Status: 10/22/2021 5:52 p.m.
Chancellor Merkel has expressed concern about the state of the European Union. There are many unsolved problems that would weaken the EU externally. In the legal dispute with Poland, a confrontation must be avoided.
Angela Merkel helped shape 107 EU summits for 16 years, but the Chancellor did not get sentimental in the end either. Instead, she found words of caution at what was probably her last press conference following these meetings. She is leaving the European stage “in a situation that worries me,” she said. Basically, the 27 member states would have to deepen their talks in order to determine the future course and to prevent internal conflicts.
The Chancellor pointed out that the European Union had to accelerate significantly if it wanted to conclude trade agreements with other states. The struggle for innovations with other countries such as China and the USA has also intensified significantly over the past 20 years.
Although there was no disagreement among the summit participants about the EU’s digitization strategy, “Europe is no longer the most innovative continent,” she criticized. Overall, there are many construction sites in the EU that will be approached by their successor in the Chancellery.
“Litigation no solution”
Yet another topic dominated the press conference and the EU summit: the dispute over the rule of law in Poland. Last night, the heads of state and government had discussed the latest ruling by the Polish Constitutional Court and the consequences for two hours – calmly, but in clear terms, as it was said. The court declared articles of the EU treaties incompatible with Poland’s constitution.
Brussels is holding back corona aid totaling 36 billion euros until Poland reverses the restructuring of its judiciary. The EU Commission could also use a new mechanism to cut funds in the event of rule-of-law violations. The Benelux countries and Austria demanded a tough course.
The Chancellor made it clear, however, that she would continue to rely on the dialogue. In principle, there was the will to seek political discussion. She herself therefore met with Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to mediate. Although the EU has irrefutable legal principles, it is not about taking action against Poland. She campaigned for more understanding that the role of national identity plays an important role in Poland. “We cannot resolve political differences through legal proceedings.”
Demand for better coordination
Merkel expressed concern about the EU’s migration policy. The leadership in Belarus is currently airing people from North Africa and the Middle East in order to send them further west to Europe. The direct neighbors Lithuania, Poland and Latvia are particularly affected. You are campaigning for tough crackdown on the regime of Alexander Lukashenko and want to erect fortified barriers at the external borders.
Merkel therefore called for better coordination between the EU states in refugee policy. “That is something where we are of course always vulnerable from the outside,” she clarified. In this respect, it is good that the heads of state and government finally agreed on a final declaration after hours of negotiations. According to the text that has now been adopted, the EU is threatening Belarus with further “coercive measures”.
Adhering to climate target 2050
In another area, the EU is still standing still. During the night, the summit participants could not agree on joint measures to reduce the high energy prices. Most EU countries have already responded with direct aid for households and companies.
The states could not agree on more far-reaching measures. According to the resolution, the members want to keep an eye on the electricity and gas markets, as well as the EU emissions trading. The commission should assess whether more regulation is needed. Despite the current discussion, Merkel made it clear that the EU’s goal of becoming climate neutral by 2050 should not be weakened.
With information from Jakob Mayr and Stephan Ueberbach, ARD-Studio Brussels
EU summit: Farewell to the compromise machine
Jakob Mayr, ARD Brussels, 10/22/2021 5:45 p.m.