The European Union must flex its muscles as a world power, EU chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker said on Wednesday, as he spoke critically of US President Donald Trump's retreat from international engagement.
In his annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Juncker, who is entering his final year as president of the European Commission, urged EU states to rein in angry divisions over budgets, immigration and other issues in order to capitalize on a chance to shape the world.
"Whenever Europe speaks as one, we can impose our position on others," Juncker said, arguing that a deal he struck in July with Trump to stall a transatlantic tariff war and which won plaudits for the Commission should have come as no surprise.
"The geopolitical situation makes this Europe's hour: the time for European sovereignty has come," he said. Juncker made no direct comment on Trump or US policy but aides said the geopolitical situation he spoke of was a US retreat into what Juncker described elsewhere in the speech as "selfish unilateralism".
He also saw new opportunities to work with China, Japan and others to develop "multilateral" rules. Some proposals to strengthen the EU's effectiveness face an uphill battle against member state opposition, notably scrapping national vetoes in some foreign policy areas.
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