Germany takes over EU Council presidency: Joint forces towards recovery

Photo: Illustration/FPI BH

By Hata Kujraković i Mahir Sijamija

The Federal Republic of Germany, as one of the most important partners of Bosnia and Herzegovina, assumed the Presidency of the Council of the European Union on July 1, 2020 with the motto “Together for Europe’s recovery”. Germany, for which this is the 13th EU Council presidency, adopted a program in which the focus was placed on the economic and social recovery from the consequences caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program focuses on crisis management and virus prevention, and emphasizes the need for cooperation within the EU as well as internationally. Some of the key priorities of the Germany’s presidency are an inclusive growth strategy, stronger solidarity and a sustainable economy.

Germany as a leader of change in the Union

From the program framework of the presidency, we see the commitment of Germany to mitigate the economic consequences of the pandemic that befell the EU, which is a phenomenon that emerged on the postulates of the common market, economy, freedom and tolerance. This refers to a huge financial redistribution, which should amount to 1.85 billion euros. It is an unprecedented act of solidarity, designed to ensure the EU’s continued existence. ” It must now be our common goal to master the crisis jointly, sustainably and with a view to the future and this is precisely what the guiding principle of our Presidency is to be,” Angela Merkel announced, Deutsche Welle. reports.

Climate change, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, digital transformation and Brexit

In addition to overcoming the long-term effects of the crisis, the program also focuses on an additional five areas that include a stronger, fair, sustainable Europe, as well as a Europe of security and common values ​​and a strong Europe in the world. Simultaneously, Germany’s presidency will be focused on improving cohesion within the EU, as well as on joint external action. In order for the EU to emerge stronger and sustainable from the crisis, the economy needs a boost, which means a comprehensive joint package for economic and social recovery that includes a fund for reconstruction and an appropriate adjustment of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). Another goal is to improve Europe’s crisis management capacity. This includes dealing with the issues such as climate change, the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, digital transformation, and redefining relations with the United Kingdom after Brexit, as well as with China. The issue of migration, the Green Deal, along with the Conference on the Future of Europe will dominate the last phase of the Germany’s presidency. Based on the Commission’s proposals, Germany is pushing for a reform of the Common European Asylum System in order to create a fair, operational, efficient and crisis-proof system.

Relations with the Western Balkans and BiH

The Zagreb Summit was held in May this year, as the crown of the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU. All things considered, just holding the Summit in the world’s biggest crisis since the 2008 financial crash is a success. As we wrote in the last blog, it is clear that “this Summit will not have the same significance as the Zagreb Summit in 2000 or the Thessaloniki Summit in 2003”, and that the presidency of the Republic of Croatia has been disrupted, because its energy invested in organization of the summit was outshined by the outbreak of COVID – 19 pandemic.

The program prepared by Germany emphasized that rapprochement with the European Union is in the interest of the Western Balkans, as well as in the strategic interest of the EU and that the EU has a special responsibility to the Western Balkans, and its southern and eastern neighbors. “We want to ensure that the EU remains able to act and work in partnership with others and on the basis of clear rules,” Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to BiH Margret Uebber wrote in her blog. In the context of the borders for the region of the Western Balkans, it is noted that no region in the world is closer to the EU than the six countries of the Western Balkans, and that the EU and the Western Balkan countries are bound by close interpersonal relations. Additionally, HE Ms. Uebber emphasized the importance of the countries of the Western Balkans to be involved in responding to the crisis, highlighting that the EU allocated funds in the amount of EUR 80.5 million for BiH . which isa strong sign of solidarity and connection.”

Although the COVID-19 pandemic posed limits to many activities, HE Ms. Ambassador Uebber believes that progress has been made in the EU policy towards the Western Balkans during the Croatian presidency, citing the decision to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia, and the 3.3 billion-euro aid package presented by the EU Commission for the Western Balkans in late April. German Ambassador also noted that the migration of young people, in addition to the economic consequences of the pandemic, is a special challenge that the countries of the Western Balkans will face in the coming period.

The program also states that Germany will use the presidency of the EU Council to connect decision-makers and other relevant actors in the Western Balkans, encourage dialogue on demographic development and continue working on creating better prospects for young people. The German government announced earlier that they would support the Western Balkans with an additional 10 million euros, sending a clear signal that “the future of the Western Balkans is in the EU!”

Together for the recovery of the Western Balkans with Europe

From the presidency program, we see the commitment of Germany to work on the economic recovery of the Union. The European Union is based on the values of the common market, economy, security, freedom and tolerance. Germany, as one of the leaders of the Union, is emphasizing a return to these values, due to increased nationalism, border closures and similar issues due to the COVID – 19 pandemic.

The EU has recently been facing major challenges of internal consolidation, so French President Macron announced reforms of the Union and the enlargement impasse even before the pandemic. The presidency of the Council of the EU will be used by Germany to return the Union to the initial path of its development and prosperity. Although the ability of the large bureaucratic apparatus to work at full capacity has been reduced, as there has been a reduction in physical meetings of EU leaders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Germany has set a clear goal – a large number of decisions need to be made jointly in order to overcome the crisis.

The program can be read on the following link.