'One would think Sweden’s general election on Sunday, which once more saw big gains for a populist movement demanding a referendum on EU membership, would make Brussels stop and think about their visions of a federal Europe. Instead, the last few days have once again shown that a period of reflection is not on the agenda.
It all started with Guy Verhofstadt, perhaps the most outspoken and prominent supporter of an “ever closer union” – and the European Parliament’s negotiator for Brexit. He quite diplomatically proclaimed in an interview with a French newspaper that the UK’s decision to leave the European Union had saved the EU. “Fortunately, we have Brexit. It illustrates the populist wave, but it has also provoked a resurrection of attachment to the EU,” he said.
Jean-Claude Juncker’s annual State of the European Union speech on Wednesday took up the same theme. While the President of the European Commission struck a more conciliatory tone on Brexit, he nonetheless made clear that more EU integration is the only way forward, and that there is no way looking back.
Juncker started with the usual story that the EU is the guarantor of peace on the continent. Indeed, he started all the way back in the year 1914 to prove his point. “I speak of these times not because I believe we are on the brink of another catastrophe. We should be thankful we live on a peaceful continent, made possible by the European Union.” That will certainly come as news to the citizens of Bosnia or, indeed, Ukraine.
The conclusion of Juncker’s dodgy history lesson was simple: “Let us show the European Union a bit more respect.”
Another curious feature of the speech was that everything that has gone wrong with the European project on Juncker’s watch is someone else’s fault, while he is personally responsible for all the supposed policy wins.
The “Juncker Fund,” which was his idea, is the reason why “investment is back” in Europe (not true). Greece is supposedly back on its feet (which is not the case) and it’s because of Juncker: “I have always fought for Greece. Of this I am proud.” The trade agreement with the US, which President Trump and him put together in June, is also a roaring success (again, it is not): “In Washington, I spoke in Europe’s name.”'