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Jean-Claude Juncker has urged supporters of Europe to “quit the Brussels bashing” as the EU Commission raises the prospect of returning some powers to member states in an effort to shore up the bloc after the Brexit vote.
Unveiling the EU’s latest “white paper” on its future, the president of the European Commission said some policies could be renationalised as part of a plan in which the 27 remaining countries resolved to act more decisively on a smaller range of common priorities.
“It is time to make clear what Europe can or can’t do”, said Mr Juncker, adding that the approach of “more or less Europe” was no longer the right approach towards reforming the union which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this month.
“We should not make people believe that we can deliver the sun and the moon if we are only able to deliver a telescope”, he told MEPs in the European Parliament on Wednesday.
The notion of Brussels bringing a halt to some pan-European policies departs from the principle of an ever closer union between member states that has guided decades of decision-making.
Saying the EU could “do less more efficiently”, Mr Juncker said the bloc could step back from regional development, public health and parts of employment and social policy.
“I am not a dictator” said the former Luxembourg president. “We should not mix up leadership and diktat. We would like to listen before we state our view”.
It could also allow more national power on state aid controls and set only a strict minimum for consumer protection and health and safety standards.
At the same time, all member states would grant the EU increased or exclusive responsibility for innovation, trade, security, migration, asylum claims, borders and defence – with much stronger powers for Brussels to directly implement and enforce collective decisions. Such powers would be in line with far-reaching European oversight of competition policy and banking supervision.
He said the EU could stop acting or do less in areas where it is perceived to have limited added value or cannot deliver on promises. But “real difficulty” was in prospect when attempting to settle which areas should be prioritised and where the bloc should do less.
Image via Reuters