Jean-Claude Juncker has set out his plans for the future
The EU Commission chief reflected on a “darkly dramatic” year as he called on the Brussels to turn its back on “isolationism, inequality and national egotism”.
Mr Juncker’s remarks point to the growing eurosceptic movement sweeping the Continent fuelled by Britain’s momentous Brexit decision.
Britain voted to leave the EU on June 23
2017 is the year in which we must build on the initial progress made, demonstrate resilience and deliver real results
The beleaguered EU has entered a make or break year, with bitter divisions growing between member states over the escalating migrant crisis, the UK’s looming exit and US presidential election of Donald Trump.
Admitting that the bloc faces “considerable challenges in 2017”, the leading eurocrat said: “We started trying to find answers last year and luckily people in Europe realised that we can come up with better solutions by working together than if each Member State pursues only its own interests.
“2017 is the year in which we must build on the initial progress made, demonstrate resilience and deliver real results.”
Uncertainty currently hangs over Brussels after Donald Trump ramped up his rhetoric against NATO, describing it as “obsolete”, while getting closer to Vladimir Putin.
Most recently, the billionaire tycoon demanded Brussels abandon plans for an EU army if it wants the US to continue support for NATO.
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Juncker took aim at Donald Trump
Going head to head with Mr Trump, Jean-Cl Juncker directly compared the EU and America’s military capability.
He said: “Regardless of the outcome of the US elections, we cannot entrust our own security to others. This is why the Commission has proposed an agenda for a Common Security and Defence Policy, which will help us to work together more effectively in procurement and other matters.
“Member States should no longer be researching and investing in parallel, but rather together in this area. It is a question of efficiency.
"In the EU, we have 154 different types of weapons systems, whilst in the USA there are only 27.”
But perhaps the trickiest issue for the Brussels boss will be trying to build a consensus on migration in order to protect Europe from terror.
Mr Juncker hailed the European Border and Coast Guard, which can “act immediately, without having to get the go-ahead from individual Member States”.
The EU is facing a growing movement of eurosceptism
As part of the plan, Jean-Claude Juncker also touched on the EU’s controversial deal with Turkey to stem the flow of migrants across its borders.
Turkey agreed in March last year to stop illegal migrants from crossing into Greece in exchange for financial aid for those in its care, the promise of visa-free travel for its citizens to much of the EU, and accelerated EU membership talks.
He said: “As a result, the number of refugees who arrived in Greece last year was down some 80 per cent on the year before.
“The number of refugees arriving through the Western Balkans also fell dramatically: from 764,000 in 2015 to 123,000 last year. “
Drawing up his hopes for the future of 2017, Mr Juncker added: “For me, however, Europe is not only about matters of the mind, but above all about matters of the heart. It is about the underlying feeling which peace, security and opportunities bring.
“Just as in the times of Stefan Zweig, we have to make choices about the world we want to live in. It is therefore up to all of us to make 2017 the year in which Europe acts on the world stage, and work towards a Europe which protects, strengthens and defends us.”