Mixed prospects: the EU in 2021

Many observers believe 2021 will mark the start of a new phase for the EU, believing that with the recovery fund, the agreement on climate targets reached in December and the joint vaccination strategy an important foundation for closer integration has been laid. French commentators take a sceptical view of current developments, especially with regard to Germany.

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Le Figaro (FR) /

The EU is shifting to the left

When it was first founded, the EU was a centre-right project but that has changed, economist Bruno Alomar explains in Le Figaro:

“With the adoption of the principle of mutualisation of European debts in 2020, Germany finally gave in to the pressure of the countries of southern Europe. It's ironic that in 2020, when people were happy about the relatively good state of German finances - which act as an umbrella for the entire Eurozone - the same people were also delighted when Angela Merkel finally decided to give up what has made Germany so successful. ... The EU's centre of gravity, whether we like it or not, is shifting to the left, towards the countries of southwestern Europe. Is it any wonder the British decided to leave the EU?”

L'Opinion (FR) /

Germany's strength is weakening Europe

Writing in L'Opinion, econimist Emmanuel Sales discusses the future roles of Berlin and Paris:

“Germany might be tempted to take a more self-sufficient, continental path. ... As a result of the ongoing pandemic, the fiscal situation in the southern European countries will continue to deteriorate. The results of the 750 billion euro economic stimulus plan will take some time to be seen. The Eurosystem will therefore have to continue to assume the majority of the southern European countries' sovereign debt. As a result it will become more and more difficult to convince the Germans, who are proud of their strict budget policy, of the advantages of their membership in the Union. It will take all of France's strength to unite Europe behind a common policy and regain the feeling of a shared destiny.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Strong foundation for a fragile structure

Europe has emerged stronger from the crisis year 2020, De Volkskrant comments, and believes that the agreements reached on the coronavirus recovery fund, climate objectives and Brexit provide a good foundation for the future:

“They are, however, no more than a foundation. The real structure must be given a clear shape over the next few years. The fault lines in the Union must be sealed - or at least not be deepened. Regarding the fault line between north and south: the recovery fund must strengthen the economy in southern Europe so that the south can compete with northern Europe. ... And as regards the fault line between east and west: European cohesion has been seriously damaged because Poland and Hungary in particular are ignoring democratic principles such as a free press or an independent judiciary. For this reason the EU must focus all the more intently on putting an end to this using old and new instruments, such as the rule of law mechanism.”

Právo (CZ) /

Navigating troubled waters

Angela Merkel's departure from politics could bring complications for the EU, says Právo:

“Merkel has done a good job of steering the ship through the waves of global and European politics. She has managed to maintain pragmatic relations with Russia and China, which are so important for the German economy. Nord Stream 2 and the investment agreement between the EU and China are just two examples of this. ... Who will set the tone in Europe after Merkel? Macron will undoubtedly try to replace her - also in order to score points before the French presidential election in 2022. Will this become a source of friction between Berlin and Paris that affects the entire EU?”

El País (ES) /

Integration can only work with real participation

A group of prominent Europeans has signed an appeal by the think tank Civico Europa calling for the democratisation of the EU, which is published in El País:

“Europeans have dared to invent ... a Union that takes stock from its crises to strengthen its resilience and better protect its citizens. ... But once again, this new European stage will only be possible if every citizen takes ownership of the European project through the institutionalisation of a process of deliberative democracy that is continuous, transparent, inclusive and guarantees concrete implementation of the decisions taken. This is an essential condition for making the Union everyone's project! The window of opportunity is narrow but the context is favourable at the European and global levels.”

Magyar Nemzet (HU) /

Less provocation, more cohesion

The pro-government daily Magyar Nemzet calls on the EU states to be less harsh on Hungary:

“It's clear that after the withdrawal of Europe's strongest Nato member state and due to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, cohesion among EU member states is more important than ever. The EU must achieve economic and military self-sufficiency. ... Yet the philosophy that shapes the European political mainstream today is just as bizarre as it was for the whole of last year. Instead of cooperation, confrontation and provocation seem to be the main focus of this policy, resulting in superfluous political squabbles even in the midst of the worst crisis.”