Jean Claude Juncker, President (ret.) of the European Commission & Prime Minister (ret.) of Luxembourg, als Distinguished Guest Online at the Entrepreneurial School®.
With his wealth of experience from his long tenure as one of the most high-profile political office holders, Jean Claude Juncker knows what can put the European Union back on the path to success it has been striving for. The former President of the European Commission (2014-2019) is convinced that politics is about looking at reality. Europe is actually the smallest continent in the world with only about 4-5% of the world's population; therefore, Juncker urges more caution and greater modesty in international affairs - especially in light of increasingly restless neighbors in the immediate EU periphery.
Clear positions despite reservation
At the same time, Juncker advocates continuing to communicate objections steadfastly when it comes to human rights and media freedom violations. In maintaining important partnerships with North Africa, Russia, Turkey and China, for example, the European values should be represented without pointing the finger or being naïve. This will enable a further expansion of global relations. In doing so, he said, it is important not to be "lecturing, because even in Europe's past there are not only chapters of glory and that would make us untrustworthy." The now improved partnership with the U.S. is also a perpetual motion machine for transatlantic cooperation, he says. However, on the continent itself, we also need further efforts. Jean Claude Juncker expresses his disappointment about the failed framework treaty negotiations with Switzerland and mentions that the danger of an unregulated Brexit would be largely underestimated. Yet it would be appropriate to hold back with public recommendations on this topic.
No friend of sanctions
However, it would be wrong hardly reacting, when human rights violations are taking place somewhere in the world. The European Commission must react, but it has few instruments. Sanctions are one part of them, with Juncker admitting, "I am not a great friend of sanctions, but I don't think we should do nothing either," and suggesting that it might make more sense to target sanctions directly at the political personnel of the countries concerned. The high personal fortunes of the dictators let them leave office without any problems, "you have to tighten the screws."
Unity for more influence
Also within the EU, there is a need to continue to urge the basic European principles. Juncker finds the partial lack of respect of individual member states for the applicable legal standards worrying. For the upcoming European Conference, it is therefore necessary to find a common ground again: "if we want to have influence in the world, we have to make sure that we also keep order internally". The image of Europe as an eternal construction site is no longer relevant, but there is a need for renovation in the sense of a general European cluster, says Juncker, and is optimistic about the future of Europe's influence in the global context. To call Europe a world power, as many would like to hear, would be an exaggeration, however. Partly a reason for this, he says, is the way day-to-day foreign policy is conducted: "It cannot be that a decision hinges on the incomprehensible decision of a single member state. I think it is crucial that we decide on common foreign policy by qualified majority. That would incredibly strengthen the weight of Europe and the international weight of the euro."
Importance of youth participation & climate protection
Likewise, he said, it is important to assert European influence in matters of climate protection and sustainability. Jean Claude Juncker is convinced that climate protection is not a task only for parts of the world, but for everyone, especially the economic powers. In any case, now is the right time to take care of it. But it is not enough to continue blaming Europe for everything that goes wrong. "The citizens' expectations of Europe are much greater than the EU's range of competences actually allows," Juncker states. Therefore, the participation of the young population is necessary with suggestions for improvement on this topic as well as on how to fix the conflicts between the states. Understanding about the other member states and living conditions there is generally lacking, he knows, which is why Juncker insists: "Anyone who thinks for Europe must take an interest in the neighbors."