The Brief – Revolution in the air

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter. [Von Jean-Pierre-Louis-Laurent Hoüel - Bibliothèque nationale de France]

The recovery plan presented by the European Commission president yesterday (27 May) is not spectacular only because of its size. It is the new political reality behind these figures that makes it truly revolutionary.

On the night of 14 July 1789, the Duke of La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt woke King Louis XVI to inform him that the Bastille had been taken and its governor assassinated.

“Is it a revolt? ” Louis XVI asked him. “No, Sire, it’s a revolution,” replied the Grand Master of the royal wardrobe.

In many respects, Ursula von der Leyen’s recovery plan is not a simple revolt against the dogmas that have hitherto ruled the European Union. It does indeed have truly revolutionary aspects.

Thus, the possibility to raise revenue via a digital tax or part of the CO2 emission trading scheme is part of a new European reality slowly shaping up behind the recovery plan.

This means that part of the European budget would no longer depend on national treasuries and the Commission would collect taxes itself. In turn, this would mean that the Commission would have a small, but not insignificant, margin of autonomy in relation to the member states.

And while the recovery plan signals the return of the Franco-German engine – at last, one might add – it reflects above all a profound change in the German political sphere, as was reflected in yesterday’s interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung by Markus Söder, minister-president of mighty Bavaria.

“When Germany helps Spain and Italy, then it helps itself – not only economically, but also politically and culturally,” he said. “If we hesitate now, a second Brexit in Italy becomes imminent,” he warned.

What a world of difference compared to Berlin’s intransigence during the previous crisis a decade ago. This sort of questioning by a German conservative heavyweight shows the profound paradigm shift that is currently taking place across the Rhine.

One starts to understand that the country has a lot to lose if the economies of southern countries do not overcome the economic crisis. And this change of paradigm in itself is truly revolutionary.

And now? After the presentation of the plan, France indicated that it hoped for an agreement of the EU27 “at the beginning of July”. “We must be able to give a rapid response to the crisis by trying to have an agreement if possible at the beginning of the summer,” said the Elysée Palace.

“The negotiations will take place at the European Council on 18 June, perhaps over two days, and then an ad hoc meeting in early July, perhaps a physical meeting, specifically to discuss the budget and do this complicated negotiation,” suggested the French Presidency, leaving no doubt that it wants things wrapped up as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Ever the voice of reason, Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country will take over the rotating EU presidency on 1 July, warned that the negotiations “will not be concluded” at the 18-19 June summit.

But Berlin will undoubtedly throw all of its considerable weight behind efforts to get the 27 countries to accept the recovery plan before the end of the year. Which makes it a little more likely that the revolution will continue.

The Roundup

To stay up-to-date on everything to do with the coronavirus across the capitals, feel free to check out EURACTIV’s comprehensive overview, which is regularly updated with the help of our network of offices and media partners.

Most EU member states have reacted positively to the European Commission’s €750 billion  Recovery Fund proposal, which aims to help the bloc cope with the devastating economic implications of the pandemic.

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The pandemic outbreak has forced Germany to radically revise the priorities for its EU Council Presidency in the second half of the year. One thing is clear: the biggest EU country takes the helm in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, at a crucial time for the bloc’s recovery efforts.

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Through the new REACT-EU emergency instrument, cohesion policy will be one of the key elements in the European Commission’s proposal for a recovery package, which takes into account that the impact of the COVID-19 crisis has been uneven across the EU. 

The UK National Farmers Union has backed calls made by a cross-party group for the new Agriculture Bill to allow British farmers access to gene-editing technology post-Brexit.

The new Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy is compatible with the general thrust of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)’s proposal presented in June 2018, provided that its core aspects are confirmed in the legislative process, the European Commission has stressed in response to a query from EU lawmakers.

If you need some break from teleworking, make sure you have a look at our weekly newsletters on foreign affairsdigital and agrifood to catch up with all the latest from the EU’s policy sectors.

Look out for…

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Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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