Nicolai von Ondarza analyzes the approach of the European Union (EU) in the Brexit negotiations and explains the respectable success mainly with the unusual unity of the EU-27 and the structuring of the talks under the leadership of Michel Barnier. Friedrich Heinemann explains why the euro countries are struggling to reform the monetary union towards a fiscal union and why the COVID-19 pandemic is putting further pressure on decision-makers. The article by Sonja Priebus and Lisa H. Anders is dealing with the rule of law-related infringement procedures against Hungary and shows the mixed success of this approach. Along with Poland, Hungary is also at the centre of Manuel Müller’s forum article, which sheds light on how the countries’ governments seized the opportunity to cement their power during the COVID-19 pandemic while the EU and its member states struggle to give a coherent response to democratic backsliding. Michael Kaeding, Johannes Pollak and Paul Schmidt take a Europe-wide and yet individual look at the phenomenon of Euroscepticism and describe the peculiarities as well as the patterns they found. Gabriele Abels examines the new EU Gender Equality Strategy and discusses the extent to which the Commission under the leadership of Ursula von der Leyen is living up to its claim of a “Union of Equality”. Michèle Knodt reports on the international workshop of the Jean Monnet Network on EU-Canada Relations on “New Opportunities for the EU-Canada Strategic Partnership”.
The “Barnier Method” – Lessons Learned from the EU‘s Institutional Approach to the Brexit Negotiations
Nicolai von Ondarza
The Brexit negotiations constituted unchartered political and institutional territory for the European Union (EU). This analysis shows how a new institutional approach enabled the EU-27 to present an unusually united front. The “Barnier method” is characterised by five elements: a strong political mandate from the European Council, a single EU negotiator based in the European Commission in the person of Michel Barnier, very close coordination with the Member States and the European Parliament, and a high degree of transparency. Lessons can also be drawn from this for the next phase of the Brexit negotiations and the EU’s relations with other third countries.
The Monetary Union Needs a Fiscal Union – but What Kind? An Analysis of the Euro Area Reform Blockade
Although the euro area looks back at a phase of comprehensive reforms, its fiscal institutions still lack a consistent shape. The article analyses how the competition between two distinct models of a European Fiscal Union (EFU) has created the current reform deadlock. This is the struggle between a centralized EFU with its broad arsenal of new European fiscal instruments that stress the idea of mutual insurance on the one hand, and a decentralised EFU that puts the emphasis on market discipline through sovereign insolvency procedures and national fiscal self-responsibility on the other hand. The article identifies the main camps on both sides of the controversy: The European Commission together with the European Central Bank and high-debt Member States favour a centralised EFU; low-debt Member States such as the countries of the Hanseatic League and Germany push towards a decentralised EFU. This conflict explains why currently substantial Commission euro area reform initiatives are either watered down or completely fail in the Eurogroup. Reform packages that combine key elements of both models could solve the dilemma. However, Member States increasingly lack the mutual trust that is indispensable to achieve such a grand bargain. The new severe economic and fiscal crisis that is caused by the COVID-19 pandemic might now speed up the decisions on the final outline of the EFU.
Legal Solutions for Political Conflicts? Rule of Law-Related Infringement Procedures against Hungary
Sonja Priebus and Lisa H. Anders
Recently, there has been a renewed interest in infringement procedures as a tool against dismantling the rule of law and democracy in Member States of the European Union (EU). Against this background, this article analyses all seven rule of law-related infringement procedures against Hungary since 2010. It examines how the European Commission justified the opening of the procedures and how the Hungarian government reacted legally and in its public communications. While it has been suggested that infringement procedures would lead to a miscategorisation of rule of law problems, this contribution shows that in the majority of cases, the Commission made clear references to democracy and the rule of law. Nevertheless, the procedures could not dissuade the Hungarian government from its controversial reforms, nor were they able to depoliticise the conflicts over EU foundational values.
Euroscepticism and the Future of Europe. Views from the Capitals
Michael Kaeding, Johannes Pollak and Paul Schmidt
Based on a new anthology on the future of Europe in the light of Euroscepticism, this article examines how the increasing prominence of Eurosceptic and nationalist parties is affecting the thinking of mainstream parties, their representatives in the European Parliament and the future of European integration. The publication of the anthology is timed to coincide with the strategic vision of the European Council, the Council, the Commission and the Parliament as well as with the next phase of the negotiations on the future relations between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom and the Conference on the Future of Europe. It maps and analyses 39 national perspectives from all EU Member States as well as from neighbouring European countries and potential candidate countries.
“The Beginning of a New Chapter”? An Assessment of the New EU “Gender Equality Strategy 2020–2025”
Gender equality is an essential component of the ambitious agenda of the new President of the European Commission. After years of stagnation, this policy field shall see a revival; the vision is a “Union of Equality”. As part of the working programme for the first 100 days in office, the Commission published its “Gender Equality Strategy 2020–2025” in March 2020. This contribution elucidates the significance of gender equality for the Commission and relates these new ambitions to the general development of the policy field. The Gender Equality Strategy and its six main goals are then introduced and the likelihood of actual implementation is discussed against the background of increasing fragmentation and polarisation in the Council and in the European Parliament. The German Council Presidency will play an important role for its realisation.
Dismantling Democracy in Times of Pandemic: on the EU’s Response to the Cases of Hungary and Poland
The COVID-19 pandemic is not only putting European financial solidarity to the test, but also the common values of the European Union (EU). In Hungary and Poland, the governments are using the situation to undermine democratic principles and expand their own position of power. The EU – once again – is struggling to give an adequate answer. While the European Parliament has clear words, but little options for action, most national governments show a reserved attitude. Similarly, the European Commission has expressed concern, but does not want to take any immediate countermeasures.