President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has said that people have lost faith in the European Union, and that the organisation had overstepped its boundaries in their lives.
Speaking to the Council of Europe, Juncker warned that the EU had spent too much time in the past on rules and regulations that were too intrusive.
He referred to the EU as the “European project”, and claimed that people were “stepping away” from it as it had “lost a part of its attractiveness”.
Cutting regulations and red tape has been a main feature of the campaign to leave the EU in the UK.
“One of the reasons why EU citizens are stepping away from the European project is due to the fact that we are interfering in too many domains of their private lives and in too many domains where member states are better placed to take action.”
Juncker has not been one to shy away from criticising the European Union, especially at a time when it has faced an economic crisis as well as a huge influx of migrants.
The president also warned of the economic decline in Europe: “We are losing economic clout in a very visible way,” the Commission chief admitted. “With the low birth rate, if we continue with all of this in the face of the major problems we are emerging then that is not the sort of image I want of Europe. We want a strong influential Europe.”
One solution to the economic hardships of a low birth rate is an increase in immigration, but that hasn’t proven too popular among the majority of Europeans.
On Turkey, Juncker praised the deal that saw the return of migrants across the Aegean Sea. “Since the agreement Took effect, we-have seen a sharp Decrease in the number of people crossing the Aegean from Turkey into Greece.”
The EU and Turkey are on track to liberalise visa policies, but earlier Turkey had warned that the process needed to be sped up or it could put the migrant deal in jeopardy. But Juncker insisted that the Turkish reforms needed to enable visa-free travel would not be weakened in the face of the migrant agreement.
Full video of the speech can be found here.
Photo: Klara Beck/©Council of Europe