2020: Europe has done better than expected

This year the EU states joined forces to combat the pandemic and the economic crisis, they introduced a mechanism for enforcing the rule of law and - in the last minute - negotiated a post-Brexit agreement with the UK. Is 2020 the start of a phase of greater unity?

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Kathimerini (GR) /

Battling the crisis with resolve

The pandemic forced the EU to take joint decisions, Kathimerini notes:

“The recovery fund and the huge sums raised by the markets on behalf of all member countries are a very important step towards strengthening and ensuring the survival of the EU and each of its member states. The new leadership of the major European institutions (Commission, Council and Central Bank) has proven itself capable of embarking on a new course. This of course depends on the leadership of the larger countries, especially Germany. With the recovery fund, Merkel has shown that she believes in the need for a strong Union. Now what's needed is the same resolve in dealing with Turkey.”

Le Soir (BE) /

Major progress thanks to Merkel

This year has seen major breakthroughs by the EU, comments Le Soir:

“The recovery is being financed by mutualised debt, a show of solidarity that still seemed inconceivable in March. The EU Commission negotiated vaccine deliveries on behalf of the states, and these have become fully aware of the shortcomings of the joint healthcare project and the need to remedy it. ... Would all this progress have been possible with Britain on board? Probably not, but that's not the point any more. In any case, it wouldn't have been possible without Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was intelligent enough to break one of the old taboos (joint debt) in order to protect what had been achieved.”

Krytyka Polityczna (PL) /

Good news for democracy

Krytyka Polityczna takes a positive view of the EU's compromise with Hungary and Poland:

“Ultimately, the effectiveness of the new mechanism will be determined by the resolve of the European Commission and the member states, but also by the pressure exerted by the opposition and civil society, which have repeatedly motivated institutions to act in the past. ... The rule of law cannot be defended by magic, let alone by incessant complaints about not adhering to values, but only through a tough struggle on many fronts. The new mechanism certainly has no magic about it, but it does give defenders of democracy and the rule of law an additional weapon in the fight against autocrats.”

Pravda (SK) /

Money must not be used to punish

Pravda, however, views with concern the renewed tensions between the EU and the Visegrád states, especially Poland and Hungary:

“EU funds are not a reward for good behaviour, but serve to smooth out intra-European inequalities. ... If we get anything from Brussels, it is because we have allowed others to make ever greater profits from us. The outflow of dividends from us to investors from other EU states substantially exceeds any European funds flowing to us. ... Adding ideology to what were originally political and economic agreements is risky. ... Punished members can only fight back by depriving European partners of the revenue they receive from our willingness to cooperate. ... However this is the way to bring down all that Europe has achieved over the last 70 years.”