Expert comment: Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union

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  Under the motto “Together for Europe’s Recovery“, the German government has formulated a very comprehensive (25 pages) and very ambitious programme regarding the focus areas for the country’s Presidency period (1 July to 31 December 2020): – overcoming the corona-virus crisis and economic recovery; – a stronger and more innovative Europe; – a just and sustainable Europe; – a Europe of security and common values; and – a stronger Europe in the world.

  It is thought that only by an adept (a skilful) containment of the corona-pantemic and simultaneous investment in Europe’s economy, by exploiting its innovative potential and strengthening social cohesion can the European Union and its member states overcome the crisis effectively. Here, solidarity is supposed to be the outstanding strategic principle. The programme vividly asks for more passion for Europe, but at the same time for majority voting in cases of urgency: „Our objective is for Europe to emerge stronger, more sustainable and more just from this crisis“.

  The European Union also stands for environmental, social and economically sustainable prosperity. Therefore, Germany is committed to the rapid adoption of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and to the swift establishment of a Recovery Fund in order to bring about economic and social recovery with ambitious investments, especially in climate protection and digital transformation. The French and the German governments have already agreed to invest €500 billion; the European Commission intends to add a further €250 billion for a Green New Deal for Europe, besides what needs to be done by the EU member states. However, soon a decision has to be made on a crucial issue, whether these enormous sums of money be given as subsidies or as credits, or as a mix of both.

  In a world of increasing rivalry, the programme makes clear that a selfreliant, decisive EU foreign policy should be developed, in order to defend European interests and values and to assume responsibility and abilities in shaping sustainability standards and norms worldwide. So, political sovereignty is the outstanding strategic principle here.

  Migration policy will continue to be a pressing issue in and beyond the current period; Europe therefore needs, the programme demands, a fresh start in reforming the common asylum system.

  Furtheremore, there is the topic of the enduring Brexit. Negotiations on the relations with the UK will take place by the end of the year. Germany is committed to ensure the continued cohesion of the EU-27: the objective therefore is an attractive agreement for both sides, on the basis of the jointly agreed Political Declaration.

  A presidency of the Council of the European Union lasts only for a period of six months; time enough to give new impulses and to accomplish some of the topics focussed upon, but not enough time to handle all what there is on the political agenda.

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