Let’s be honest, Juncker’s speech last Wednesday in Strasbourg was not the best in political history. Let’s get it straight: it was a well-built, concrete and competent speech, full of interesting promises and some effective sentences but, as it happens often in the EU political life, the speech contained no soul.
The Brussels political elite continues implementing the strategy of facing the useless and populist yells of the new nationalists. Meanwhile, the populists spread around the continent with concrete and practical measures. Theoretically this strategy is good, as billions of EU funds to research and enterprises, youth programmes and structural investments in Europe should have a better effect in the European public opinion than the trivial slogans of the eurosceptics that have nothing better to present to the public.
The problem lies in the soul. Jean-Claude Juncker is a true European, no doubt. With no regards to his questionable past as Prime minister of a country with questionable fiscal policies—Luxembourg—he is doing his best to impose communitarian politics in a European Union dominated by the egoisms of the national states who are holding the entire EU in hostage. Yet Juncker lacks one of the most important assets for a political leader in his position—the charisma.
He expressed in Strasbourg very important propositions for the future of the EU, such as common defence and immigration policy and more funds to Horizon, but what Europeans really need nowadays is a fervent, colourful and even passionate vision of the future. Answering back with data and figures to the eurosceptics’ misuse of concepts like “freedom”, “democracy” and “independence” means losing the battle on every ground. You cannot react to guts and heart with just the mind—this is not enough.
It’s unlikely Juncker might have delivered a better speech. Some pieces of leadership are sometimes seen in someone else, such as Mr. Timmermans, Juncker’s right hand, but there just haven’t been any epiphanies yet.