* 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
(Adds debate reaction, details, edits)
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, noting his own executive
was limited in its response to problems by division among states
that was the worst he had seen in three decades in EU politics.
"There are splits out there and often fragmentation exists,"
he said. "That is leaving scope for galloping populism."
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.
The 48-minute speech drew a standing ovation from the main
parties in an assembly dominated by supporters of closer
European integration, but there was scorn from eurosceptics,
including Marine Le Pen, the French National Front leader, and
Nigel Farage, the triumphant Brexit campaigner from UKIP.
The pro-Brexit British Conservative leader, Syed Kamall was
also dismissive: "Today was billed as a relaunch, but sadly it's
fundamentally the same mantra we've heard year after year," he
said, criticising plans for more EU military cooperation --
something long blocked by Britain, whose voice no longer counts.
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 talks 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 and reiterated
the EU negotiating position that Britain could not retain its
full EU market access if it blocks free immigration from the EU.
"There can be no a la carte access to the single market," he
said of British hopes to cut immigration and keep free trade.
A summit of the 27 EU leaders in Bratislava on Friday is
also unlikely to shed much light on the Brexit issue.
Juncker will travel there to urge national leaders
to remember the big picture and stop their "bickering".
"What are we instilling in terms of values in our children.
Is this a union that has forgotten its past, has no vision for
the future? Our children deserve better," Juncker said, speaking
of his own father, a war veteran who died last month.
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, revealing the kind of project he hopes
can help build some love for the EU among ordinary voters.
($1 = 0.8913 euros)
(Additional reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, Alissa de
Carbonnel, Jan Strupczewski, Marilyn Haigh, Francesco Guarascio,
Foo Yun Chee and Robin Emmott in Brussels; Writing by Robin
Emmott; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)