Juncker vows ‘agenda of reform’ after being elected president

Ex-Luxembourg PM acknowledges EU has lost credibility ahead of summit

Nigel Farage (left), British Member of the European parliament and leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), greets Jean-Claude Juncker, candidate for President of the Commission, before his statement during the plenary session in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. Photograph: Patrick Seeger/EPA

Nigel Farage (left), British Member of the European parliament and leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), greets Jean-Claude Juncker, candidate for President of the Commission, before his statement during the plenary session in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. Photograph: Patrick Seeger/EPA

Tue, Jul 15, 2014, 11:32

Jean-Claude Juncker has pledged to lead the European Commission with an “agenda of reform” as the former Luxembourg prime minister was elected as the next president of the European Commission. Mr Juncker was elected with 422 votes, and 250 against, by MEP’s at a closed ballot in Strasbourg. His election, which was vehemently opposed by Britain, comes a day before a summit of EU leaders at which the other top EU jobs will be considered.

Addressing the parliament ahead of the vote, Mr Juncker said that only those who were “completely blind and deaf” were not aware that the European Union had lost some of its credibility.” The gap between the European Union and its citizens has increased [...]Europe needs to explain itself more. It’s up to us to deliver.” The new Commission president said that at a time when the distinction between war and peace was no longer in evidence, it was important to remember the founding principles of the European Union.

“Peace is not something we can take for granted, so let’s be proud of the past generations of our fathers and grandparents, who came back from the battlefields, came back from the concentration camps, who said never again.” Noting that the conflict in Ukraine was a reminder that the possibility of war still exists, Mr Juncker recalled that Europe had peacefully reunited in the 1990’s, without arms. “Let there be no such thing as old member states and new member states. There are just member states.”

Mr Juncker also pledged to assign 300 billion euro, mostly from the EU’s existing budget, to stimulate investment in the EU. Mr Juncker, who led the euro goup of euro zone finance ministers for a decade, said he was proud of keeping Greece in the euro and praised the single currency, a comment which elicted applause and boos from the chamber. While acknowledging that mistakes had been made during the euro zone crisis as Europe “tried to keep a burning airplane in the air” he said that any future adjustment programmes for countries would be accompanied by a social impact assessment.

Mr Juncker, who will replace former Portuguese prime minister Jose Manuel Barroso who headed the EU’s executive arm for a decade, also pledged to increase transparency in the ongoing negotiations between the EU and US on a trade deal. While the European Commission was in favour of the deal, European standards on health and social security should not be jeopardised, he said.