Juncker says EU will ‘move on’ from Brexit in state of union speech | World news

Jean-Claude Juncker has declared that the “wind is back in Europe’s sails” in an at times deeply personal State of the Union speech in which he gave his vision for the future of the European Union after the UK makes its “tragic” departure in 2019.

The European commission president said he would always deeply lament the UK’s decision to leave the EU. “This will be a very sad and tragic moment in our history, we will always regret this”, he said before responding to heckling from Nigel Farage, by retorting: “I think you will regret this soon, I might say.”

Calling for a special summit in Romania on the 30 March 2019, the first day of an EU of 27 member states rather than 28, Juncker said he hoped the continent would “wake up” that day to a new more unified bloc.

“We have to respect the will of the British people”, he said. “We are going to make progress. We will keep moving. We will move on because Brexit isn’t everything. It isn’t the future of Europe. It isn’t the be all and end all… On the 30 March 2019, we will be a union of 27 and I suggest we prepare very well for that date.”

He added: “I have lived the European project through my entire life. I have fought for it, I have worked for it. I have been through good times, and I have been through bad times … I have sometimes suffered with Europe and agonised over Europe.

“I have been through thick and thin with the European Union and never have I lost my love for the European Union. As we all know there is no love without disappointment, or very rarely.”

Juncker’s annual address to the European parliament in Strasbourg was notably more upbeat about the future than his speech a year ago, with economic growth outstripping the US and unemployment at a nine-year low. The commission president and former prime minister of Luxembourg, insisted the bloc should seize the moment to make widespread reforms. “As Mark Twain wrote, years from now we will be more disappointed by the things we did not do, than by the ones we did,” he said.

Juncker proposed more help for all EU countries to join the euro, so that it could be truly “the single currency of the European Union”, along with a wide range of institutional changes, including the creation of an EU finance minister and the widening of the Schengen area, in which passport-free travel is allowed.

In a call for the presidencies of the European commission and the European council, the body comprising the member states’ leaders, to be combined and directly elected in the future, Juncker said the EU needed to be more flexible and streamlined. “Europe would be easier to understand if one captain was steering the ship,” he said.

He also put his weight behind calls for the European parliament seats previously held by British MEPs to be elected on a transnational basis.

Juncker added that the council should adopt qualified majority voting, rather than unanimity, on foreign policy issues and drive forward in European defence. “By 2025 we need a fully-fledged European defence union,” he said. “We need it. And Nato wants it.”

He also added the EU would establish a European cybersecurity agency. “Cyber-attacks know no borders and no one is immune,” he said.

Juncker told MEPs he intended to start trade talks with Australia and New Zealand, and promised to legislate to protect strategic interests from foreign purchases through industrial screening.

A joint statement from the French, German and Italian governments following the speech endorsed the move. The German minister for economic affairs, Brigitte Zypries, said: “We must avoid other states benefiting from our opening to advance their own industrial policy interests.”

Juncker added that the EU would respond to the “collapse of the ambitions in the US” on climate change by stepping into the vacuum and ensuring that Europe protected the world. “Let’s catch the wind in our sails”, he told MEPs.

However, he ruled out Turkey’s accession to the EU in the “foreseeable future”, and, in his strongest comments to date on the issue, he condemned the country’s slide into authoritarianism under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“Turkey has been moving away from the European Union in leaps and bounds,” Juncker told MEPs. “Journalists belong in editorial offices amid a heated debate, and not in prison. I appeal today to the powers that be in Turkey: let our journalists go, and not just our journalists.”

Juncker was also scathing about Poland’s recent judicial reforms, which have been criticised as an attack on the judiciary, although he did not mention the country by name. Brussels has threatened to trigger a process under which Poland could lose its voting rights in the council of ministers unless it rethinks a series of recent legislative reforms.

Juncker said: “The rule of law means that law and justice are upheld by an independent judiciary. Accepting and respecting a final judgment is what it means to be part of a union based on the rule of law.”

The EU is also to step up its deportation of illegal immigrants, improve its “pathways” for legal migration and tackle the “inhumane conditions” in Libyan reception camps, which, according to some reports, are reminiscent of second world war concentration camps.

