- Jean-Claude Juncker conceded trading bloc is losing influence in speech
- Noted continent’s relative share of GDP is falling as its share of world’s population is declining but insisted we ‘must learn to be proud of Europe’
- Eurosceptics will claim it’s boost for argument Britain will thrive outside EU
Europe has become a ‘valley of fears’ as its ‘glorious years’ have come to an end, the president of the European Commission has admitted.
Jean-Claude Juncker said the continent is now in the shadow of the rest of the world economically, but insisted it is not the right time to end the ‘love affair’ with the European Union.
In a speech in Madrid, Mr Juncker conceded that the trading bloc is losing influence as ‘already today 80 per cent of growth originates from countries outside the EU’.
He noted the continent’s relative share of GDP is falling at the same time as its share of the world’s population is also declining.
But he insisted people ‘must learn to be proud of Europe’ as it is no longer ‘a continent of wars’.
Eurosceptics will claim Mr Juncker’s analysis is a boost for their argument that Britain could thrive outside the EU by increasing its trade with other countries around the world.
However, David Cameron is likely to argue the speech shows Mr Juncker backs his calls for the EU to do more to build its trading connections with external countries.
Mr Juncker, who is a former prime minister of Luxembourg, admitted the European Union ‘is not going well’, but said this is because ‘There is not enough Union in Europe’.
He said: ‘We must keep alive the hopes and dreams of Europe. Because Europe is also a dream – not just at night – it’s a daydream.
‘Look at the divisions in Europe, cracks and fractures: we lack solidarity, because we do not love enough.
‘Europe is also a love affair – not a love affair in the vulgar sense of the term but a love story. We need to keep love alive.’
When he travels to the rest of the world, Mr Juncker said people’s eyes ‘shine when they talk about Europe’, but when he returns ‘to Brussels or Luxembourg, I find myself in the valley of fears’.
‘We do not know who we are and we are not sufficiently proud of the achievements of our predecessors,’ he added.
Mr Juncker in the speech on Wednesday night he noted how Europe’s relative share of global GDP is reducing, adding: ‘Economically, we see the end of the European glorious years.’
But he said this was an argument for the EU sticking together. ‘The time has not arrived for us to re-divide the national leagues and classes, now is the time to ensure that the EU stays together,’ he said.
At a conference in Brussels yesterday, Mr Juncker’s First Vice President Frans Timmermans warned that the migrant crisis could bring the end of the EU.
‘The challenge to the European project today is existential. The refugee crisis has brought that to light,’ he said.
‘What was unimaginable before now becomes imaginable, namely the disintegration of the European project.
‘There is quite a strong lack of trust between member states. We need to get out of this.
‘We’ve lost track of what we share or the common destiny we should be building and we’re looking ahead especially at the differences between us. This is an old European illness.’