EU MASTERPLAN: Jean-Claude Juncker unveils 10-point plot to SAVE struggling Union
JEAN-CLAUDE Juncker has today unveiled the European Union’s roadmap for 2017 as he struggles to save the bloc from the triple threat of mass migration, economic stagnation and Brexit.
The EU Commission chief called for a “Europe that delivers” as he vowed to focus on youth unemployment, tax-dodging and green initiatives in the next calendar year.
His new proposals come as the EU enters a make-or-break year, with bitter divisions growing between member states over a variety of escalating crises from migration to how to deal with Britain.
The Commission’s new work programme, published today, contains 21 key initiatives in 10 policy areas designed to bring stability back to the lurching political project. But Mr Juncker is likely to find certain parts of the document difficult or nearly impossible to complete, with raging arguments over free trade and migration in particular likely to sink certain initiatives.
At the heart of Brussels’ drive to restore confidence in the bloc will be a proposed blitz on sky-high youth unemployment which has condemned a generation of Mediterranean youngsters to misery.
The EU will pump taxpayers’ money into training and job creation schemes in stricken Spain, Greece and Italy – where youth joblessness is between 40 to 50 per cent – in a bid to boost their ailing economies.
Another policy is boosting green policies with work on low-emission vehicles, which will be seen as an attempt to repair Brussels’ tarnished reputation over its involvement in the Volkswagen emissions scandal.
Other promises made in the work plan may prove more difficult to deliver. Further integration of the monetary union, which is being fought by some eurozone countries who fear losing their sovereignty, is fraught with difficulty.
And a pledge to seal the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal with the US seems fanciful in light of the fate of its sister deal with Canada, CETA, and the pledges of both presidential candidates to scrap it after entering the White House.
But perhaps the thorniest issue for Mr Juncker, as ever, will be trying to build a consensus on migration. In his action plan he promises to implement the European Agenda on Migration, but this is being fiercely contested by some member states.
Eastern European countries like Hungary and Poland in particular are incensed by the imposition of mandatory migrant quotas and have vowed to block the scheme, despite being outvoted under Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) rules.
Hungarian premier Viktor Orban recently held a referendum on the quotas in his homeland in which 98 per cent of voters rejected the EU plan, but Brussels has insisted it will go ahead with it regardless.
Announcing the work programme today, Mr Juncker said: “We are focusing on the things that matter, concrete actions that improve people’s lives. We must unite around a positive agenda.
“This is what the Commission’s Work Programme is about. This is the Europe that delivers.”
The EU’s First Vice-President, Frans Timmermans, admitted that Europe was facing a “challenging era” and said Brussels must work harder to make itself more relevant to ordinary Europeans.
He said: “In this challenging era, we must work harder together and help to protect, empower and defend Europe’s citizens.
“We have made sound progress on challenges like boosting investment and employment, managing migration and advancing on climate change and the fight against terrorism.
“But there is still more to do and this year we must deliver agreements on the many crucial proposals already on the table. Now we must all deliver.”
The EU Commission draws up a work programme, setting out its goals for the coming year, on an annual basis.
But few will receive as much scrutiny as the current one, with the entire future of the bloc in extreme jeopardy and Brussels bureaucrats so far having proved powerless to quell a growing eurosceptic movement across the continent.
Leading eurocrats have admitted that the EU has become deeply unpopular in recent months due to economic stagnation, the migrant chaos and growing questions over Britain’s decision to leave.
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