Angela Merkel’s challenges as President of the European Union

Negotiations on the European Recovery Plan, preventing a second wave of Covid-19, restarting discussions on Brexit … There is no shortage of projects for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will take over the presidency of the European Union on Wednesday in a very special one.

Germany started on Wednesday 1your In July, his presidency in the European Union faces historical challenges, such as the effects of the corona virus. For Angela Merkel, the challenge is to complete her entry into the European Pantheon.

The Chancellor and her team had been preparing for this deadline for months, the first for Berlin since 2007 and one of the last opportunities for the German leader to shine on the international stage before her political retirement was scheduled for the end of 2021.

With power uninterrupted for 15 years, a record of longevity for a leader in Europe, the Chancellor has a unique chance to erase the bad image her budget orthodoxy left during the Greek crisis of 2011.

The start of this presidency was symbolically given Tuesday night with the projection on the legendary Brandenburg Gate in Berlin by the slogan, available in several languages, “All together to relaunch Europe”.

Covid-19 in the heart of European issues

Brexit, climate, immigration … There was no shortage of projects during these six months of presidency. But the corona virus has swept away all the scenarios. Still threatened by a second wave of contamination, the EU faces “economic challenges that we have never known in decades, or even before,” the chancellor said in an interview with Emmanuel Macron on Monday. “Expectations on our shoulders are very heavy,” she acknowledged, fearing a new populist drive for the lack of “solidarity” between European countries.

Some welcome that this presidency depends on Germany, “a country whose economy is [encore]the strongest in the Union, which has fared better with the pandemic than many others [du moins jusqu’à présent]and led by a stable government “on a continent in turmoil,” the German economic daily Handelsblatt said on Tuesday.

The German Presidency will start with a summit of European leaders organized on 17 and 18 July in Brussels, crucial for the future of Europe. The 27 will try to find an agreement on the € 750 billion recovery plan against coronavirus, for the first time borrowed from the EU: Angela Merkel has agreed to break a political taboo in Germany for it.

Find an agreement on the European Recovery Plan

Angela Merkel, like the French president, put pressure on her partners on Monday to reach an agreement as early as July, before the summer. “We hope to find a solution, although there is still a long way to go,” said the Chancellor along with the French president, with whom she presented an initiative in late May and paved the way for the Commission’s proposal for the plan. stimulus.

In order to reach a compromise, it will be necessary to overcome the reluctance of the four so-called “frugal” countries because they are supporters of budget orthodoxy. The Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Denmark are very much in favor of the project that will benefit especially the southern countries, which are most affected by the pandemic.

“The famous thrifty countries are countries that are net beneficiaries of the functioning of the internal market (…) it is not in their interest to see certain members affected,” warned Emmanuel Macron, for whom Europe is in a “moment of truth”. If a budget agreement is reached, the presidency will partially succeed.

Brexit is still waiting

But there will be another very big piece, Brexit. After weeks of silence, the EU and the United Kingdom, which left the Union on 31 January and continue to apply European rules until 31 December, have resumed their discussions.

If no agreement is negotiated then, the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) single rules, with their high tariffs and extensive customs control, would apply to the trade relations between these partners. What weakens the European economies a little more.

With AFP