Farage, the former Ukip leader, told the Strasbourg chamber that Juncker’s speech was “worrying”. “More Europe in every single direction and all of it to be done without the consent of the people,” Farage said. “All I can say, is thank God we are leaving. You have learned nothing from Brexit. If you had given [David] Cameron concessions, particularly on immigration, the Brexit vote, I must admit, would never, never have happened.”

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Trump says west is at risk, during nationalistic speech in Poland | US news

Donald Trump said the survival of the west was at risk, as he lashed out at hostile forces ranging from Islamic terrorism to Russia, statism and secularism, during a speech in Poland.

At the start of a four-day trip to Europe, the US president gave a highly nationalist address in Warsaw suggesting that a lack of collective resolve could doom an alliance that had endured through the cold war.

“As the Polish experience reminds us, the defence of the west ultimately rests not only on means but also on the will of its people to prevail,” Trump said at the site of the 1944 uprising against the Nazis. “The fundamental question of our time is whether the west has the will to survive.”

Trump, who delivered the speech on Thursday before flying to Hamburg for the G20 summit and bilateral meetings with the leaders of China, Russia and Germany, painted a picture of the west facing existential challenges in the effort to “defend our civilisation” from terrorism, bureaucracy and the erosion of traditions.

Trump pointed to Poland, which in the last century endured Nazi and Soviet occupations, as an example of resolve. “The story of Poland is the story of a people who have never lost hope, who have never been broken, and who have never forgotten who they are,” he said.

In a nod to the conservative values he shares with Poland’s controversial ruling Law and Justice party, Trump also called on the west to defend its traditions.

“Americans, Poles, and the nations of Europe value individual freedom and sovereignty,” he said. “We must work together to counter forces, whether they come from inside or out, from the south or the east, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are.”

Trump delivers his speech in Krasinski Square.



Trump delivers his speech in Krasinski Square. Photograph: East News/Rex/Shutterstock

According to Polish press reports, Trump was enticed to Warsaw by promises of a rapturous reception. The Polish government, which paid for supporters to be bussed in from provincial areas, appeared to have delivered, as the president was greeted by a boisterous, highly partisan, crowd in Krasinski Square, one of Warsaw’s smaller public spaces.

The crowd expressed its sympathies ahead of Trump’s address, chanting the name of a Law and Justice politician as he took his seat and chanting “thieves” and “traitors” at opposition politicians as they entered the event’s VIP area.

The US president’s address was regularly interrupted by chants of “Donald Trump!” and “USA”, though he hit a less popular note when he praised the contribution to Poland’s freedom of Lech Walesa, the former dissident, president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, who has long been denounced by Law and Justice leaders as a traitor and Communist informant.

For the first time Trump said he “stood by” article 5 of the Nato charter – the provision requiring members to defend each other from attack – but he coupled that much-sought promise with a fresh attack on unnamed Nato states for “failing to meet their full and fair financial obligations on defence spending”.

He claimed his tough criticism of those states that had not met the Nato target of raising defence spending to 2% of GDP was paying off, with billions more being committed to defence across Europe.

Trump made repeated references to threats posed by Islamic terror. “Our borders will always be closed to extremism and terrorism,” he said. “We cannot accept those who reject our values and use hatred to justify violence.”

He made a rare criticism of Russia, accusing Moscow of “destabilising activities in Ukraine and elsewhere”, and claiming Vladimir Putin was supporting “hostile regimes including Syria and Iran”.

He also issued a Reaganesque call to tackle bureaucracy, which he framed as more than just an inconvenience or byproduct of a rules-based society. “On both sides of the Atlantic, our citizens are confronted by yet another danger – one firmly within our control. This danger is invisible to some but familiar to the Poles. The steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and wealth of the people. The west became great not because of paperwork and regulations but because people were allowed to chase their dreams and pursue their destinies.”

The audience assembled for Donald Trump’s address in Krasinski Square.



The audience assembled for Donald Trump’s address in Krasinski Square. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

In addition to the people gathering around Krasinski Square, many of whom appeared to have turned up out of curiosity, Trump was faced by a message lasered on to the city’s Stalinist-era Palace of Culture that read “No Trump, Yes Paris”, a reference to the Paris climate change agreement from which Trump withdrew the US.

A small left-wing party held a protest with activists dressed as women from The Handmaid’s Tale, an American TV drama series based on a novel about a future totalitarian society, in protest over Trump’s treatment of women.

