the Fidesz honchos – it’s an old feature of capitalism that money is distributed extremely unequally.

The only people who are really hurt by this are the majority of Hungarians – and it seems they want it that way!
If they are not willing to change it then they have to continue their miserable lives as before – shouldn’t complain about it!

A bit OT:
Typical for Hungary – O proudly declares that less cigarettes are sold, an effect of the tobacco shop nationalisation, good for the health of Hungarians. Of course we know that this law was only meant to make money for the happy few, the shop owners.

In reality more people smoke: illegally imported cigs and rolling their own …
https://bbj.hu/analysis/hungarians-slow-to-kick-habit_138686

Roderick S. Beck
Guest

Up to now one speed Europe has meant countries like Hungary flaunt democratic values and still get the money. One speed Europe also gives the smaller countries veto power.

Guest

Most EU citizens in the more developed countries probably don’t care too much about those “rogue states” and if they do they think “As long as it doesn’t concern me personally” …
We have our rights and social security, we have our freedom to travel and we have our standards of living i e our money.

If you just consider the economic consequences many might even think that it’s good to have workers from Eastern Europe toiling at jobs that a German e g will no longer do (agriculture comes to mind) and so guarantee the production of cheap vegetables, keep down the prices of restaurants and hotels (and cars …), give us the chance of cheap holidays …

PS:
In a way this situation is similar to the illegal immigrationinto the USA – Trump etc are complaining but at the same time they really profit from all those cheap workers.
Of course in the long run it might get ugly but most people can’t think long term, they only care for themselves anyway!
So:
What me worry …

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