2nd Jun 2020

German EU presidency lumbered with massive to-do list

  • There will be about 3-4 meetings every day, with 400 of them at the political level (Photo: European Commission)

When large countries take over the six-month presidency of the European Union they generate a huge level of expectation, although past experience shows that they are not always the most effective presidencies.

It is no different this time round with Germany, due to take over the political running of the bloc on 1 January.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

If it manages to check off all the issues on its to-do list, Berlin will, among other things, salvage the EU constitution, get an EU energy package agreed and oversee a new EU policy towards the ex-Soviet east.

This will be on top of the all the other thorny issues that will continue to linger over the first half of next year including the EU's deteriorating relations with Russia and how to proceed with membership talks with Turkey.

Although talks with Ankara have been partially suspended, there is scope to open negotiations in certain chapters – something that is bound to aggravate the fault lines between the pro- and anti-Turkish EU membership camp.

Germany's presidency will also coincide with the expansion of the bloc to Romania and Bulgaria – bringing EU membership to 27 and with it all the little teething problems that occur when new countries, with their own particular political baggage, join the club.

The 50 year anniversary of the bloc in March is also a potential political minefield with member states having to agree a short declaration that is supposed to summarise the state of the EU and where it is heading.

National governments already had a surprisingly hard time of it trying to plan the celebrations for the event – in the end favouring the more prosaic tree-planting over singing and dancing for fear of being ridiculed – while the logo for the anniversary saw some member states miffed because they felt they had not been consulted enough on its design.

Big versus small presidencies

While Berlin will try and keep a handle on these internal political issues, they will also be chairing the G8 – the group of the world's most industrialised countries – from January and will have to organise several high-profile summits, including an EU-US summit.

On average, there will be about 3-4 meetings every day with around 400 of them at the political level.

However, big country presidencies are not always as successful as those of smaller member states.

While smaller countries tend to operate tightly run ships and leave their national egos at home, larger countries often do not – although foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier pledged during a Brussels visit in December that Berlin would be an "honest broker."

In 1999, when it was last an EU presidency, Germany lived up to the moniker, forced to fork out billions more than it wanted in order to get an eleventh hour deal on the budget after marathon talks.

However, it has subtly changed its stance within the EU since then to a more "Berlin-first" policy, something that can also be seen in its conscious decision to use German rather than English in all its presidency press briefings.

The most recent big presidency of the EU was by the UK last year. Prime minister Tony Blair started the stint off with a fiery oration before the European Parliament on how he was going to thoroughly shake up the EU, he laid out several plans for changing EU farm policy and making the bloc more focused on innovation spending.

By the end of the presidency, little had changed.

Leading up to this presidency however, Germany has been doing its best to play down all expectations pointing out several times that there is only so much a country can achieve in six months, and much of that is dependent on cooperation from the rest of the member states.

Jourova: Ease emergency powers - especially Hungary

The EU commission vice-president said that as member states relax lockdwon measures, it is time to roll back the state of emergencies that affect democracy and fundamental rights. Hungary said it might end extra powers in June.

Commission struggles with German court challenge

While the EU commission has suggested there could be EU probes becasue of the German consitutional court's decision, chancellor Angela Merkel argued to her party that a clash is avoidable.

Bucharest and Budapest in 'autonomy' region row

Budapest and Bucharest are engaged in a war of words over the heavily-Hungarian region of Szeklerland, part of Romania's Transylvania. But is a row over autonomy just cover to overshadow the corona virus crisis?

Hungary and Poland in spotlight for lockdown moves

The EU commission is double-checking emergency measures in every member state, as fundamental rights have been temporarily abrogated. But Hungary and Poland are problematic, yet no actions are planned.

News in Brief

  1. Trump threatens to use army to crush unrest in US
  2. Trump wants Russia back in G7-type group
  3. Iran: Fears of second wave as corona numbers rise again
  4. WHO: Overuse of antibiotics to strengthen bacterial resistance
  5. Orban calls EU Commission recovery plan 'absurd'
  6. ABBA's Björn new president of authors' rights federation
  7. Malta and Libya to create anti-migrant 'units'
  8. France reopening bars and parks next week

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  3. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  5. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers call for post-corona synergies between economic recovery and green transition

Latest News

  1. Malta fiddles on migrants, as Libya burns
  2. Borrell: EU doesn't need to choose between US and China
  3. Post-Brexit and summer travel talks This WEEK
  4. State-level espionage on EU tagged as 'Very High Threat'
  5. Beethoven vs Virus: How his birthplace Bonn is coping
  6. EU's new migration pact must protect people on the move
  7. Spain takes 'giant step' on guaranteed minimum income
  8. Vestager hits back at Lufthansa bailout criticism

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us