So long, Brussels! EU’s very future in doubt as experts warn bloc facing ‘critical point’

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The EU has experienced a roller-coaster year so far, with the bloc finding itself in the spotlight as it desperately battles to solve a number of huge problems amid increasing mutiny from several member states. Brussels has come under attack from several countries over the bloc’s response to the coronavirus pandemic that has swept through the continent over the past few months, killing hundreds of thousands of people. The crisis has forced Governments to put their countries into lockdown, costing them billions of pounds in lost trade and blowing massive holes in their respective economies.

Italy, which suffered more than most at the start of the European outbreak, was left furious and accused the EU of offering little to no help in the country’s attempts to help manage the pandemic destroying its country.

There is an ongoing row between member states over the ‘Coronavirus Recovery Fund’ and the new seven-year EU budget in terms of how that should be paid for and how much countries should contribute towards it.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country took over the presidency of the European Council on July 1, has urged fellow EU member states to reach agreement on both budgets before the upcoming summer break.

The coronavirus pandemic also is forecast to plunge the EU into the worst recession in history, with member states still at odds over a European Commission proposal for a €750billion fund to rescue the bloc.

The EU is facing a huge crisis. Recent polling across Europe suggests a majority feel that the EU was irrelevant or had failed their country in developing the response to coronavirus

John Macdonald

Ms Merkel warned last month during a speech to the Bundestag setting out Germany’s priorities for the rotating presidency of the EU: “The pandemic shows us how vulnerable Europe is.”

EU negotiators are also currently in talks with the UK over a post-Brexit trade agreement, with a fight against the clock to get one signed before the end of the transition period on December 31.

Political experts have warned the huge crises lingering over the EU, which shows no sign of being solved at the moment among bickering member states, leaves the bloc with a question mark hanging over its future.

John Macdonald, Head of Government Affairs, Adam Smith Institute, told “The EU is facing a huge crisis. Recent polling across Europe suggests a majority feel that the EU was irrelevant or had failed their country in developing the response to coronavirus.

“The recent landmark German court case, ruling ECB bond buying programs as illegal under German law, has undermined the supremacy of the European Court of Justice.

“Twinning an increasingly likely sovereign debt crisis with a challenge to the supremacy of the ECJ is a sure-fire way to encourage further exits from the Union.”

Alistair Jones, Associate Professor in Politics and a University Teacher Fellow at De Montfort University, said: “There is a question mark over the potential future of the EU. Some member states, such as the Visegrad countries (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia) are not happy with the EU plans around immigration, refugees and asylum seekers.

“In this respect, some EU member states, such as Germany, appear a little out of touch with some of the newer member states.

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“There is also a degree of disconnect between parts of the public across the EU and the EU institutions.

“One scenario could see the organisation collapsing as a result of the Covid epidemic as each country turns inward and looks after its own population. There has already been talk of Italian disappointment in this respect. Others may follow.

Alex De Ruyter, Professor at Birmingham City University and Director of Centre for Brexit Studies, said a number of difficult situations lie ahead for the EU, and outlined two critical weaknesses currently being displayed by Brussels.

He said: “The future of the EU is reaching a critical point, although there is always the possibility of fudge. In particular, difficult choices around fiscal union (a common budget and EU borrowing powers) lie ahead.

“The current situation in the Eurozone (monetary union but no central fiscal body) is unlikely to be tenable indefinitely.

“The EU has two primary weaknesses. The first is in terms of its governance arrangements and the second is the structure of the Eurozone as outlined above: the EU Commission simultaneously has elements of the executive (a Government) and a civil service.

“Whilst there is democratic oversight of appointments, it is not unreasonable to point out that this is opaque and somewhat patchy.

“In both cases the fundamental tension is the same: member states want the benefits that come with being a unified whole whilst simultaneously wanting to retain ultimate control at the level of the nation-state.”

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