Dhe German EU Presidency from July 1st falls into a decisive phase for Europe: The economic consequences of the corona pandemic will be serious in many countries, an unregulated Brexit is imminent and the major construction site migration continues to tumble. The motto of the German EU Council Presidency is: “Together. Make Europe strong again. “
That sounds promising, and every other six-month presidency also has this beautiful goal. Most of the time, the presidencies do too much and in the end little comes out. One can only hope that Berlin will do better.
The Federal Government can do a lot in the European Union by the end of the year – if it focuses on the right topics. It’s not that easy: each ministry has its own agenda and, above all, looks at its own front yard.
Each minister wants to emerge from the presidency as a winner if possible. There are a lot of mature ideas coming from the ministries these days – they all sound good, but they are mostly unrealistic. And there is often a lack of connectivity and an eye for the whole.
“We don’t want to be patronized, to go our own way and to be able to shape geopolitically,” said Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) a little full-bodied Europe’s goals for the coming half-year. The past has shown that it is better to concentrate on a few realistic goals than on abstract visions or the lavish wish lists of ministries and local lobbyists.
What issues must the Federal Government address in the European Union in the next six months? This is WELT’s to-do list for Merkel & Co .:
The aftermath of Corona
Berlin should accept that Corona is currently setting the topics. The German Presidency must above all ensure that Europe comes out of the crisis again. This particularly affects the hundreds of billions of EU economic stimulus packages that are intended to cushion the economic consequences of the corona crisis.
The German Council Presidency will be put to the test in mid-July; then the Member States will agree on the billions in aid at a summit in Brussels. However, there are still disputes on almost all points of the plan – above all about the criteria according to which the money is distributed, about the conditions that states have to meet in return and about the financing.
Germany and the EU must also prepare for a possible second wave of infections in autumn and develop an early border management plan so that chaos at the borders, as in the first wave, does not repeat itself. Another point: Berlin must ensure that Europe’s independence from Chinese and Indian producers of medicines and medical protective equipment is promoted in the coming months.
The 1100 billion household
In parallel to the EU economic stimulus program, the upcoming seven-year budget for the EU will also be negotiated in July because the two should be interlinked. The so-called Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) from 2021 to 2027 is expected to be around 1.1 trillion euros, and Brussels expects Germany to shoulder a larger share of the expenditure than before.
In normal times, these tough negotiations alone would be enough material for a six-month presidency. Berlin has to moderate, but at the same time defend the German contribution discount, which the EU Commission would like to delete.
Brexit is also pressing. The British formally left the EU on January 31, but will remain in the EU’s internal market and customs union until the end of the year. An agreement that regulates trade issues and other important issues must therefore be in place by the end of the year and approved by the parliaments, otherwise there will be an unregulated Brexit with considerable consequences for companies and citizens – especially on the island, but also in the EU.
Negotiations stall; London is even questioning what has already been agreed. It is therefore important that the EU remains united in its tough stance during the German Council Presidency, also to deter imitators.
Negotiations with London and preparations for a hard Brexit must take place in parallel in the coming months – a double burden for both sides. Berlin has to prepare for the fact that almost everything will revolve around Brexit in September and October. Merkel must not be provoked by the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
European asylum system
Merkel’s top priority should be to push through the multi-year EU budget and the reconstruction plan. But she can’t put everything else behind. If Germany does not soon prepare the ground for a largely uniform asylum law across Europe, which, for example, prevents or punishes asylum tourism, an agreement in the near future should be impossible.
Merkel and Seehofer should first try to enforce new laws for faster deportations and early asylum checks at the external border. In the second step, however, there must be an increase in the EU border protection agency Frontex to at least 10,000 men by 2022 and a consensus-based proposal by the EU Commission on the highly controversial distribution of refugees in Europe – both of which Berlin must push through.
More pressure on China
In recent years, Berlin and Paris have repeatedly been the brakes on a harder pace than Beijing. The European economy is even more important for China than vice versa. So the Europeans have leverage to finally achieve fair competitive conditions and an investment protection agreement in late autumn after years of negotiations.
In addition, Berlin has to campaign for a modern right to tender, which prevents state-subsidized Chinese companies – as in Croatia – from building a bridge with Chinese concrete and exclusively Chinese workers, instead collecting more than 300 million euros in EU tax money and collecting European companies in the Look tube.
Merkel also has to fundamentally reconsider her reluctance towards Chinese President Xi Jingping – especially after Beijing has now significantly restricted Hong Kong’s autonomy. Above all, the EU under the German Presidency must strategically counter the gradual rapprochement between Beijing and Moscow. Who else can do that if not the German Chancellor?
New dialogue with Central Eastern Europe
The division of the EU has deepened considerably in recent years. This is not only due to different views on the distribution of refugees. It is also about the fact that many countries in Central and Eastern Europe feel marginalized or even stigmatized by the old Europeans.
“You should see Poland and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe as partners and not as a problem. What is needed is a mental revolution in the EU that leads to people listening when we express our ideas about migration, sovereignty or culture, ”said Zdzislaw Krasnodebski, the influential Polish member of PiS Europe, WELT. Chancellor Merkel should travel to the countries concerned and seek dialogue with the government parties.