Europe’s week: hailing a historic summit, or sowing seeds of future discord?


Francois Walschaerts/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

In this week’s edition of State of the Union, Stefan Grobe spoke to Jean-Christophe Bas, CEO of the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute in Berlin, about the main news of the week, including the “historic” deal on the EU recovery package.

The EU summit produced an agreement that was historic both in size and scope. It could be seen as strengthening Europe in the global competition with China, Russia and the United States.

Bas noted that looking at the headlines around the world was very telling: “The China Daily, which is the main newspaper in China, their headline was: the EU summit deal marks the birth of a new Europe. I think this is very telling about the perception from the outside.”

He continued that the summit will “significantly contribute” to a new Europe “at a time when there is no real leadership, where evidently the U.S. and China are weakened by the way this whole story unfolded.”

However, Poland and Hungary have managed to water down efforts to attach rule-of-law conditions to budget payments, which could be seen as weakening Europe.

“It is true that there is no real conditionality or string attached in terms of democratic commitment,” admitted Bas.

But he believes this could come later on with the different instalments for handing out funds.

At times, the summit was characterized by bitter resentments and even personal attacks between leaders.

The fact that the frugal countries secured a kind of “emergency brake” which allows any government to object to another’s spending plans, could entrench mistrust inside the EU, which has the potential to sow divisions in the future.

Bas says these disputes have nothing on historical spats.

“I remember very well the time with Margaret Thatcher and François Mitterrand when there was real, real bitterness at EU summits. So there is a bit of… let’s face it, a little bit of posture or gesture from one or the other because they don’t want to lose face when they go back to their countries.”

Saving the EU, it seems, must always be delicately balanced with saving face back home.


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