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Interview: Macron's, Juncker's visions for Europe lack "how to go" plans: EU pundit
From:Xinhua  |  2017-10-04 05:41

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by Grandesso Federico, Zheng Jianghua

BRUSSELS, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) -- The vision for Europe unfolded by French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, though "visionary" and "useful", are lacking in concrete and structured plans, a EU pundit has said in a recent interview with Xinhua.

Regarding Macron's high-profile speech on Sept. 26 at Sorban University in Paris, and Juncker's annual State of the Union address on Sept. 13 at the European Parliament, Giles Merritt, chairman of the Brussels-based think-tank Friends of Europe, said the two presidents set out where to go but didn't make clear how to go.

Macron called for a "profound transformation" of the EU in the marathon speech. He suggested, among others, more military cooperation, the establishment of a common finance minister, budget and parliament for the eurozone.

The Europhile French president delivered his speech hard on the heels of the German elections, in which the far-right Alternative for Germany party carved out a niche as the third largest party in the Bundestag (German parliament).

Earlier in September, Juncker, in his annual State of the Union address, outlined a "sixth scenario" for the future of Europe, backing down on a "multi-speed Europe" envisaged in the Commission' white paper published in March. Instead, Juncker took up the cudgel for greater integration in nearly all areas of European functioning.

The two presidents sang the same tune when it comes to a further integrated European defence Union and an enhanced management of immigration.

But unlike Macron, Juncker took a dim view of establishing a common budget and parliament for the eurozone, arguing that the euro is the destined to become the common currency for the entire EU and the European Parliament is the only legislative institution for the Euro area.

Merritt hailed the two presidents' agenda "at this dramatic moment", saying Europe needs an "absolutely quicker and ambitious integration agenda."

Nevertheless, he didn't pull his punches on the other side of their visions, saying," When you propose dramatic changes in the construction of the EU project, you have to come up with details."

Touching on Macron's eurozone reform proposals, Merritt said:" This is a 'mood music' on where Europe should be going. This idea is good but we need concrete and structured plans."

"The north-south gap (in the EU) is widening and this is very dangerous for the European unity. This means to create a new governance mechanism that enables the Germans to keep an eye on where their money goes," Merritt said, referring to Germany's longstanding concern that some "irresponsible" member states have no qualms about splurging bailout money on social welfare.

Merritt noted that having a "Parliament of the eurozone" is also good, but a new EU structure is needed to do that.

When it comes to the drawback of President Juncker's vision for Europe, Merritt said: " President Juncker's speech set out where we want to go but it didn't tell us how to get there."

"His speech was a triumph of hope over reality. He was setting out a vision which ignored some fundamental problems, the most serious of which is the drift to populism and nationalism."

Merritt underlined that during the several elections this year, more and more EU voters were seduced by the "easy solutions" of populist parties riding at the wave of widening distance between EU institutions and ordinary folks.

The growing unpopularity of EU projects among ordinary folks is also caused by a sense that the EU's "big decisions" on integration went too far, he argued, suggesting that the EU let its member states play a bigger role.

"These are the roots of our contemporary separatism sentiments in Spain, Belgium, etc. We need to remain big and competitive at global level, but also we need to give up some of the EU centralism," he noted.

"Painting a 'golden picture' is not useful. I think all EU leaders should be starting to tell to citizens uncomfortable things in contrast with the impossible 'easy solutions' proposed by populists," said Merritt.