On 1 July, Germany took over the Presidency of the Council of the EU for the coming six months. It took over from Croatia whose bulk of the Presidency fell into the Covid-19 crisis and several month lockdowns throughout the EU. Germany plans their Presidency to focus on:
- overcoming the consequences of the coronavirus crisis for the long-term as well as economic and social recovery;
- a stronger and more innovative Europe;
- a fair Europe;
- a sustainable Europe;
- a Europe of security and common values; and
- a strong Europe in the world.
Each of the overarching themes above is further broken down into more specific objectives.It is worth noting that the Presidency will place a greater stress on achieving Europe’s digital sovereignty and enhancing its competitiveness in the digital sphere. The Presidency’s programme mentions specifically artificial intelligence and quantum technologies, as well as investing in digital skills and capacities. It plans to enhance competitiveness by further implementation and enforcement of single market rules and sustainable financial market architecture, stable financial policy and fair taxation (ensuring fair and adequate taxation in line with OECD proposals). ‘A fair Europe’ breaks down into strengthening the social dimension and social cohesion (tackling poverty and social exclusion), gender equality, protection and participation of young people and the promotion of an active civil society with social cohesion. ‘A sustainable Europe’ largely focuses on climate and environmental policy issues, with specific mention of agriculture and fishing. The final section looks to strengthen the individual rights of EU citizens in terms of security and fundamental rights.
In her presentation to the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee, German Minister for Justice and Consumer Protection Christine Lambrechts mentioned the focus on the consequences of the Covid-19 on the rule of law and tackling the spread of misinformation. She added that such areas as future framework for AI, the intellectual property rights strategy, digitalisation of justice, and corporate social responsibility will be one of the key priorities.
In his presentation to the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee, German Home Minister Horst Seehofer indicated that Germany will try to broker a political agreement in the most important areas of common migration and asylum policy reform.
In his presentation to the European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee, German Economic Affairs and Energy Minister Peter Altmaier highlighted the importance of the Covid-19 recovery fund. He also stated that the Presidency would be supportive of the development of data infrastructure for European initiative Gaia-X, aiming to improve interoperability, availability and storage of data within the EU.
It is clear that the Presidency’s key priority will be the economic recovery of the EU following the Covid-19 pandemic. With the recovery package and new long-term EU budget now adopted, it remains to be seen how Germany will lead the route to giving a new boost to Europe’s economy. What is already clear is that the next several months will be very important for Europe’s recovery and future.
Finally, Germany’s Presidency will also coincide with a finale of the negotiations between the EU and the UK and the start of the preparations for the end of the transition period.