Juncker urges EU to take stronger world role

STRASBOURG: In an age of trade wars, terrorism and rising nationalism, Europe must become a global player with a muscular foreign policy to match its economic strength, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker declared on Wednesday.
Juncker used his annual speech to the European Parliament to call for the bloc to stand up for the international order in the face of “trade and currency wars”, in a swipe at US President Donald Trump’s “America First” approach.
Europe’s ability to take strong diplomatic action is often hampered by the need to get agreement from all 28 member countries, so in a bid to simplify the process, Juncker announced plans to abolish the need for unanimity on some foreign policy issues.
With Brussels and Washington at loggerheads on a host of major issues from trade tariffs to the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal, Juncker said it was time for Europe to play a more influential role on the world stage.
“We must become a greater global actor,” the head of the EU executive told lawmakers in French, before switching to English to add: “Yes we are global payers, but we have to be global players too.”
The EU must do more to push the euro as a world currency, Juncker said, questioning why Europe pays 80 per cent of its energy bills in dollars when only two per cent of its energy imports come from the United States.
Boosting the role of the euro as a reserve currency would also create a means of skirting US sanctions that it disagrees with, such as those slapped back on Tehran by Trump when he pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal earlier this year in the face of bitter European opposition.
A European diplomat said in advance of the speech that Juncker knows it is a “critical” moment to prepare Europe for a world in which Trump’s United States is an unpredictable foreign policy friend and a protectionist trade rival. — AFP