The EU’s Challenging and Gloomy Future Beyond Juncker
Jean Claude-Juncker’s tenure as President of the European Commission (EC) has been a memorable one. He has been captured on camera numerous times parading around drunk, thereby earning himself the nickname “Juncker the Drunker.” Despite his hilarity, his legacy is a shameful one. Never in the EU’s history has an EC President presided over the political union’s destruction and been almost solely responsible for it.
David Cameron made his feelings about Juncker clear when he vetoed the former Luxembourg Prime Minister’s appointment in 2014. Instead of collaborating with the British to reach a suitable agreement to avert the UK’s EU exit, Juncker provoked Brexit by humiliating Cameron at every opportunity. The former British Prime Minister may have been the master of spin in his PR roles, but not even he could fool enough British people into believing his deal Juncker helped craft would fundamentally change the UK’s EU membership. And since Brexit was voted for almost three years ago, he has further humiliated the British by failing to agree a suitable free trade deal by insulting Theresa May at every opportunity. This man has no sense of statesmanship.
Furthermore, he has presided over low rates of economic growth that have failed to alleviate the problems many Mediterranean countries are facing. According to Trade Economics, European economic growth has been slipping from 2.8 percent in July 2017 and currently stands at 1.5 percent since January 2019. With Italy in two trillion euros of debt and their economy on the verge of a substantial default, it appears the EC is failing to grasp this problem by offering Italy the chance to devalue a new currency. The European elections have witnessed a surge in support for Eurosceptic parties. Therefore, Juncker has failed to reform the EU for the better. This leaves the organisation with a challenging and gloomy future once he retires this year. His successor will be in an unenviable position.
Juncker’s successor will have to deal with the reality that the eurozone is finished. With Italy’s deficit in the trillions, they will fail to repay many of the debts they have built up under the eurozone’s Target2 system, which allows nations to have the money they used to purchase German cars returned to them in the form of a credit they have to repay. Because the European Central Bank (ECB) cannot afford to bailout an economy the size of Italy’s, they won’t receive the same rescue package Greece did in 2012. And if Italy quits the eurozone, it provokes a ripple effect that will encourage other nations to leave it and thrive outside the ECB’s grip. It is impossible to predict how Juncker’s successor will do things differently and if the eurozone dies, that ends the EC’s dream of further EU integration.
Juncker’s term will be over on November 1st, 2019, exactly five years after he was appointed. By then, Britain should have left the EU with a deal, or not. If Juncker’s successor must deal with the latter outcome because their predecessor failed to exercise flexibility over the Irish backstop, the EU’s economy will be harmed by a no-deal Brexit. Another challenge that awaits Juncker’s successor is the prospect of agreeing a deal with the UK that does not harm trade. Juncker’s successor should be more imaginative in resolving the potential trade issues a post-Brexit UK poses to the EU. These are two fundamental obstacles to the EU’s future, as well as a more Eurosceptic European Parliament. Either way, the future does not look rosy for Juncker’s successor, but at least the new EC President would know their predecessor only has himself to blame for this mess.