STRASBOURG, France – The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, proposed on Wednesday a mechanism to facilitate the accession of European Union member states to the eurozone be created.
Juncker was setting out the EU’s agenda for the coming year during his annual State of the Union address to lawmakers in the European Parliament, the bloc’s legislative body.
“If we want the euro to unite rather than divide our continent, then it should be more than the currency of a select group of countries. The euro is meant to be the single currency of the European Union as a whole. All but two of our Member States are required and entitled to join the euro once they fulfill all conditions,” said the Luxembourgish politician.
He said all member states that wanted to join the euro should be able to do so, and proposed the creation of a Euro-accession Instrument that would provide financial and logistical assistance to that end.
Juncker urged all member states to join the Banking Union – a system created to tackle the 2008 global financial crisis that transfers banking policy from a national to an EU-level.
“Completing the Banking Union is a matter of urgency. We need to reduce the remaining risks in the banking systems of some of our Member State,” Juncker told the audience at the Parliament plenary session.
The Commission chief also advocated for Romania and Bulgaria to join the Schengen area of free movement immediately, and for Croatia to follow suit once the Balkan nation has fulfilled the required criteria.
He went on to request equality between member states in Eastern and Western Europe.
“In a Union of equals, there can be no second class citizens. It is unacceptable that in 2017 there are still children dying of diseases that should long have been eradicated in Europe. Children in Romania or Italy must have the same access to measles vaccines as other children right across Europe,” he said.
On the same subject, Juncker said that employment inequalities divided along east-west lines must be ironed out, adding that workers should earn the “same amount of money for the same work in the same place.”
To aid in that endeavor, Juncker said he would back the creation of a common Labour Authority.
Furthermore, Juncker proposed the creation of a European Minister of Economy and Finance to secure a more stable economic and monetary union.
That minister would promote structural reforms within member states and coordinate the EU’s financial instruments should an EU nation be struck by economic crisis.