(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
STRASBOURG - Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Union's executive body, will call on member states to take advantage of Brexit and an economic upswing that is pulling the EU out of crisis to forge a tighter Union, putting the euro zone at the heart of world trade.
Juncker, president of the European Commission, will use his annual State of the European Union address to the EU legislature in Strasbourg on Wednesday to propose an agenda for the remaining two years of his mandate, which will end shortly after Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.
In stark contrast to the previous two years, dominated by existential fears raised by the Greek debt crisis, migrants crossing the Mediterranean in the hundreds of thousands, and Britain's 2016 Brexit vote, officials said Juncker wants the EU to seize a window of opportunity to strengthen its integration.
Speaking from 9 a.m. (0700 GMT), Juncker is expected to renew his arguments for the bloc to forge ahead with free trade deals as the United States under President Donald Trump takes a more insular turn. After Japan on the trade front, Australia, New Zealand and South America are next in Brussels' sights for rapid new agreements.
At the same time, he is likely to enlarge on proposals for the EU to take a tougher line with China over allegations of cut-price dumping and for it to scrutinize more closely future investments in strategic European assets by state-owned firms.
Juncker, a former prime minister of Luxembourg and long-time chairman of the euro zone finance ministers group, has sounded alarm at noisy disputes over EU subsidies, civil liberties, fiscal policy and national sovereignty that are dividing northern and southern states, rich and poor, the west from the ex-communist east.