As a player on the political arena, Germany is rather important, but as the president of the Council of the EU, it will be rather a moderator. The COVID-19 pandemic is the major challenge faced by the EU at present, in terms of prevention, cooperation, healthcare, health services, research in healthcare and even the restrictions on travel in the Schengen Area, former director of the European Academy Berlin Eckart Stratenschulte, professor at the Free University of Berlin, stated in a public debate entitled “Germany’s Presidency of Council of EU: impact on Europe, impact on Moldova”, which was staged by IPN News Agency.
According to the professor, the pandemic generated also a financial problem. A consensus could not be reached in the EU as to how much money of a package of €500 to €700 billion should be spent on remedying the situation and provided as a subsidy or loan. “This goes against the idea of allocating subsidies to the EU Member States. Negotiations are further necessary, but at the level of the Council of the EU managed by Germany already,” stated Eckart Stratenschulte.
“The second problem is the multiannual financing framework. The EU approved a budget plan for several years that will soon expire and there will be a delay of about two years in planning the new budget. This problem was evident before the pandemic too. There is also the Brexit problem. Attempts to establish a relationship with the UK have been made during six months and the prospects are not favorable. There is for now no new trade agreement with the UK. If such an agreement is not reached by this yearend, the UK could get the status of a third country, like Nigeria.”
According to the professor, there is no common strategy on migration and also on climate at EU level. There are also problems related to the rule of law, supremacy of the law in such countries as Romania, Malta, Hungary, but the national policies create difficulties in reaching a compromise. There is an open debate on the future of Europe. There is less will to do things together. A new format of the EU is to be discussed during the next few years.
Neighborhood is another EU aspect and this should be strengthened. But the strengthening of neighborhood is not the top priority for Germany as president of the EU. “The pandemic is the top priority as it should be overcome. Among the next priorities are the financial aspect, stability in Europe, migration, environmental protection, supremacy of the law. If we speak about the neighborhood or EU enlargement policies, these are probably not the most important ones among these priorities,” said Eckart Stratenschulte.
He noted that Germany’s interest in ensuring the EU’s wellbeing is generated by its national interests. “The European Union is also the only guarantee for Germany to have cooperation and friendly relations with the member states. The European integration is also a guarantee for the partners with which it works and this is a precondition for efficient cooperation for all the countries.”
The debate “Germany’s Presidency of Council of EU: impact on Europe, impact on Moldova” was the 142nd installment of the series of debates “Developing political culture through public debates” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.