Europe is the big love of my life
- Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission-
Jean-Claude Juncker is answering you
Only five days after the terrorist attacks in Paris, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, came to Bozar in Brussels to meet with some 1000 citizens from Belgium and neighbouring countries within the framework of "Les Journées de Bruxelles" (the Brussels Days) organised by L'Obs in partnership with Le Soir and De Standaard.
The host of the debate, Béatrice Delvaux, entered immediately into the subject of the moment. The question was simple: "Is Europe going to war?" President Juncker declared firmly: "There have been acts of war. We are facing a confrontation that will last long and will produce numerous consequences. But Europe is not at war."
Several initial questions touched upon the solidarity of all Member States with France. For the first time in the history of the EU, the Paris attacks triggered the solidarity clause of Article 42.7 of the Treaty on European Union, according to which “If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power […]”. In this respect, the President declared that, within the Stability and Growth Pact, additional expenses that may be sustained by Member States in such exceptional efforts against terrorism, will not be treated in the same way as other expenses.
The other prominent question in the minds of citizens was the refugee crisis and its alleged relation with terrorism. "I refuse this amalgam between the refugees seeking asylum and the terrorists. We should all remember that terrorists are precisely those whom refugees escape from", said the President, and concluded on a more general tone declaring that "religion must never be used to divide. It is a uniting force". He also warned against the reintroduction of borders in Europe as a consequence of our fears.
In response to a question about the United Kingdom's forthcoming referendum on continued membership of the European Union, President Juncker stated very clearly that "there will be no Brexit. I believe that in the long term it will not be possible to have 33, 34, 35 Member States following the same speed and direction. One day it will be necessary to rethink the European architecture." He remarked, however, that this is not the time to concentrate on institutional questions but rather to deal will concrete challenges.
The debate touched upon several other issues including employment, TTIP, the economic crisis, and the role of cultural dialogue within a common foreign and security policy.
"You have lived through a very difficult first year for your Commission. Will you hold out?" asked Béatrice Delvaux. "Yes, I will hold out because Europe is the big love of my life", affirmed Jean-Claude Juncker to the participants of the 50th Citizens' Dialogue.