EU laid bare: How Jean-Claude Juncker exposed crippling dilemma facing Brussels

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This month, the EU celebrated an important anniversary. Seventy years ago, on May 9, 1950, the French Foreign Minister, Robert Schuman, presented the Schuman Declaration on the creation of a European Coal and Steel Community, which was the first of a series of European institutions that would ultimately become today’s EU. Built from the ruins of World War 2 in a bid to establish peace through economic collaboration, the original six-member EU grew to include 28 countries over the years, and only one of them has left so far – the UK.

Keeping the EU alive and kicking has been incredibly difficult, though.

Economic challenges, migration crises, unemployment, and nationalism in several member states are only some of the challenges the bloc has faced throughout the years.

The most recent one is the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen member states not only engaging in a row to secure scarce medical supplies, but also making little progress regarding the EU’s contribution to the economic and financial costs of the crisis.

This week, France and Germany have announced they are backing the creation of an EU bond to raise €500billion (£447billion) to boost the European economy, severely weakened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two leaders, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, unveiled their proposal in a joint video press conference, but the measure is expected to raise objections in several member states, including the Netherlands and Denmark who have previously opposed the creation of so-called “coronabonds”.

As many wonder whether the eurozone will be able to survive this crisis, unearthed reports reveal how former EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker exposed the crippling dilemma facing Brussels today.

In 2007, Mr Juncker found himself in the midst of one of the many all-night sessions where European politicians were trying to decide on the next step to take to fix the problems of the eurozone.

The then Luxembourg finance minister said: “We all know what to do.

“We just don’t know how to get re-elected after we’ve done it.”

According to a 2008 economic report by the European Commission titled ‘Defying the Juncker curse: Can Reformist Governments be re-elected’, the above quote, attributed to one of Europe’s former leading policy makers, revealed two things.

The report reads: “First, politicians are deeply aware of the need for structural reform in Europe – in particular in the euro area where structural reform has actually slowed down since the inception of the single currency.

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“Second, yet they are reluctant to bite the bullet out of fear to lose the next general elections.”

Mr Juncker served as President of the European Commission from 2014 to 2019 and as the 23rd Prime Minister of Luxembourg from 1995 to 2013. 

He was also the Minister for Finances from 1989 to 2009.

The former EU chief returned to headlines last month after giving an exclusive talk about the EU and the coronavirus to global bank Citi.

Mr Juncker had criticised his predecessor José Manuel Barroso for joining investment bank Goldman Sachs less than two years after stepping down in 2014.

But the Luxembourg politician gave a speech to bankers just months after stepping down himself last November.

The London Speaker Bureau describes itself as “providing keynote speakers, executive learning masterclasses and boardroom advisers”.

Mr Juncker denied accusations of hypocrisy, telling the Sunday Express: “You have to know that I’m a speaker on behalf of the LSB.

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“I’m not a client, or advisor, nor a consultant of Citi or anything else.

“I was supposed to give a speech on behalf of the LSB to an audience, many composed by Citi Bank guys, but I never entered detailed questions concerning the position of the Commission.”

The dial-in conference called COVID-19 & The EU was on April 7. A source said Mr Juncker answered questions around “EU solidarity” triggering the use of the military under EU treaty powers.

He also said the bloc’s limited role in public health was likely to continue and member states were expected to make higher contributions or accept lower grants from it.

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