Dutch leader Mark Rutte reacted swiftly to Jean Claude Juncker’s speech on the future of the European Union, calling the European Commission president a “romantic,” while he himself believed “when you have visions, go see a doctor.”
Outlining his future vision during the State of the Union speech on September 13, the European Commission president has spoken of his desire for even closer cooperation between the member states, including greater monetary and fiscal integration surrounding the Eurozone. Some of his views were clearly not shared however, as the Dutch PM Rutte later described Juncker as being a deluded romantic.
Delivering his annual address to the European Parliament, Mr. Junker said the “wind is in our sails” and he urged the EU to take advantage, move on, embrace reforms and forge new trade deals around the world.
His blueprint for a ‘United States of Europe’ focused also on the need for an expansion of the barrier-free Schengen travel zone allowing both Bulgaria and Romania to join immediately, the setting up of an EU army, vast centralized powers as well as key reforms to the current ministerial set-up with a single and more powerful president.
The Dutch leader reacted to Junkcer’s ideas by saying:
“I am more of a when you have visions, go see a doctor kind of guy.”
Stressing there were some “good things” to take from the hour-long speech, Mr. Rutte admitted there were also “things I like less.”
Voicing his opposition to allow Bulgaria and Romania to become part of the Schengen area, the Dutch leader added: “Not at the moment. We oppose this. There are too many concerns about border controls and corruption.”
According to EU’s 2017 report, Bulgaria’s overall institutional structures for fighting corruption “remain fragmented and largely ineffective,” and generalized problems of corruption in the public administration remain rife. The report’s assessment of Romania was that corruption in the country was still a “deep-seated societal problem with consequences for both government and economy”.
Among his proposals, Mr. Junker wants to see the Eurozone extended, exerting pressure on non-members to join.
“If we want the euro to unite rather than divide our continent then it should be more than the currency of a select group of countries,” he insisted.
Moves to establish a stronger financial bond across Europe including issues such as tax did not surprise many in the wake of Britain’s exit, according to one leading British academic.
Dr. Robert Ackrill, professor of economics at Nottingham Trent University, who specializes in EU policies, said it was inevitable this would be proposed.
“One of the clear things we see from this is picking out key areas where he [Juncker] feels closer integration. Closer cooperation for him is a necessity in going forward. And certainly, around areas of the fiscal policy, financial markets in the wake of what happened in the  crisis and afterwards — it is clearly one major area where he sees coming together as being of vital importance.”
“If you are going to set up a single currency you also need to accommodate a closer integration of fiscal policies and that has never happened,” Dr. Ackrill told Sputnik.
“I think the fact that the UK is leaving offers the European Union a golden opportunity to sit down and reflect on these developments going forward,” he added.
‘Brexit Isn’t Everything’
During his speech, Mr. Junker barely touched on the issue of Britain’s departure from the EU, preferring instead to concentrate on forging a stronger bond among the remaining 27 member states.
“This (Brexit) will be a very sad and tragic moment in our history. We will always regret this, and I think that you will regret it as well, soon. Nonetheless we have to respect the will of the British people. But we are going to make progress. We will move on because Brexit isn’t everything, it’s not the future of everything.”
The president called for a summit to be held in Sibiu, Romania on 30 March, 2019 — the day after Britain formally quits the bloc — to decide how best Europe should proceed.
“Europe only moves forward when it is bold. The single market, Schengen, and the single currency were all written off as a pipe dream before they happened. And yet these three ambitious projects are now a reality. I hear those who say we should not rock the boat now things have started to get better. But now is not the time to err on the side of caution. We must complete the job now the sun is shining and while it still is. Because when the next clouds appear on the horizon — and they will — it will be too late,” said Juncker.