* EU chief executive makes annual State of the Union address
* First policy keynote since UK vote to leave
* Commission chief stresses need to rebuild trust in Union
* Investment, digital, defence, Africa all to receive
(Updates with details of bigger investment fund)
By Alastair Macdonald and Robin Emmott
STRASBOURG, Sept 14 The president of the
European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, sought on Wednesday to
rally support for the European Union, saying the bloc battered
by the UK Brexit referendum was not about to break up despite
its existential crisis.
In setting out the Commission's plans for the first time
since the UK voted to exit the EU on June 23, Juncker
highlighted the British referendum as a warning that the EU
faces a battle for survival against nationalism in Europe.
"The European Union doesn't have enough union," Juncker told
the European Parliament in Strasbourg. "There are splits out
there and often fragmentation exists ... That is leaving scope
for galloping populism," he said.
But he underlined he believed the world's biggest trade bloc
was still an important force. "The EU as such is not at risk,"
Proof of that, Juncker said, was the success of a new
European investment fund that the former Luxembourg premier
proposed to double to 630 billion euros ($707 billion) by 2022
to help with a sharp fall in spending since the global financial
crisis, helping projects from airports to broadband networks.
"Our European investment fund will provide a total of at
least 500 billion of investment by 2020, and will work to reach
630 billion by 2022," he said. "If with member states contribute
we can get there even faster."
Juncker also wanted to extend the fund to the private sector
in Africa to help curb emigration to Europe, starting with a pot
of 44 million euros that could also be doubled later on.
An Africa fund was part of Juncker's efforts to stress a
more positive agenda, particularly over the migration crisis
that has deeply divided the European Union. He also had veiled
criticism of eastern European countries unwilling to take in
refugees from North Africa and the Middle East.
"Solidarity must come from the heart. It cannot be forced,"
But the Juncker address offered few clues to the
negotiations with London that the EU insists cannot start until
Prime Minister Theresa May formally sets starts a two-year
countdown to British departure. Juncker urged that to be done
quickly. A summit of the 27 EU leaders in Bratislava on Friday
is also unlikely to shed much light on the Brexit issue.
Instead, Juncker warned that the remaining EU governments
should narrow their differences on addressing many problems
facing their economies and societies, although he had no plans
for "United States of Europe." Aides say he believes the
divisions are as great as he has known them in three decades at
the heart of EU politics.
"What are we instilling in terms of values in our children.
Is this a union that has forgotten its past, has forgotten its
past? Our children deserve better," Juncker said, speaking of
his father, who fought in World War Two.
EUROPEAN INVESTMENT FUND
With Germany and France both facing major elections in the
coming year, major changes in the Union are unlikely, but EU
officials are concerned that left-right political tensions over
fiscal policy in the euro zone or divisions over taking in
refugees will jeopardise the cohesion of the bloc.
Juncker also urged states to complete the setting up of a
European Border and Coast Guard, a project driven by last year's
chaotic arrival of over a million migrants and refugees, and
proposed new cooperation among EU armies, as well as pushing for
an acceleration of capital markets union.
Claiming success in fostering investment by the application
of seed capital and guarantees from the EU and national
governments, the Commission has put the European Fund for
Strategic Investment (EFSI) at the heart of its economic policy.
Set up last year to run for three years until 2018 with a
target of mobilising 315 billion euros of investment, the
current EFSI target is based on 21 billion euros of EU money
being leveraged 15 times by other investors.
However, as the EU's current, seven-year budget programme
ends in 2020, the total target will rise to 500 billion euros
for five years and the Commission will call on member states to
add to their contributions.
Brussels says the fund could also serve to bolster Internet
connectivity across the bloc.
"We propose today to equip every European city with wireless
internet," Juncker said.
($1 = 0.8913 euros)
(Additional reporting by Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels, Alissa
de Carbonnel, Jan Strupczewski, Marilyn Haigh, Francesco
Guarascio, editing by Gabriela Baczynska)