The debate on the State of the European Union (EU) this week has shown its weaknesses, that the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, he concealed with a voluntarist speech and the relaunch of large projects of complex materialization due to the disunity of the Twenty-seven.
Six months after the start of the coronavirus pandemic in Europe and amid a wave of outbreaks, unilateralism and lack of coordination continue to dominate the national measures adopted by EU governments, compromising the European single market and the internal space without borders criticizes the European Parliament. The European Commission is concentrating its efforts on the massive pre-purchase of vaccines whose efficacy has not yet been proven through millionaire contracts, such as the 336 million euros to AstraZeneca. At the national level, the reinforcement of health in the most affected countries, such as Spain and France, remains very limited, without reversing the drastic cuts of the last decades and trying to fight a pandemic with the media and health personnel that barely allowed to weather precovid everyday life.
The fall in GDP
The deep recession caused by the pandemic shows the fragility of the main asset of the EU, its economy, with an annual fall of 13.9% in gross domestic product (GDP) in the second quarter, reaching 22.1% in Spain . Although the EU has learned from its mistakes in the previous crisis and the European Central Bank (ECB) has reacted immediately, the hopes pinned on the almost miraculous role of the 750,000 million of the European recovery fund seem excessive.
Only 25% will actually be disbursed in 2021-2022, so it will be difficult to act as an anti-recession mechanism, says the economist Guntram Wolf of the ‘think tank’ Bruegel. In the EU, there is a considerable time lag between the approval of a spending commitment and the actual disbursement. The vague definition of objectives, the bureaucratic and political procedure for distributing aid and the deficient control system could undermine its objective of promoting sustainable growth, it warns Wolf.
While the recovery is very uneven and uncertain, the crisis has aggravated social inequality in the EU and has led to an impoverishment of the population, the effects of which are already being felt. Von der Leyen acknowledges that “for too many people” wages do not cover the cost of living. While the temporary job suspensions have cushioned the crisis, concealing the real level of unemployment, the announced company closures anticipate that job destruction will continue in 2021.
The role of almost panacea conferred by the Green Deal and the Digital Plan to transform the European economy and create better jobs also seems excessive, due to the fall in industrial employment in the EU (from 20.8% of the total in 1996 to 15 , 2% of 2019), the prevailing job insecurity in the new digital economy and the cuts in innovation, research and ecological transition adopted in the 2021-2027 budget framework. European investment plans only represent a fraction of the funds China spends annually on new technologies, making it problematic to make up for the backlog. The European proposals also do not detail how the “many new jobs” of the ecological and digital transition will be created, he says. Renate Tenbusch from the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation.
Disability five years later
Five years after the migration wave of 2015, the EU is still unable to manage the arrival of refugees and immigrants together. Von der Leyen has announced that on September 23 it will propose the reform of the Dublin Accords, which unload responsibility in the countries of arrival. The former European Commission of Jean-Claude Juncker It has already failed in that endeavor, due to opposition from the least affected countries.
The relaunch of the geopolitical EU that advocates Von der Leyen it also runs up against the divergent interests of the Twenty-Seven and the absence of a global, coherent and shared strategy towards rival powers such as China and Russia. Foreign policy is much more than convictions for violation of human rights, which basically serve to calm the European conscience. A geopolitical EU requires a policy that defends European strategic and economic interests, protects the security and well-being of its citizens, understands with rival powers, and prevents its allies from trampling on it.