Bratislava summit and State of the union recap: Action needs to follow from words

Last week, European Commission President Juncker delivered his latest State of the Union speech in the European Parliament, and two days later the EU-27’s heads of state and government adopted a so-called ‘Bratislava declaration and roadmap’ on the future European integration. “The current political circumstances are arguably not favourable for joint action on certain topics. Nevertheless, the State of the Union speech and in particular Bratislava declaration should have been a wake-up call for action. Unfortunately, especially the latter is mostly hollow”, CESI Secretary General Klaus Heeger concluded.

Bratislava summit and State of the union recap: Action needs to follow from words

According to Klaus Heeger, Mr Juncker rightfully points out that pooling defence capabilities in the form of a permanent structured cooperation is the way forward if the EU wants to stay visible internationally in the area of security and the fight against terrorism. Unfortunately, any concrete follow-up is missing in the Bratislava roadmap. Absent from the summit, the UK hastily declared it would veto the creation of EU military capabilities so long as it remained a member of the bloc. “This may be an affront towards other Member States, especially given their possibilities to proceed with a permanent structure cooperation in the ambit of defence, even when disapproved of by a Member State.”

In relation to the refugee crisis, the major topic – the integration of refugees – has remained unaddressed. “Regardless of the competences of the EU, not addressing the integration of migrants also means not properly addressing important aspects of solidarity, values and security. A smooth integration of over a million refugees is key for Europe, its Member States and their societies”, Mr. Heeger deplored.

Klaus Heeger welcomed Mr Juncker highlighting the free movement of workers as a common European value, just as the fight against discrimination and racism. “CESI agrees that it is vital to realise the principle of non-discrimination for all mobile and posted workers in order to create fair working conditions for all. However, this also includes a proper and swift implementation and enforcement of EU law and rules in employment and social affairs without exception and at all levels. Actions should not be limited to a revision of legislative rules such as the posting of workers directive. Trade unions should be better supported in their efforts to establish transnational legal counselling and assistance networks as well as transnational mutual assistance agreements for all posted and mobile workers”, Klaus Heeger demanded.

As to Europe’s fight against terrorism and radicalisation, CESI has repeatedly underlined that education should become a social integration channel and a value transmission tool, a vector for values such as civil rights, democracy, fundamental rights, tolerance and respect, with the aim of giving people in the process of becoming radicalised a solid feeling of identity that would enable them to rebuild themselves and give them stable reference points. According to Klaus Heeger, the EU should further encourage action in this regard.

Mr Juncker’s perhaps most interesting announcement was his intention to implement the Stability and Growth Pact ‘with common sense’. “Hopefully, this means that the European Commission will finally work towards greater budgetary flexibility for the Member States when it comes to urgently needed social investments”, Klaus Heeger stated. In the past, CESI has repeatedly criticised the current application of the Stability and Growth Pact and the tools of the European Semester which too often obstruct efforts by Member States to invest socially. “Together with other stakeholders, CESI wants to constructively relaunch the discussion on the possibility to encourage, not hinder, social investments in the frame of economic governance and fiscal surveillance. In this regard, Mr. Juncker’s statement does hopefully to point to the right direction”, Klaus Heeger concluded.