Some of Trump’s supporters were also disgruntled. Most of the space in Krasinski Square, Warsaw’s fourth or fifth largest public space, was taken up by VIP seating and media and security zones, leaving many supporters who had been bussed into Warsaw from the countryside, perhaps early in the morning, to stand in nearby side streets.

“They should let us in with them, after all they are here because of us,” one supporter told a reporter, referring to government politicians. “Not one of them looked at us as they walked in.”

Earlier in the day, Trump and Andrzej Duda, the Polish president, discussed their disapproval of their respective countries’ domestic media outlets, as Trump defended his criticism of CNN and his tweet depicting him body-slamming a figure bearing a CNN logo.

“They have been fake news for a long time, and they have been covering me in a dishonest way,” Trump said, as Duda nodded enthusiastically. “We don’t want fake news.”

After Poland’s ruling Law and Justice assumed office in 2015, Duda signed a media law allowing the government to take political control of state media outlets. Liberal media outlets have been squeezed financially by the cancellation of subscriptions by state institutions, and the withdrawal of advertising revenues.



Trump: there will be consequences for North Korea’s ‘very, very bad behaviour’

Asked about North Korea’s recent missile tests and Trump’s planned response, the US president replied: “I don’t know. We’ll see what happens. I don’t like to talk about what I have planned. I have some pretty severe things we’re thinking about. I don’t draw red lines.”

Trump closed the press conference with a rambling response to a call from a reporter to “finally answer yes or no” to whether he thought Russia had interfered in the 2016 US election.

“I think it could very well have been Russia,” he replied. “I think it could well have been other countries. I won’t be specific. But I think a lot of people interfere. Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure.”

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Trump’s Warsaw speech pits western world against barbarians at the gates | US news

Donald Trump used the word “civilisation” 10 times in his first speech in central Europe. The man who brought us “America first” has expanded his vision, to a clash of civilisations.

And at a time of anxiety over America’s role in the world, the message was clear: the US is still the leader of western civilisation, whether western civilisation wants it or not.

The crowd gathered in Warsaw – many arriving on free buses laid on by Poland’s conservative ruling party – seemed happy enough at this prospect. They chanted “Donald Trump! Donald Trump!”, echoing one of his barnstorming rallies in the homeland. From Britain, the former UK Independence party leader Nigel Farage quoted the speech approvingly on Twitter.

But Trumpsceptics across Europe are unlikely to have been impressed by a speech of two halves: a reassuring pledge of support for Nato and dig at Russia mixed with coded – and sometimes not so coded – warnings that the barbarians are at the gate.

“Americans, Poles, and the nations of Europe value individual freedom and sovereignty,” said Trump, wearing his customary red tie. “We must work together to confront forces, whether they come from inside or out, from the south or the east, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are.

“If left unchecked, these forces will undermine our courage, sap our spirit and weaken our will to defend ourselves and our societies.”

It was not hard to detect the voice of the White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon, the nationalist-nihilist who once promised that the Trump era would be “as exciting as the 1930s” and is a student of The Fourth Turning, a book that argues history moves in cycles and America is on the brink of its latest violent cataclysm.

Nor was it hard to see the hand of Trump’s speechwriter Stephen Miller, principal author of Trump’s inaugural address in January, in which the word “America” appeared even more frequently than “civilisation” did this time, most notoriously as “American carnage”.

Speaking at Krasinski Square – which memorialises the Warsaw uprising against Nazi occupation – Trump tried to conflate Poland’s second world war history with the defence of western traditions.

“The people of Poland, the people of America, and the people of Europe still cry out ‘We want God’,” he said.

In 1939, Trump recalled, Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany from the west and the Soviet Union from the east. “That’s trouble,” it occurred to him. “That’s tough.”

He made reference to the Katyn massacre, the Holocaust, the Warsaw ghetto and the murder of millions of Poland’s Jewish citizens. Then came four decades of communist rule.

From there, Trump tried to make the leap to contemporary external threats including terrorism and extremism, propaganda, financial crimes and cyberwarfare. In a paragraph guaranteed to please Republican hawks at home, he offered rare criticism of Vladimir Putin, urging Russia to end its destabilising activities in Ukraine and elsewhere, and its support for hostile regimes including Syria and Iran.

