The EU President made a state-of-the-union address today. Here's some highlights

The "wind is back in Europe’s sails" and countries were knocking on Brussels’ door to do trade deals with the EU, the European Commission president has insisted.

In a wide ranging speech setting out the future direction of the bloc, Jean-Claude Juncker also suggested Britain will soon regret voting for Brexit, but that the European Union will move on.

Setting out hopes for closer integration, Mr Juncker announced plans to increase passport-free movement around the EU, expand use of the euro and boost the number of member states.

But the hour-long speech, which ranged over areas as diverse as the quality of fish fingers to plans to create a super-presidency role, Brexit was given a notably short slot near the end.

Mr Juncker said: "This will be a very sad and tragic moment in our history. We will always regret this, and I think that you will regret it as well, soon.

"Nonetheless we have to respect the will of the British people. But we are going to make progress. We will move on because Brexit isn’t everything, it’s not the future of everything, it’s not the be all and end all."

Mr Juncker also said he wanted use of the euro, membership of the Schengen agreement - which abolishes internal borders, and the banking union set up after the eurozone crisis to become standard.

He insisted it was "high time" that Romania and Bulgaria were included in the passport-free travel area and Croatia should follow soon.

Mr Juncker said the euro is destined to become the common currency of the "entire" European Union.

More countries will become EU members, but Turkey will not become a member for the "foreseeable future", he said.

Mr Juncker said: "My hope is that on 30 March 2019, Europeans will wake up in a union where they know that we are defending their values, where all member states vigorously respect the rule of law, where being a full member of the eurozone, banking union and the Schengen area have become a standard for every member state of the European Union."

Mr Juncker said the EU is open for trade and since last year "partners all over the world are knocking at our door in order to sign trade agreements with us".

He called for more action to end the "scandalous" refugee crisis in Europe and said not all member states were pulling their weight to deal with the problem.

Europe is not a fortress and must be open to asylum seekers, he added.

New proposals on the "opening up of paths of legal migration" will be set out in the coming weeks, but more action will be taken to return people who are in the EU illegally, he said.

Mr Juncker set out proposals to merge his role with the presidency of the European Council, currently held by Donald Tusk, saying it would make EU institutions clearer and more efficient.

Brussels must concentrate on major issues and not "annoy" people with "nit-picking and nitty gritty", he said.

"We need to act on the big things and keep away from the small things, which can be dealt with by the member states," he said.

He said action must be taken to protect consumers in central and eastern Europe who, despite EU rules, were being sold poorer quality products.

"A Slovak deserves to have as much fish in fish fingers as anyone else," he said.


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