Opinion & Analysis

Two Visions, One Direction: Plans for the Future of Europe

PLANS FOR THE FUTURE OF EUROPE: as laid out in President Juncker’s State of the Union and President Macron’s Initiative for Europe

Two speeches, one vision
In September 2017, President Juncker and President Macron laid out ambitious proposals for the future of Europe. In their respective speeches, both mark a hope for the beginning of a new era after the polycrisis of past years. The State of the Union (SOTEU) – delivered by the President of the European Commission on 13 September – is by definition more than a speech. It outlines the European Commission’s work programme and legislative proposals for the next year, and sets out the President’s broader vision for the future. The 2017 speech was President Juncker’s third and arguably most important, given the ‘wind in the sails’ that the European project currently enjoys: increased public support, improved economic and social conditions in Europe, but also the need to be more united given the growing instability abroad. President Macron’s ‘Initiative for Europe’ speech on 27 September outlines the French President’s vision for the future of Europe and the future role of France in this Union. It follows from his openly pro-European election campaign and the continued commitment he has shown in the first few months in office.

Significant convergence
There is a high degree of overlap and convergence across these speeches, both between the visions outlined and the concrete initiatives proposed. President Juncker presents a ‘Roadmap for a More United, Stronger and More Democratic Union’, and President Macron echoes this with ‘A Sovereign, More United and Democratic Europe’.

They share:
• Concerns over Europe’s long-term prospects and a desire to shape Europe’s future
• An ambition to strengthen Europe’s unique value proposition at home and abroad
• A focus on action and delivery

Slight nuances
They diverge partly on questions of timing for delivery:
the SOTEU, by its very nature, is in equal parts concerned with those initiatives and actions that can still be delivered under the current mandate of the European Parliament, i.e. in the next 18 months, and those designed with a 2025 perspective. President Macron presents a two-stage process centred around the European Parliament elections in 2019, and the following ones in 2024.

They also differ in their method. President Juncker’s overriding concern is the unity of the EU27, although he leaves open the possibility to advance initiatives with a smaller group of countries in instances where no consensus can be achieved. President Macron, on the other hand, explicitly calls for more differentiated and flexible institutional arrangements to support his vision, including enabling those Member States which want to do more, to do more. Whilst all of President Juncker’s proposals could be implemented on the basis of the Lisbon Treaty, some of President Macron’s proposals would require Treaty change and more far-reaching institutional innovation, therefore requiring significantly more time.

Repair or rebuild?
In this sense, while President Juncker wants to fix Europe’s roof ‘now that the sun is shining’, President Macron outlines a vision on how to rebuild the European house. Out of the proposals put forward by President Macron in his speech of 27 September, about 80% are already proposed or foreseen in the European Commission’s work programme, as outlined on 13 September in President Juncker’s Letter of Intent to European Parliament President Antonio Tajani and to Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas. What follows is a comparative assessment of the two speeches and of the proposals they advance.

Read the full report here