Bursting the Bubble

What should be in the 2015 State of the Union?

As President Juncker puts together the final touches to his State of the Union address, scheduled to be held at 09.00 CMT on Wednesday 9 September. EuropeanPublicAffairs.eu has provided a wishlist from each of our contributors on what they hope this year’s address will focus on, ranging from unemployment, social inequality, defence, skill development and energy.

Feel free to add your comments and opinions – what do you think should be in the State of the Union?

Farah Coppola: Support entrepreneurs

We need to create an improved climate for entrepreneurship. In order to create more jobs and form a competitive EU, business growth is sorely needed. A climate where EU citizens are encouraged to become entrepreneurs, further education and training to support business creation, and less administrative barriers for existing entrepreneurs should be prioritised. People need to be stimulated to identify a business opportunity and motivated to pursue it in order to achieve economic success.

Tom Fillis: Gender equality should be pushed

Gender equality remains a key policy area in a European context ahead of the first State of the Union address by Commission President Juncker. The relevant European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) launched its 2015 Index in July 2015. The report shows that the EU is still only half way towards gender equality with an Index of 52.9 out of 100 for 2012, compared to 51.3 in 2005, with substantial differences among Member States. Internally, Commission Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva continues to pursue a policy of gender equality within the EU Institutions, pushing for 40% of the top positions to be held by women  by the end of her mandate.

Ed Gavaghan: Energy & climate – time to lead again

As COP21 edges closer, and with global climate talks facing increasingly difficult obstacles following the slow progress in Bonn last week, the EU needs to once again be the leader in negotiations. Finalising a revamped EU Circular Economy package (due by the end of the year), pushing through EU ETS reform (Rapporteur to be chosen imminently), and fast-tracking inter-Member State grid connectivity on the road to a practical framework for the Energy Union should be top of the agenda.

Binding national agreements for the 2030 energy strategy would also be well received but I’m not holding my breath (looking at you Poland / UK).

Andrea Gentili: Greece & the EMU

The Greek crisis showed us how urgent it is to reform Europe’s Economic Governance and its Economy and Monetary Union (EMU). The Presidents of the five EU institutions for the Euro recently outlined their vision in a report on completing EMU. From the euro crisis we learned that ambition (such as the euro itself) needs to be measured against pragmatism. While the Greek negotiations taught us that trust is vital for economic assistance among EU countries. This said, all European countries cannot afford to wait for another crisis before doing what we all know is needed. Our monetary union needs to be backed by a deeper economic, fiscal, and political integration. We cannot afford pushing these key steps back in time yet again due to the delicate issue of trust among countries, as this would irreversibly hamper the diminishing trust that our citizens have in the EU and European governments.

Natasha Marie Levanti: EU voting rights

The confusion and disenfranchisement that occurred for European citizens during the European Parliament Elections in 2014 due to the large number of potential processes for casting a vote was unacceptable for a democratic entity. As such, the European Union has a responsibility, and should look towards reviewing the voting processes prior to 2019. The legal voting rights and processes differ across the 28 member states depending upon country of origin, country of residence, duration of residence, and other factors. This forces citizens to wade through hundreds of possible scenarios to find the conditions they must meet in order to exercise this democratic right, a right which by intent should be easily accessible to EU citizens – increasing voter participation and the EU’s democratic legitimacy.

Jimmy Los: Institutional transparency 

On the institutional Side, Jean-Claude Juncker is expected to advocate for the Commission’s Better Regulation Initiative and how the EC is undergoing a reshuffle of its internal working methods. Maybe the President will even come to the defence of his first Vice-President Timmermans who recently faced discontent from the public health sector over the delays concerning the publication of the Commission’s initiatives in the area. On the contrary, what will probably not come to the fore is the recent investigation by the European Ombudsman on the behaviour of the European Commission regarding the transparency register and Human Rights Impact Assessments.

Frank Markovic: Youth unemplyment

With 7.5 million Europeans under 25 neither employed nor in education or training, the consequences of youth joblessness is as acute as ever. However, even with the recent initiatives undertaken at the EU level, it appears that the problem of youth unemployment has slipped under the radar of Europe’s leaders. We therefore do not expect much of a mention of the issue in the speech.

Olesia Ogryzko: Defence & Ukraine

  • European security architecture which has been significantly shaken by Russia’s aggressive policy towards the West.

Starting from the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula Crimea, the Kremlin transitioned to an undeclared hybrid war in the East of Ukraine which has claimed at least 6829 lives, and forced 2.5 million people to flee their homes. By supporting separatists, who are responsible for shooting down MH17, killings of civilians and destroying Ukraine’s infrastructure Russia cannot be regarded as a peaceful country sharing European values. More, by openly disregarding and violating international legally binding instruments and its commitments, this country poses a serious threat to the system of international law. Russia’s invasion into the airspace and territorial waters of sovereign European nations should meet a unified European response and adequate symmetric counter action.

  • Ukraine

In deep turmoil starting from the 2013-2014 uprisings against former President Yanukovych, Ukraine is on a shaky path towards building a new European future. With the northern neighbour unfolding a multi-dimensional war (military, economic, informational) trying its utmost to prevent Ukraine from moving towards European integration, this eastern-European country experiences perhaps the hardest times since re-gaining independence in 1991. With the economy close to default, the social system challenged by the never-seen IDP crisis, and the political and legal frameworks in need of total de-sovietisation and modernisation – Ukraine needs support from strong European nations in these difficult times.

Juan Antonio Pavon Losada: EU social model

The unstoppable rise of inequality and the perpetuation of the European social crisis, which also exports out of its borders, highlights the need to strengthen the European Social Model or move onto a new one. We need a new trench, with new weapons and policy tools to win the war against poverty. Redesigning fairer mechanisms of wealth redistribution through the Fiscal Union or better labour protection seems key to completing the European Single Market whilst translating economic growth stats and figures into practical improvements across all of EU, and Non-EU citizens, quality of life.

What do you think?