Enhancing intra-bloc solidarity, a top priority for next-term EU leaders

Friday, 2019-07-05 16:06:13
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Italy’s David-Maria Sassoli is elected as the new President of the European Parliament with 345 votes on July 3. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO – After many differences, member states of the “European common roof” have eventually selected suitable faces for the “leadership framework” of the European Union (EU) for the next term. However, huge challenges are awaiting the new board of EU leaders in order to stabilise the situation and tighten intra-bloc solidarity.

The European Parliament (EP) elected David-Maria Sassoli, an Italian lawmaker, as the new EP President for the next tenure of 2.5 years on July 3. Sassoli, a 63-year-old politician of the centre-left Democratic Party, was supported by 345 out of 667 members of the EP (MEPs) votes in the second round of voting.

Earlier, on the evening of July 2, after a stressful three-day meeting, the EU member states agreed on nominations for the bloc’s top jobs, with German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen to become the next President of the European Commission (EC), Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel to become the President of the European Council, Spain's Foreign Minister Josep Borrell to serve as the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Christine Lagarde to become the next President of the European Central Bank (ECB).

Fundamentally, the EU’s “leadership framework” for the time ahead has been shaped. However, the unification of a new leadership board only helps to create initial peace of mind about the the EU’s development path, in the context of numerous difficulties and challenges awaiting the the “old continent” ahead.

Immediately, the EU must seek internal consensus on many issues, including economic policies, general budget, immigration and foreign affairs. It was also a struggling process to select candidates for the bloc’s key positions. At the recent EU Summit in Belgium, some leaders were exhausted during talks throughout the night of June 30 until the morning of July 1. The conference was forced to stop halfway on July 1 mid-day before resuming a day later. Dutch PM Mark Rutte said that the process of allotting EC jobs was “unbelievably complicated”. In selecting the EU’s top jobs, the leaders tried to balance political links and the benefits of different regions, while filling up the gender gap in senior positions.

Meanwhile, the EU must also seek intra-bloc unanimity on a range of other pressing issues, such as the Eurozone reforms, the bloc’s long-term budget, and the climate targets until 2050. In an effort to reform the Eurozone, the EU has called for 19 Eurozone member states to agree on solutions to finance the Eurozone budget, aiming to stabilise the economy and consolidate the euro’s position. France and some Southern European countries wanted a larger-scale budget which is capable of helping economies in case of being hit by a sudden shock. Even, French President Emmanuel Macron proposed a position of Finance Minister for the Eurozone. In contrast, the Netherlands and Northern European countries just wanted a limited budget funded by the EU’s existing sources, for fear that a large-scale budget may “flow into” some difficult economies of the bloc.

Combating climate change is also a topic on which the EU member states should soon discuss a unified view. Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Estonia said that the EU’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 0% by 2050 is too ambitious. Meanwhile, Western European countries supported this goal. Some analysts stated that the EU will reach a consensus on its climate targets during a summit this December, a time when there will be greater clarity in negotiations on the bloc’s 2021-2027 long-term budget, with commitment to increasing financial support for the areas which are heavily dependent on fossil fuels.

The above-mentioned viewpoints of different opinions could be partly seen as a consequence of the significantly disturbing political situation in Europe after the new EU leadership board is expected to encounter a lot of difficulties in the next term in order to get stable and narrow the differences within the union. In particular, intra-bloc solidarity will always be one of the top priorities of the European leaders in the time ahead.