This German federal election is crucial for Europe’s future. Angela Merkel’s successor has the choice of leading Europe toward more integration and strategic relevance or abetting its gradual, inexorable decline.
Globally, EU assistance has been slow to materialize. Supporting countries in dire need of coronavirus vaccines—through both the provision of vaccines and the sharing of patents—would project the union's soft power capacity.
The EU should back a coordinated global industrial strategy, including vaccine production facilities across the world, otherwise China will plug the gap. That means challenging private-sector patent monopolies.
Three factors explain why most European countries have found it difficult to deal with the pandemic: an unsuitable level of integration, an inability to make rapid decisions, and a breakdown of trust between governments and the governed.
On March 26, the German Constitutional Court ordered the country’s president not to sign off on legislation to ratify the EU’s €750 billion post-coronavirus recovery fund. At stake is Europe’s ability to recover after the pandemic is over.
The loud boasts of defiance by the British government toward the EU have given way to the quieter language of negotiation. The outcome will determine just how much post-Brexit sovereignty London will have.
Europe’s messy handling of the second and third waves of the coronavirus pandemic and the stalling of vaccination programs highlight the EU’s deep contradictions. The union’s ability to bounce back—let alone bounce back better—is now in question.
Germany is struggling to contain a pandemic that has laid bare intrinsic weaknesses of Europe’s largest economy and its once indomitable leader. The next German chancellor won’t have much time to repair the damage.
It should, but it won’t. The EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund will help the union’s economies get off the ground. But as for integrating Europe’s foreign, security, and digitization policies, the political will and strategic ambition are absent.
After the undignified scramble for protective equipment in the pandemic’s early stages, the EU’s collective approach to coronavirus vaccines was the right strategy—even if avoidable mistakes were made.
International politics saw a surge in new words and a return of old expressions. Going through some of them gives us a flavor of the year of 2020, which few of us will look back to with nostalgia.*
The rollout of coronavirus vaccines across Europe is imminent. But the EU should seize the opportunity to also share the vaccines with Africa, which would boost mutual trust and the EU’s soft power.
No matter who sits in the White House come January 2021, Europe must grow up and take responsibility to rebuild multilateralism, fix the transatlantic relationship, and revive arms control.
Neither values nor geopolitics played any role when EU leaders agreed to spend their way out of the coronavirus crisis at a marathon summit. Once again, Europe as a strategic player has been postponed.*
Europe is immersed in the world around it. But in order to strengthen the EU’s global role, the European Council will need to understand the deep connection between domestic struggles and international ambitions.
As European countries emerge from lockdown, Europe needs to prepare for the geostrategic shifts that will take place in the post-coronavirus world.
The silver lining to the uncertainty and chaos of the coronavirus pandemic is that EU member states are more aware than ever of the need for cooperation.
With the pandemic messing up the Brexit negotiations and weakening the British prime minister, prospects for a wide-ranging UK-EU deal by the end of 2020 are vanishing fast.
From arms control to trade, the post-1945 order is crumbling fast. To protect its democratic way of life, Europe must create new global alliances built to deal with a post-pandemic world.
Europe is well placed to push for reforms of global cooperation and governance after the coronavirus pandemic. But to do that, Europe itself must change first.