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European Commission head plays down Brexit impact

Reporter: Jack Parrock 丨 CCTV.com

09-15-2016 10:34 BJT

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker says the UK's vote to leave the EU will not be the end of the bloc. Juncker's assessment was part of his annual State of the Union speech to parliament.

It was a slightly more hopeful speech than many had expected as Jean-Claude Juncker described the state of the European Union as he sees it. Not an easy task for the European Commission president -- just three months after the UK voted to become the first member to leave the bloc. He did concede that the EU is battling for its survival against nationalist groups and urged all political parties to resist populist rhetoric.

Junker: Resist nationalism and populism

"Our friends and partners world-wide, who all deeply regret Brexit, are wondering whether Brexit is the beginning of the break down and the disintegration process for the European Union. Allow me to state here today that we respect and at the same time regret the U.K.'s decision. But the European Union as such is not at risk," said Jean-Claude Juncker.

Migrant crisis, anti-terrorism, joint military HQ

The president touched on all of the major issues facing the EU - the refugee and migration crisis and fighting terrorism in the wake of devastating attacks this year. He also highlighted some of the successes he felt the EU had achieved this year; namely the setting up of a strategic investment fund - one of his key manifesto promises. In the speech there was also a proposal to set up a joint command military headquarters - to support greater EU defense cooperation. EU officials say the goal is not a separate 'EU Army' - but a better blending of member capabilities.

"We have to have our own common defense force, which will work in partnership with NATO. More European defense will not mean less transatlantic defense," said Jean-Claude Juncker.

Juncker also talked more broadly about the wider ideals of the European Union - of peace and stability - even going so far as talking about his father, a war veteran who died last month. While the speech got a standing ovation from the mainstream political parties in the European Parliament, far right leaders like Marine le Pen of the National Front in France and Nigel Farage of the UK's UKIP party piled scorn on the president in the debate that followed.

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