Germany assumes the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU for six months, starting July 1st.
This could not have been better for the EU. The EU bloc overhauls itself to cope with the Covid-19 crisis just as it looks to Germany for a strong lead.
With the motto “Together for Europe’s recovery”, Germany seeks to actively contribute to the rebound of the EU, which constitutes a double opportunity for Germany: focus on the economic and institutional orientations of the EU and promote internationally the European principles and objectives. Germany may become the trait of (re)union between Northern and Southern Europe, between its West and East. Its economy allows it and BREXIT gives it free lead on the continent.
Germany is certainly not spared from the Covid-19 crisis, but it should be hit less badly than other countries, especially since, for years, its government has cautiously used its economic and financial means in order to be ready for economic shocks. Predictions show that Germany will cope with the economic decline and in the medium term achieve economic output levels on an average with what it would have had without the crisis.
Domestically, Germany has a remarkable economic record, with its thriving economy and industry at its heart. Internationally, Germany is the world’s fourth-largest economy, highly innovative and with a strong focus on exports. Social market economy is the basis of the German economic policy, Germany engages in shaping globalization and supports a sustainable global economic system.
Germany could use all these attributes at the service of a convalescent EU. Germany can contribute to helping EU to adjust to a new reality, both inside and outside, both at home and abroad.
EU as a bloc has to arbitrate between a divide EU, North versus South (relationship between Northern countries, with their insistence on fiscal discipline, and the Southern states demanding solidarity), West versus East (relationship between older and newer EU member states), between groups whose interests often contradict each other, while remaining attentive to the aspirations of the EU population. This requires strong political decisions, and sometimes even abrupt ones, such as agreeing the EU’s new seven-year budget, attaining a pandemic recovery plan, drafting a European Climate Law or updating European migration and asylum policy.
EU must understand the new global challenges that await ahead, and the need to reinvent itself. Without the US at its side, the EU has to revive international commitments to health, campaign further for meeting global climate targets, fight against trade protectionism and revitalize the multilateral trading system. Expanding cooperation with China and adopting a European-African agenda are steps in the right directions, while global developments commits EU to upgrading relations with other Asian economic giants, shaping EU-Russia relations and implementing the strategy on Central Asia. Without forgetting that UK and the EU have to agree on their future relationship by the end of 2020.
The challenges live up to the ambitions, and much will depend in Germany’s influence.
by Octavia Cerchez