Juncker spoke in Florence, Italy on 5 May and the European Commission president was applauded when he spoke French instead of English.
His remarks sounded lucid and realistic for once. Juncker admitted that the EU was currently facing difficulties related to shrinking populations. “Europe does have some weaknesses which can partly explain the outcome of the referendum in the UK. There are some weaknesses which we perhaps sometimes overlook. We’re maybe scared of the truth sometimes, the truth which may emerge on the horizon.”
The EU chief gave the keynote address to a State of the Union conference in the Italian city in French, because he noted jokingly that almost nobody understands his native Luxembourgish. “I agitated between English and French but I will express myself in French.”
Juncker told his audience that Europe’s prospects for the future are diminishing, because it would “shrink” in importance. “Europe, as every other continent, needs to accept the fact that each and every policy is a result of the meeting between geography and politics.
“We are losing our economic power and our economic clout. We’re currently down to 25 per cent of global GDP. In ten years’ time that percentage will shrink down to 15. We’ll be a smaller continent, our economies will shrink accordingly, we’ll face a demographic crisis.”
He added: “There should be no doubt that it isn’t the EU which is abandoning the UK, it is the opposite in fact they are abandoning the EU and this is a difference which will be felt over the next few years.”
Spoken by 12 percent of the EU population, French is the fourth most widely spoken mother tongue in the European Union, after German, Italian and English. It is also the third most widely known language of the Union, after English and German.