2020 has been a tough year for Europe, but 2021 is unlikely to be any better. It is hard to find a European who would like to live in 2020 again. COVID-19, Brexit, and international political carnage have destabilized the continent and heightened tensions that have eclipsed the European Union for years. But these problems will not disappear anywhere in 2021, writes CNN.
If the coronavirus pandemic ends, tensions between the EU and the UK fall, and US President Donald Trump stops destabilizing international politics – Europe will have a chance to solve the problems that undermined the bloc, but it will not be easy.
To some extent, the crises of 2020 masked the lack of unity in the EU. Despite all the lofty ambitions of Brussels for greater integration and transformation into an independent global power, the EU is faced with internal problems that relate to the observance of the rule of law and an agreed strategy of engagement with China.
The rule of law is perhaps the easiest problem to tackle. After months of agonizing negotiations, the bloc’s member states have agreed on both a long-term budget and a post-COVID economic recovery package. The countries hardest hit by the pandemic are in dire need of these funds.
However, Poland and Hungary tried to block the budget. The governments of Viktor Orban and Mateusz Morawiecki objected to funds being tied to the rule of law, unsurprisingly, as both governments are faced with investigations of violations at the EU level. The charges leveled against both countries range from suppressing government critics to undermining the independence of the courts.
There has long been speculation that Brussels is trying to tie the EU budget to the rule of law. Unfortunately, attempts to do so during a pandemic and economic recession have increased the power of the veto, which every state in the bloc is entitled to. In this particular case, intransigence in Budapest and Warsaw eventually led to a compromise in Brussels.
Tying the rule of law directly to EU money is not in itself a bad idea. But if more than one nation begins to blur boundaries, limiting freedoms and undermining the independence of judges, it inevitably becomes clear that these states support each other at the EU level.
Before Brexit, it wasn’t just the UK that had populist movements that were campaigning to leave the EU. However, after four years, Europe’s Eurosceptic parties no longer seek to leave the bloc – they now want to control the union.
Far-right political parties believe that European Eurosceptic movements have the potential to grow even as normalization recovers from Brexit, and Joe Biden, an EU supporter, replaces Donald Trump as US president. The EU has been in a perpetual crisis since 2010 and has not resolved any of the problems that caused these crises, be it the economic, migration, or coronavirus crisis.
2021 can be both a period of solving these problems and a period of their aggravation. Elections are to be held in several member states, including Germany and the Netherlands, two influential EU countries. Both states have powerful Eurosceptic populist movements.
Even after losing an election, populists can claim political victories.
“When populists fall, mainstream parties see an opportunity to pick up those voices and control the right-wing power of their parties. When they finally embrace far-right ideas, these ideas penetrate the EU level and change the dynamics in Brussels,” says Catherine De Vries, professor of political science at the Bocconi University of Milan.
While populists don’t expect to gain power in Germany or the Netherlands anytime soon, they see opportunities to work with colleagues in other European countries.
The question that the EU states must answer in 2021 is what position Europe will take in the international political arena.
The Trump presidency has made Europe seriously think about its relationship with the United States.
Over the past few years, the term “strategic autonomy” has been spread in Brussels. In other words, the EU seeks to be more self-reliant in areas such as security, economics, supply chains, and climate change. In fact, it looks like an attempt to become one of the three main states, along with the United States and China.
“Europeans are under no illusion that the US is about to fundamentally change its approach to China,” said Eric Brattberg, director of the European Program for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. However, Europe understands that US policy towards Beijing will be more predictable under Biden’s presidency.
Indeed, the EU’s intentions to pursue a policy independent of the United States in the international arena were vividly confirmed by the investment agreement between China and the EU.
“Many European countries, especially Germany, are exporting huge amounts to China and do not want to restrict this revenue stream,” adds Brattberg.
And Brussels’ pursuit of a common security and defense policy is likely to lead to even greater division.
It’s no secret that French President Emmanuel Macron would like Europe to take more control over its own security. It is also no secret that the leadership of Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, and many other countries is “very unpleasant” to consider the prospects for building up a huge military potential throughout the continent – even here one can observe a lack of unity.
2020 was a very difficult year for the EU. The bloc suffered not only from foreign policy problems, but also from an internal split, and the consequences of this split await the EU after 2020. Time will tell whether Europe will be able to overcome these cracks, summarizes CNN.
Boris is trying very hard to take the advantage of Corona crisis to hide his failed BREXIT negotiation. Boris Johnson again imposed lockdown and sealed the borders of England to divert people’s attention from the issue of BREXIT to some other.
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