That was close! By the skin of its teeth, the EU (or rather its leadership) managed to save itself. A failure of the financial summit would have deepened the rifts even further and triggered a possibly fatal process.
Now everything can continue as before – albeit with newly distributed roles. Not chancellor Merkel, but her rather best friend Rutte has taken the lead – with a liberal-populist, radical-egoist programme.
But that need not be a problem. After all Merkel and Rutte are in close coordination, the axis Berlin – The Hague is intact.
It is also positive that there is now a Paris – Berlin axis again, at least for emergencies like the Corona crisis. President Macron has given the EU a much-needed dose of solidarity and persuaded Merkel to abandon the dogma of saving.
This is indeed historic – Macron even speaks of the “most important moment since the creation of the euro”.
Yet a bitter aftertaste remains. This is not only due to last-minute concessions that bought the late approval. It is also and above all due to the unfortunate haggling of the last few days.
“Avarice is cool” – this slogan seemed to be the new motto of the EU. Above all the “Frugal Four”, i.e. the kneedy northerners, had set their sights on cutting back on corona aid for the south and at the same time securing billions in discounts.
The last hours of this summit marathon were like a summer sale. Michel and Merkel further increased the rebates for the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden, while at the same time the budgets for research and health were cut back.
Merkel, who had been hailed as the “saviour of the EU” in the run-up to the summit, put on a brave face. For days she let Rutte do as he pleased.
At times one had the impression that it was not Merkel and Michel but Rutte who was directing the project in Brussels.
In the end, the Chancellor nodded off a nappy-soft constitutional state clause, which Hungary’s head of government Orban celebrated as a “victory”. And finally she allowed herself a few hundred million for the East German states – a bargain just before the end of the day.
That’s the way it works at EU summits, say the hardened diplomats and negotiators, in the end everyone must feel like a winner.
But this victory tastes like a defeat. For four days the EU grandees demonstrated how they really think: nationally and selfishly.
The dangerous reflexes of the Corona crisis are still at work. In Brussels, they were even more evident than ever.
The EU presented itself not as a union of values in solidarity, but as an emergency community of egoists, which only helps in an extreme emergency, under strict conditions.
But the aid that has now been decided will not save Italy, it is far too small for that and it comes too late.
According to estimates by the ING Bank, the fiscal policy stimulus provided by the subsidies will amount to only 1.6 percent of economic output on average. With a slump of sometimes more than 10 percent, this is only a drop in the ocean.
But this did not play a role at the “historic” financial summit. In the end, it was all about getting the ball rolling – and saving the EU (from itself)…
The original post (in German) is here