One Year Later, EU Duo Yet To Convince, Say Analysts
Faizan Hashmi 2 months ago Mon 30th November 2020 | 07:40 PM
Brussels, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 30th Nov, 2020 ) :Running the European Union is no simple matter and the duo at the head of the bloc of 27 very distinct nations has struggled mightily to have their voices heard.
It is one of the EU's peculiarities that its leadership is composed of two people, sometimes to the bemusement of other heads of state and governments meeting at international summits or events.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council President Charles Michel took office a year ago -- but there was no honeymoon period to find their footing, as they were engulfed within months by the coronavirus pandemic.
Between chaos at closed internal borders or unilateral export bans on medical equipment, the continent gave an unfortunate image of selfish disunity as countries chose national interest over European spirit.
The two leaders were helpless against these my-country-first instincts, causing fury in Italy, which was the first and hardest hit by the virus as their EU partners looked on in silence.
As thousands died in northern Italy's overwhelmed hospitals, a visit by the two leaders would have been essential, said Yves Bertoncini, European affairs consultant. "They missed a golden opportunity." In their defence, the very nature of EU leadership makes it difficult for the top officials to shine.
At a historic four-day summit in July, the other EU chief, former Belgian prime minister Michel, corralled the 27 leaders into accepting a 1.2-trillion-euro ($1.4 trillion) recovery and budget plan, defying strong opposition.
With that package, von der Leyen won more influence "in the cathedral of the EU", said Balfour.
- 'Mrs. Europe' - Experts agree that von der Leyen, a trained doctor, also scored points by taking charge of future Covid vaccines for the EU-27, with six contracts representing more than 1.2 billion doses in the pipeline.
This initiative has led to "a revival of confidence in Europe, which was very low at the start of the pandemic", said Balfour.
But compared to their predecessors, the Von der Leyen-Michel tandem still lacks gravitas in the eyes of EU-watchers.
"There was more political experience with Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker," he said, referring to the pair's predecessors at the Council and Commission.
"They embodied European politics and unity in a different way. As a result, it is Mrs. Merkel who is Mrs. Europe." While it is hard to compete with a Juncker, who was already an EU veteran when he arrived at the head of the Commission, Von der Leyen is handicapped by the conditions of her appointment after the European elections of 2019.
The choice of a former Belgian Prime Minister for the European Council was not un-expected, but that of von der Leyen was a total surprise.
Virtually unknown outside her country, she was proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron, who refused the candidacy of German MEP Manfred Weber, the candidate backed by Merkel and European Parliament.