Green light for EU budget and coronavirus package
The way has been cleared for the implementation of the EU's 1.8 trillion euro budget for the next seven years and the coronavirus recovery fund. Following a fierce struggle over the recovery fund in the summer, the budget was blocked by the dispute with Hungary and Poland over the rule of law mechanism. Now a compromise has been reached. Has the EU shown its mettle?
EU more agile than assumed
Ultimately it was the EU's oft-criticised slowness that made the compromise with Poland and Hungary possible, Les Echos comments:
“After the alarm bells about a hopelessly weak EU were again sounded somewhat hastily, the very opposite must be acknowledged: despite its undeniable slowness the European Union is far more agile than it seems, capable of overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles with its typical discretion. ... What has been presented as proof of the bloc's inadequacies has turned out to be a textbook case of the European method. Ungrateful, invisible, and hopelessly slow. But profitable in the end.”
What if others start playing the veto card?
Other states could now decide to follow Hungary and Poland's example, Új Szó fears:
“Budapest's and Warsaw's strong veto sends a message that this card can be played even on the most serious issues. ... Will Ireland soon veto the idea of tax harmonisation? Or Italy and other southern members an ill-conceived refugee directive? Or Sweden a climate protection regulation that fails to go far enough? ... In the short run this compromise was a solution. But will it derail the EU in the long run?”
Enough of the childish bickering
Poland is isolating itself, criticises Krytyka Polityczna:
“The worst thing is that our national debate about Europe is being conducted at a kindergarten level. While Europe is seriously considering how to preserve the unity of a very diverse bloc and how to reconcile the demands for deeper integration of Europe's Franco-German core and the reticence of its various satellites, we are left with the bizarre cry of 'Europe or death' and waving the worn banner of a' Europe of nations', a concept that is not at all useful for tackling the challenges of the 21st century. ... We can only hope that we will be able to sit out the PiS, and that the next government will continue to sit at the table that decides the future of Europe.”
Money is still the main lever
At the end of the day the two would-be tigers Hungary and Poland have ended up as bedside rugs, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung scoffs:
“Because with the declaration the EU gives up nothing. ... [The rule of law] mechanism remains untouched. ... For the European Union, the end of the blockade is a moment of truth. The most important lesson: money is still the main lever. Poland was the first to get weak in the knees when Brussels started thinking out loud about a coronavirus recovery fund for 25 instead of 27 member states. Hungary was also reluctant to spurn the billions from Brussels. The other two members of the Visegrád group had already freed themselves from clan liability. Chancellor Angela Merkel has brought the German EU Council Presidency to a successful conclusion.”
A great day for the community
The EU did what it had to do, Brussels correspondent Marco Zatterin comments with delight in La Stampa:
“The best of all possible worlds is one where everyone does their job well and concentrates on that alone. It follows that the best possible European Union is one in which the summit of its leaders reaches the kind of compromise that can get the anti-Covid recovery programme off the ground while the European Central Bank resolutely loads its bazooka to finance public debt and avert a dangerous liquidity crisis. It wasn't easy and there has been no shortage of exasperating conflicts, both in terms of tone and content, nevertheless it happened yesterday, December 10.”
Progress for democracy, prosperity and the climate
El País is also full of praise:
“The agreement foresees certain concessions to Warsaw and Budapest, but these are not substantial. The new commitment to values remains intact. ... From a general perspective, the EU is making a significant leap forward. Rarely has there been such a promising and profound harmony between advancing democracy and boosting economic prosperity. This also opens up the path to a more committed fight against climate change. It was about time, too.”
Time for "Made in Europe"
Now we must take care not to lose sight of the long-term goal, insists editor-in-chief Jordi Juan in La Vanguardia:
“Although in Spain the focus is on the battle over which region gets more money and whether the big Ibex-listed companies will be favoured over the SMEs, the real issue is whether Europe will succeed in building an industry and a technology sector that are not only sustainable, but also self-sufficient. Today, all the technical IT components in the EU come from America or Asia. The ECB's enormous resources must not be used solely to fight the crisis, but also to create the basis for major advances in European competitiveness. It's time for 'Made in Europe' to take the lead.”