Young European Federalists condemn Juncker’s unenthusiasm, welcome European Parliament’s Hungary vote

, by Juuso Järviniemi

Young European Federalists condemn Juncker's unenthusiasm, welcome European Parliament's Hungary vote
© European Union 2018 - European Parliament

On Wednesday, the European Parliament assembled to hear European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s last-ever State of the European Union speech in the morning. Later the same day, the Parliament voted in favour of triggering the Article 7 procedure against the Hungarian government as a punishment for its fundamental rights violations.

The Young European Federalists (JEF) have actively followed the situation in Hungary, standing up for values such as press freedom and minority rights. Wednesday’s press release is the newest in a growing sequence of official JEF statements concerning Hungary. Leonie Martin, Vice-President of the organisation, said that the vote ‘gives hope of putting European values back at the centre of the EU’s agenda’ ahead of the 2019 European elections.

At the same time, international media has noted that the triggering of the Article 7 procedure, and the ultimate punishment of losing EU voting rights, may well be blocked by national governments. Unanimous agreement is needed from all governments, including that of Poland, itself embroiled in controversy concerning freedom of the judiciary and media freedom. For JEF, this is an indication that the EU is still “ill-equipped” to truly defend rule of law.

The need for reform in the EU doesn’t stop at questions of fundamental values. While Jean-Claude Juncker has entitled his team as the “last-chance” Commission, JEF President Christopher Glück says that in his speech Juncker “gave the impression of a resigned captain, longing to leave the ship”. Some new ideas were presented in the speech, but a far-reaching vision was lacking. Moreover, interesting proposals from the previous year’s State of the EU speech had been forgotten in the past 12 months.

Of the themes of the upcoming elections, Glück highlighted immigration. A strengthened European Border and Coast Guard, proposed by Juncker in the speech, is still a far cry from solving Europe’s so-called migration crisis. For instance, a European set of standards for assistance and integration services is still missing, Glück points out.

With months to go until the European elections, the federalists are stepping up their wakeup calls to complacent governments and EU politicians. Despite the European Parliament’s voting decision bringing hope, the big picture still shows an alarming lack of leadership by politicians. The task of promoting the European idea is, as JEF’s statement on the State of the EU speech concludes, again in the hands of civil society.

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