The Brief: A farewell to Juncker

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By Shona Murray
The Brief: A farewell to Juncker
Copyright  Francois Lenoir

Jean-Claude Juncker gave his final speech as President of the EU Commission to MEPs on Tuesday in Strasbourg.

"For five years, I was very proud to be a small piece of a bigger part, which is more important than us. You need to continue to fight against stupid nationalism. Long Live Europe," Juncker said.

As Juncker prepares to leave office, MEPs reflected on his policies.

"Free trade agreements, which we know they are the engine of rising inequality and rising ecological footprint. He is so proud to have made one with Canada, one with Japan, one with Mercosur, and he is disappointed he didn't do one with the United States," Belgian Greens MEP Phillipe Lambert said.

Of course, one could not speak about Juncker's term as Commission President without mentioning Brexit.

"There is no one more committed to building the United States of Europe and getting rid of nation state democracies and putting the power here than him, and I think Brexit in a way diverted him from that task," UK Brexit Party MEP Nigel Farage said.

Despite not always agreeing on political issues, Juncker's personal relationships left a mark.

"I think it's important, particularly given the polarity of politics these days to understand, you can take a different point of view from someone, but actually like them as a person, and I've always enjoyed his company," Farage explained.

However, not all MEPs seemed to form a bond with Juncker.

"He's always very friendly in public, but we were clearly out. We weren't part of his inner circle, or his second inner circle, or third inner circle, we were far away," Lambert said.

Even though he steps down as president next month, this may not be the last we see of Juncker.

"I think he's an important playmaker in the European Union, and I think we will need his help in future," Italian EPP MEP Antonio Tajani said.

And other news in brief...

The European Commission has warned several members states that their draft budgets for next year could in be breach of EU fiscal rules.

In letters to the governments of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Belgium, submitted on Tuesday, Brussels asked for more information on how these countries plan to balance their public finances.

The Commission is particularly worried about structural deficits, the main indicator in monitoring public finances.

The letters came just as the Commission is urging members states to reduce their high debt levels.

Other countries, especially Germany and the Netherlands, were asked to drive up domestic consumption to stimulate the economy.