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EU: Juncker and Verhofstadt warn against nationalists and populists

15.9.2016 13:55
President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker. (PHOTO:   Zinneke, Wikimedia Commons)
President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker. (PHOTO: Zinneke, Wikimedia Commons)

Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt, chair of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) at the European Parliament (EP), said yesterday that the solution to uncontrolled globalization and virulent nationalism and populism on the old continent is a new, reformed, stronger European Union. His remarks were made in response to the speech on the state of the union given by the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.

Among other things, Juncker condemned rising populism in Europe. Verhofstadt, who heads the fourth-largest faction at the EP out of eight such factions total, said questions about the EU are answered differently depending on what generation Europeans belong to.

"Young people want a bright European future, they see the opportunities the EU offers. The immigration wave, the tax avoidance by big supranational corporations, terrorism, and international crime, however, make many older people feel the EU is no longer the solution. In this situation, it is no surprise that people are falling into the trap of nationalists and popultists who preach a false sense of security, a return to fences and walls," the former Belgian Prime Minister said.

Verhofstadt also agreed with Juncker's critique of nationalism and populism. "Problems are not solved by populism, which just creates new ones. We must defend ourselves against this," Juncker declared, going on to condemn, for example, recent assaults on Polish citizens in Britain.

"Under no circumstances can Europeans ever accept Polish workers being beaten, harassed, and even murdered in the streets of Essex," the European Commission head declared. Verhofstadt also supported Juncker's proposal that a common European defense system be created.

"The Americans want us to take more responsibility for our area," Verhofstadt noted. In his view, it is also necessary to reform EU currency and economic policy and to create a new, common asylum and immigration system that would be based on EU border and coast guards.

German MEP Manfred Weber, chair of the biggest group in the EP, the European People's Party (EPP) also said he believes European youth continue to see a better future in the EU. The nations of Europe, in his view, do not want a divided Europe, but they do want solutions to their concerns and problems.

Addressing the plenary session of the EP after Juncker, Weber declared that Turkey is a significant partner for the EU but cannot become a full-fledged member. British MEP Nigel Farage, the leader of the second-smallest faction at the EP, Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD), predicted in his own speech that opposition forces to the EU will grow rapidly.

Farage also believes there will be more referendums on EU membership. "You cannot stop the Eastern European countries who reject the immigration policy of [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel," said Farage, who led the successful campaign for Britain's departure from the EU. 

ČTK, Die, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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EU, European Commission, nationalism, Populism



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