The stakes of the German EU presidency: Europe’s future – Part 2 – The Weekly 18

Márton Gyöngyösi

29/07/2020

           

My two latest posts focused on a key challenge for the German EU presidency: the EU’s seven-year budget (MFF) and the closely related economic recovery package aimed at managing the crisis caused by the pandemic.

As it has been reported in the media, the European Council of Member States’ heads of government agreed on the multiannual financial framework last week but, just a few days later, the extraordinary meeting of the European Parliament adopted a resolution with a two-thirds majority and rejected the agreement, voicing several critical remarks.

Since the agreement cannot enter into effect without the approval of the EP as a co-legislator, the German presidency will need to put a serious effort this autumn into harmonizing Member State interests with the concerns of the Members of European Parliament.

In addition to the budget related debates, there is another area where the German presidency will also need to meet some high expectations: the agreement to regulate the details of the UK’s exit from the Union and the future EU-UK relations. 

This does not look like a simple task either, especially if you consider the deadline (31 December, 2020) and the diverse interests of the Member States. 

I am not going to discuss every detail of the Brexit deal here, and while the trade, energy, fishing and agriculture chapters will undoubtedly have a major impact on future EU-UK relations, I am only going to focus on the European security and defence details of the deal. This is the area where I believe the EU will suffer highly significant losses after the exit of the United Kingdom.

The UK is one of the few key geopolitical players of Europe: it is a permanent member of the UN Security Council; it has the largest defence budget of all Member States; it is one of the few NATO members that actually meet the NATO guideline to spend 2% of its GDP on defence; and, besides France, it is the only country that has all the military and defence capabilities, including nuclear capabilities as well.

This means that Europe loses its member with the strongest defence capabilities, and at the worst possible time, too.

Brexit is taking place at the time of a geopolitical turning point when Russia is returning to the international arena while testing the limits of international law; China induces a strategic competition with the West; and the USA, the power that has guaranteed Europe’s security since the Second World War, has lately been plucking at the strings of unilateralism by terminating international agreements and spectacularly pulling out of international institutions. 

In this geopolitical situation, the next decades will most likely be characterized by instability, tensions in trade, technological race, terrorism and global security challenges. 

These are the areas were the EU and the UK will be increasingly dependant upon each other. Both negotiating parties will need to make each other understand that the UK is leaving the European Union, but not Europe. Great Britain has indisputably had an ambivalent relationship with our continent ever since the reign of Henry VIII, and the Common Security and Defence Policy defined in Article 42 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) has never fully won the approval of the British but both parties are still aware that they are bound together by their shared civilizational values as well as their historical and geographical characteristics. 

That is why they must be able to demonstrate unity and strategic solidarity in security and defence issues, regardless of what happens in the other areas after their separation.

Although the post-Brexit UK will not be a part of the EU’s common foreign and security policy, it is still important for both parties to come to an agreement on their future cooperation in the following areas:

1.

Even though the EU does not have a common defence force, the UK is involved in 7 of the EU’s 16 current operations at strategic command level with over 200 military personnel. The question is: can the UK remain a part of EU military operations and, if so, at what level and under what conditions?

2.

The information exchange between the Member States and the British intelligence services has been ensured by EU legislation, which was greatly beneficial for both parties at the time of growing organized crime and terrorism. The British intelligence service is among the best, so it is a great loss for the EU. On the other hand, the UK will lose its highly advantageous membership in Eurojust and Europol, so the country can no longer rely on the benefits of the European arrest warrant and will also lose its access to the Schengen Information System and the European Criminal Records Information System. Can this mutually beneficial cooperation be maintained after Brexit?

3.

The UK has played a vital role in the installation of Galileo, the EU’s navigation and positioning satellite system. Besides providing services for private persons, business entities and public institutions, the system also offers a secure platform for the Member States’ law enforcement and defence agencies. The UK has financially and professionally contributed to the system’s development and it also hosts some of the infrastructure. Under what conditions can the post-Brexit UK remain a part of this key infrastructure, especially considering that Europe’s major global competitors have already developed and set up their own systems?

