The Brief, powered by NGVA Europe – Sleepy Joe   

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter. [EPA-EFE/Stefani Reynolds / POOL]

In his re-election campaign, Donald Trump tried to hurt his rival by alluding to his age and presumed lack of stamina. He called him “Sleepy Joe”.

But Trump lost and 100 days after Joe Biden took office, no one thinks that the 46th president of the United States lacks stamina. 

Back in 1961, Americans were enthusiastic about their young new president, John F. Kennedy, who was 44 when he was elected. Today they admire the qualities of an elderly gentleman. Biden is 78.

In 100 days Biden achieved more that most pundits forecast. He has been bold on delivering on COVID-19 vaccinations, on economic recovery, restoring the reputation of the US in world affairs, and in addressing thorny domestic problems.

Some commentators have gone so far as to say that Biden has made the best presidential start since Franklin D. Roosevelt, who took office in the midst of the Great Depression in 1933. Both faced daunting challenges when they were sworn in, both wasted no time in taking bold action to overcome the problems faced and restore contentment to America.

We should not get carried away by Biden-mania, though. Barack Obama got the Nobel Prize in 2009, only 10 months after he took office. The world was swept by Obama-mania back then, but it didn’t last long.

The EU, in particular, expected too much from Obama –  just remember the TTIP craze – but then nothing happened.

In the EU, there is a tendency for some countries, especially the new members from the East, to behave as if they were US states rather than EU members. During George W. Bush’s term, this was destructive for the EU. Let’s hope the Biden administration will see no advantage for itself in dividing the EU.

Joe Biden is the president of the United States, not the leader of the world and, thank God, there is no such position. So let him deal with his country’s problems, while the EU focuses on its own issues.

What the EU should worry about is the ambition of the Biden administration to inject trillions of dollars into the post-COVID US economy. This is likely to reaffirm the US’s status as the world’s leading economy in the ongoing competition with China, which was largely unhurt and even boosted by the pandemic that incidentally originated in a wet market in Wuhan.

So, the EU should wish Biden good luck, but it must also make sure that while he successfully leads his country, our Union does not get relegated to the status of a developing country, plagued with the same issues.

Given the relatively disastrous progress of vaccination and modest ambition of the post-coronavirus stimulus package, it’s the EU that is in danger today of seeming like a Sleepy Joe. 

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The Roundup

The digitalisation of the rail sector will create “quality jobs” but many existing workers will need to reskill to meet the demands of new technology, according to EU employment commissioner Nicolas Schmit.

The European Commission is considering strengthening its rules to avoid conflicts of interest in contracts with consultancies, following complaints from the European Parliament and recommendations made by the European ombudsman.

Trade unions and other labour supporters are continuing their push for greater worker involvement in company decisions, now labelling this as an effort for “more democracy at work.” They want to see this topic play a larger role on the EU’s agenda, particularly at the upcoming Porto Social Summit.

Finance ministers of Germany, France, Italy, and Spain urged member states on Wednesday (28 April) to submit their recovery plans and pressed the European Commission to speed up the assessment of the investment and reform proposals. 

The French government presented its new anti-terrorism bill on Wednesday morning (28 April), a few days after a 36-year-old ‘radicalised’ Tunisian stabbed a police employee to death outside a police station in Rambouillet, southwest of Paris. EURACTIV France reports.

European lawmakers adopted their negotiating position on the European Commission’s proposal for the digital green certificates on Thursday (29 April), paving the way for what is likely to be a tough inter-institutional negotiation with the Council representing the 27 member states.

Decentralised cooperation for sustainable water management and sanitation between European regional, local authorities with their counterparts across the globe is key to help localise sustainable development goals, stakeholders say.

Look out for…

  • Commissioner Borrell speaks at the opening session of the Commission on European Affairs of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce
  • Commissioner Jourová speaks at the European forum in the conference organized by UNESCO on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Benjamin Fox and Josie Le Blond]

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