Monday

13th Jul 2020

Member states grumble about splinter summits

Some member states have started to complain about the EU's patchy response to the economic crisis, especially its preponderance for organising summits with select invitees.

"I must admit I'm extremely worried about the EU's institutional chaos. Never in the EU's history has there been a period like this with so many cliques," Finnish foreign minister Alexander Stubb said on Monday (23 February), according to DPA.

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  • Sweden's Carl Bildt - the Berlin meeting was bad for the commission and the council (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

He made the comments one day after a meeting in Berlin of six member states to prepare for a G20 summit in London on 2 April.

Although the UK, France, Germany and Italy are the only EU members of the G20, Spain and the Netherlands were also invited to the gathering, which saw agreement on a few general principles, such as the need for stricter financial regulation.

The Swedish foreign minister also expressed scepticism about the meeting.

"I can't understand what was gained by Sunday's meeting in Berlin. This confusion is not only undermining small EU member states and the [European] commission, but the Council [the joint forum of all the members states] itself," said Carl Bildt.

"What I have a specific problem with is that the G20 has suddenly become the G22 and I don't understand the mathematics behind that," he added.

Apart from Finland and Sweden, Poland, Portugal, Luxembourg and Belgium were also reportedly irked by the Berlin event.

"Quite a few countries insisted that the question about in what cases extraordinary summits on a different level should be called be raised and discussed," Bulgarian foreign minister Ivailo Kalfin said following a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday.

The public grumbling threatens to remove what is already a thin veil of unity in the EU over how to tackle the economic crisis.

The most contentious issue - protectionism - has caused an ugly row between France and the Czech Republic after France said French car firms should not relocate to eastern Europe.

Prague has called an emergency informal summit of the 27 EU leaders on Sunday (1 March) in Brussels to combat the threat of economic nationalism.

But the Sunday meeting already risks descending into farce as nine central and eastern European leaders will hold their own pre-emergency summit earlier the same day. They will discuss worries that rich, western EU countries are spending their own way out of the crisis.

Doubts have already been expressed about what the emergency summit can achieve with member states meant to meet again just a few weeks later (19-20 March) for their regular Spring Summit.

"Personally, I don't see what remarkable thing is going to happen on 1 March," the Bulgarian foreign minister said. "I have personally no expectations about some remarkable results from that meeting."

Rule-of-law row complicates budget talks

Disagreements are running deep between EU leaders over the overall size of the budget and recovery package, the criteria and mode of distribution and the conditions, with rule of law "another battle ground opening up".

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