4.

Of all EU Member States, the UK has the largest defence budget, which is also reflected in the fact that the country supplies 25 per cent of defence procurement within the EU. The British military industry has a similarly high share within the EU in terms of R&D. As far as defence budgets are concerned, France is the only country to be near the British level, all other Member States are far below in this regard. How will Brexit affect UK-EU relations in terms of defence industry development, research and procurement? 

5.

At present, the Dublin III Regulation establishes the criteria and mechanisms for determining which Member State is responsible for examining an asylum claim made in the EU. What laws will regulate the examination of asylum claims in terms of the EU and the UK at a time of an intensively growing migration pressure? 

 

With our continent having to face increasingly difficult geopolitical challenges with fewer and fewer allies by its side, the UK and the EU will need to continue their cooperation in the area of security and defence policies as both the EU and the UK will face the same external threats. 

That is why the EU presidency has an enormous responsibility to make a compromise, at least in the area of security policy. It is a common interest for all of us.

Related Articles

The conclusions and lessons of the EU summit for Hungary – The Weekly 17

The conclusions and lessons of the EU summit for Hungary – The Weekly 17

Looking into the two most important tasks of the German presidency in my post last week, I discussed the adoption of the EU’s seven-year budget (MFF) and the economic recovery plan aimed at preventing the negative consequences of the Covid-19 crisis. Originally, I wanted to devote this week’s post to another great and pressing challenge with an equally large impact on the EU’s future: the agreement on the post-Brexit EU-UK relations. However, the topic has changed as the European Council reached an agreement in terms of the financial frameworks in the meantime. Just as for every other EU Member State, this agreement has some important lessons for us in Hungary, especially considering Viktor Orbán’s unorthodox maneuvers on the political stage.

read more
The stakes of the German EU presidency: Europe’s future – Part 1 – The Weekly 16

The stakes of the German EU presidency: Europe’s future – Part 1 – The Weekly 16

The rotation of the Council presidency is in the centre of attention every 6 months. Each EU Member State gets a chance in every thirteen years to shape the agenda of the EU’s highest decision-making body through presiding over Council meetings and prioritizing the objectives that are important for the particular country.

Many people consider it as a divine miracle that the EU Council’s presidency is taken over by Germany on 1st July, right when the institution is about to face the gravest crisis in its history. We all know the reasons why Germany has always had a primary interest in keeping up the EU and reinforcing its agencies that are based on political and economic cooperation. Germany’s increasing economic weight and the fear of a German dominance drives the other Member States to call for an ever deeper integration. Furthermore, there is an enormous pressure on Chancellor Merkel, who is still considered as Europe’s leading politician despite getting closer to the end of her political career, to guide Europe out of its economic recession and all-out social depression.

read more
Taking risks and gaining respect – European Parliament fails yet again – The Weekly 15

Taking risks and gaining respect – European Parliament fails yet again – The Weekly 15

The need to choose leaders to organize work activities, command armies, give guidance and help their communities to overcome difficulties is as old as the formation of the earliest human groups. Although leaders are selected in a completely different way now than they were in prehistoric times, the fundamental goals and needs have hardly changed over the millennia.
 
Due to their position, leaders tend to be granted certain powers and privileges but the very point of these privileges is to enable them to remove the obstacles from the way so that they could devote their full attention to the community’s welfare. Abusing these privileges or misusing them for the leaders’ private purposes is one of the most obvious markers of leadership incompetency. Leadership privileges certainly come with a significant amount of risk: leaders have to bear the weight of their decisions and sometimes even take personal risks in order to promote the welfare of the people. Just as ship captains are the last to jump in the lifeboat and police officers need to engage in a gunfight on occasion, politicians must be present in the public sphere and be the last to leave. Leaders who abuse or misuse their rights typically lose the people’s respect and are slowly forgotten or, in some cases, quickly ousted from their positions.

read more