Experts: Pandemic will make EU tougher. IPN debate

The European Union will toughen up the mechanisms of control over the use of its financial assistance and will impose harsher demands on the countries to which it offers support, said participants in the IPN’s public debate “European integration during the pandemic: new opportunities or stagnation?”.

Editor-in-chief of the economic publication “Logos-press” Dmitry Kalak said the consequences of the pandemic supplemented the rather large number of problems faced by the EU.

“The first problem was the Brexit that fundamentally modified the relations inside the EU,” said Dmitry Kalak. “The second was the formation of the EU’s budget for the next seven years. And this goes very slowly as the internal relations are being reviewed. Furthermore, the system for adopting decisions in the EU was changed. They abandoned the principle of consensus and passed to the principle of qualified majority. The third aspect is related to the fact that many of the countries that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007 will soon stop benefitting from European assistance. They will move to the category of donors and will have to give more than to take. All these things taken together intensify the internal tensions in many of the EU countries and force the European institutions to identify new approaches in the relations not only with the EU, but also with the neighbors”.

Dmitry Kalak admits that under the pressure of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic and the questions of European taxpayers, “why do we help other countries when we are ourselves in difficulty?, the EU is forced to limit the assistance provided to neighbors, to make it more focused and to demand more for disbursing funds.

Alexandr Stahurskii, of the Center for Strategic Studies and Reforms, said the beneficiaries of European assistance should get ready for a considerable reduction in the financial assistance coming from the EU.

“The European Union cannot solve our problems instead of us, as they did earlier,” said Alexandru Stahurskii. “Before the pandemic, the EU could subsidize our problems, but now it cannot. It now faces many problems itself, including the crisis on the labor force market, the reform of production process. The pandemic showed that being a post-industrial country is not always a benefit.”

Alexandr Stahurskii also said that the global system for building relations experienced a huge stress as a result of the pandemic whose consequences will be yet felt for a long time from now. And there is now no clear understanding of the amount of resources and forces needed to overcome these consequences. The radical and populist sentiments in the EU are expected to intensify and the EU member states would be divided into strong and weak.

“The European Union realizes all the risks and consequences of the economic crisis caused by the powerful blow given by the pandemic,” said Sergey Manastîrlî, director of the Center for Analyses, Research and Forecasts “Balkan Centre”. “Eurostat already warned that the GDP deficit in the EU will rise from the forecast 0.6% to 9.5%, which is a considerable figure. The unemployment rate is projected to rise and the economy is expected to shrink to 7.7%. This is a very serious blow. That’s why the EU continues to increase the assistance to the own countries and to its neighbors. It is trying to overcome the consequences of the pandemic by massive financial injections and expects that the pace of economic decline will slow down towards the end of next year and the EU in 2022-2023 will return to the indicators of 2019”.

The public debate “European integration during the pandemic: new opportunities or stagnation?” was staged in the framework of the project “Overcoming stereotypes of European integration by communication” that is implemented by IPN with support from the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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