But then came a bizarre pivot to Bannon’s stated goal: the deconstruction of the administrative state.

“This danger is invisible to some but familiar to the Poles: the steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and wealth of the people,” Trump said. “The west became great not because of paperwork and regulations but because people were allowed to chase their dreams and pursue their destinies.”

It would have been hard to imagine Ronald Reagan declaring: “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall of bureaucracy!”

Trump changed gear to more traditional ground for US presidents in Europe. He praised the “community of nations” and said the bond between the US and Europe was maybe “even stronger” than ever. Despite his own war on the media, he heralded “the right to free speech and free expression”. He spoke of empowering women and valuing the dignity of every human life. And finally he threw his weight firmly and explicitly behind Nato’s article five, the mutual defence commitment.

Nevertheless, this was a speech about reassuring doubters around the world that America is still flying the plane, even if the passengers would prefer Barack Obama to be the pilot. The implication that cultural essentialism and national purity face existential threats hovered ominously throughout.

In what the pro-Trump Fox News called “a staunch defence of western values during a rousing speech”, the president insisted: “The fundamental question of our time is whether the west has the will to survive.

“Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilisation in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”

A few minutes later, he answered his own questions: “Just as Poland could not be broken, I declare today for the world to hear that the west will never, ever be broken. Our values will prevail. Our people will thrive. And our civilisation will triumph.”

Trump was following in a long line of American presidents who made historic addresses in Europe, including John F Kennedy (“Ich bin ein Berliner”) and Reagan. But his attempt to set out a Trump doctrine will be remembered not for a quotable zinger but for muddled thinking and dark nativism.

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Poland’s courting of Trump is a few supporters short of a picnic | Remi Adekoya | Opinion

Poland’s rightwing government is pulling out all the stops for what it sees as its greatest foreign policy achievement to date: a visit to Warsaw today by US president Donald Trump. In what has to be acknowledged as wily diplomacy, the Law and Justice (PiS) government is appealing to the US president’s achilles heel: his vanity, reportedly luring him with promises of adoring crowds, in contrast to the chillier receptions he can expect in western Europe.

The ruling party is bussing in its supporters from all over Poland, encouraging them to take part in a “great patriotic picnic” on the occasion of Trump’s visit. The idea is to make the big man feel as good about himself as possible, which will hopefully benefit Poland in some way, such as a more categorical assertion that Nato would – under US leadership – protect Poland from any aggression from Moscow.

PiS is working hard to tickle Trump’s ego. The party’s leader and Poland’s most important politician, Jarosław Kaczyński, described Trump’s decision to visit Warsaw as a “new success” for Poland. “[Others] envy it, the British are attacking us because of it.” Meanwhile, the defence minister, Antoni Macierewicz, described Trump as “a man who is changing the shape of the world’s political scene”, adding that his “historic” visit would “once and for all, erase [Poland’s] experience of occupation and Soviet enslavement”.

There used to be a time when one could predict US foreign policy in rational terms; today it’s more an issue of how Trump’s ego will react to a particular situation. As a narcissist enthralled with those who offer him affirmation, Trump will likely respond to Warsaw’s lavish praise in kind. Additionally, he shares much ideologically with the current Polish government: hostility towards Muslim migrants and doubt over climate change and German leadership in the EU.

Trump is already responding to Warsaw’s fawning. His national security adviser, HR McMaster, promised the American president would deliver “a major speech” in Warsaw where “he will praise Polish courage throughout history’s darkest hour, and celebrate Poland’s emergence as a European power. And he will call on all nations to take inspiration from the spirit of the Poles as we confront today’s challenges.” McMaster added that Trump would “lay out a vision” for “America’s future relationship with Europe” in Poland. Were the last promise to materialise, this would certainly be viewed as a diplomatic coup for Warsaw, and a snub to the likes of Berlin and London where such an important speech might have been expected to be made.

Indeed, there is the danger that Trump will use his Warsaw speech to draw a divisive line between what he would likely portray as a commonsense eastern Europe, proud of its (Christian) identity and values and a multiculturalism-obsessed, politically correct and naive western Europe that has lost its way and left itself vulnerable to Islamist terrorism. The Polish government will certainly hope for such a message, to help legitimise its anti-migrant and increasingly anti-EU stance, particularly in the eyes of its domestic audience.

