Juncker seeks to sail on post-Brexit winds of change

Juncker seeks to sail on post-Brexit winds of change

Juncker seeks to sail on post-Brexit winds of change

It was an upbeat speech meant to inject fresh ambition into the EU following a turbulent decade, with Juncker insisting that the "wind is back in Europe's sails" and arguing that other countries are queuing up to sign trade deals with the union.

Juncker called the U.K.'s decision to leave the European Union "a very sad and tragic moment in our history".

Juncker called on EU leaders to set out a clear vision for the EU's future ahead of May 2019 European Parliament elections, held just over a month after the United Kingdom is scheduled to officially leave the union.

With populism at bay and the economy on the upswing, Juncker's annual State of the Union speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, is expected to strike a far more optimistic note than previous year.

Without that movement, British officials say talks may become stalled particularly on Northern Ireland, arguing that how to deal with the only land border with the European Union depends on what kind of future customs deal the two sides will agree.

He did not give more details of the new tasks the EMF could take on, saying only the Commission would make a proposal on that, as well as the prerogatives of a European finance minister, on December 7.

The president of the European Commission said on Wednesday he saw no prospect of Turkey joining the EU in "the foreseeable future" but he had a more optimistic message for six Western Balkan nations also seeking membership.

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Britain voted in June 2016 to withdraw from the 28-nation European Union bloc but negotiations with the European Union are moving extremely slowly.

Europe, he insisted, "is not a fortress and must never become one".

In this morning's speech the European Union chief set out his 12-month masterplan to steer the troubled bloc through the escalating refugee crisis and reform the eurozone. He looked ahead to the day after Britain's departure on March 29, 2019, saying Europe should "throw off the bowlines, sail away from the harbour" - and have another summit, in Romania.

"We only had two choices - either come together around a positive European agenda or each retreat in our own corners".

He said the major roles of European Commission president and the European Council President, who chairs meetings of EU leaders, should be merged and chosen through elections using the European Parliament's Spitzenkandidat system. "Faced with this choice, I argued for unity".

He will call for countries that are outside the eurozone and the Schengen passport-free area to join, they added.

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