The stakes for the European Union have never been higher. In a year when the latest Commission economic forecasts project a 8% decline in GDP as a result of the measures taken to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the question is whether the European Union can provide a response that is macroeconomically significant and builds on the principles of solidarity inherent in the concept of a common citizenship. If it fails to deliver, we can say good-bye to the European Union and prepare to take our chances in an unforgiving geo-political world where the only other leaders are an increasingly authoritarian and self-centred China and an increasingly unpredictable and self-centred America.
In my previous post I discussed the challenges facing European Council President Charles Michel as he took over responsibility from the Finnish Presidency to prepare the draft conclusions on the Multi-annual Financial Framework for the coming meeting of the European Council on 20 February next.
The Finnish Presidency proposal had been attacked on all sides as unsatisfactory. Yet, in that previous post, I speculated that Mr Michel was unlikely to hear anything very different to what the Finnish Presidency had heard when charged with forwarding the ‘negotiating box with figures’ to the December 2019 meeting of the European Council.
The European Council leaders at their meeting on 17-18 October 2019 failed to make progress in advancing discussions on the next Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) due to start on 1 January 2021. The Council’s conclusions noted that: “Further to a presentation by the Presidency, the European Council exchanged views on key issues of the next Multiannual Financial Framework such as the overall level, the volumes of the main policy areas, the financing, including revenues and corrections, as well as the conditionalities and incentives. In the light of this discussion, it calls on the Presidency to submit a Negotiating Box with figures ahead of the European Council in December 2019”.
The significance of the institutional changes implied by the creation of a new inner core of EU member states pledged to achieve greater fiscal integration will only be known over a longer time span.