But while the Polish government may well hear the message it wants from Trump, its attempts to portray Poles as more sympathetic to Trump than western Europeans will be more illusion than reality. Recent Pew Research suggests Poles are generally very sceptical of the US president. Only 23% expressed confidence in Trump to “do the right thing regarding world affairs”, compared to 22% in the UK, while 57% of Poles lack confidence in him. In comparison, at the end of his presidency, 58% of Poles expressed confidence in Obama’s handling of world affairs.

Moreover, the Pew survey showed 46% of Poles expressed confidence in Angela Merkel’s global leadership. Twice as many Poles now trust the global leadership of a German chancellor over that of an US president, a remarkable development taking into consideration Poles’ historically strong pro-US stance and post-second world war fears of “German domination”, which are consistently stoked by the current government in Warsaw.

So even if news agencies beam pictures of seemingly numerous pro-Trump Poles from his visit in Warsaw, this should not be taken to mean widespread support for the US president or his policies within Polish society in general. Most of the crowd will be the bussed-in PiS supporters, who are generally more sympathetic towards Trump, plus of course a number who might turn up out of curiosity at seeing first-hand the world’s most controversial politician.

Polish society may generally be more conservative and sceptical towards Muslim migrants than western European nations, but the majority of Poles are by no means fans of Trump’s crass and clueless style of leadership. Don’t be fooled Mr President, Poland ain’t Trumpland.

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The Guardian view on Donald Trump in Europe: an edgy welcome awaits | Editorial | Opinion

Donald Trump is coming back to Europe this week. The US president will first go to Warsaw for a major speech before arriving in Hamburg for the G20 summit. There will be headlines, most notably around the meeting between Mr Trump and Vladimir Putin as investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 US election continue to rock the administration. Later in the month, Mr Trump will attend the Bastille Day ceremonies in Paris as a guest of France’s Emmanuel Macron. He will not make a stopover in Britain: plans for a state visit were put on hold after Mr Trump reportedly told Theresa May he did not want to be exposed to large-scale protests. Last time Mr Trump came to the continent, a Nato meeting and a G7 summit ended in full-on acrimony, with European allies appalled by his contempt for transatlantic principles of governance. Will this time be any better? Just as he is almost everywhere else, Mr Trump is unpopular across Europe, where less than a fifth of citizens have confidence in his leadership.

Yet there are revealing contrasts in how European governments are dealing with him. Mr Trump’s unpredictability is matched by European discomfort in how to approach him. The EU is on the upswing, with better economic prospects hovering into view. Despite the rallying factor of Brexit, political nuances among EU member states will not have entirely disappeared. That Angela Merkel, Europe’s most powerful leader, has worked hard to forge a common EU stance on trade and multilateralism ahead of the G20 is no surprise. Host of the summit (held in the city where she was born), the chancellor has long made clear her hostility to Trump’s worldview, as well as her intention to leverage Europe as a bloc in opposing him, especially on climate change.

Mr Trump has often castigated Germany and its chancellor, most recently over trade surpluses. Ms Merkel for her part sees the US president as a disrupter of the global order, and a threat to Europe’s interests. “If you think you can solve the problems of this world by isolationism and protectionism, you are very, very wrong,” she has warned, ahead of the Hamburg gathering.

In Poland Mr Trump can expect warmer words. A populist government whose democratic backsliding has been ringing alarm bells in Europe will embrace a US president who shares its illiberal views and hostility to migrants. They differ most sharply over Russia, but that could well be smoothed over, perhaps with a focus on Nato deployments and budgets. (Poland is one of the few Nato nations to spend 2% of its GDP on defence, the agreed members’ target.)

France’s invitation to Mr Trump, on the occasion of a national holiday celebrating a revolution and democratic values, carries its own share of controversy. Mr Macron had earlier cast himself as Trump-resistant. French insistence on cooperating with the US points to shared anti-terrorism goals rather than ideological closeness. It is awkward all the same.

A German warning, a Polish embrace, and an ambiguous French show of friendship come at a time of US strategic confusion and signs of disregard for old allies. Britain’s government should not make the mistake of thinking it will benefit. Britain’s interest, as much as everyone else’s in Europe, lies in making sure the toxic effects of Trump can be mitigated. That requires a united resolve – not pathetic pandering.

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