Friday, 26 February 2021 20:08

The Brief, powered by APPLIA – EU summit post-mortem

EU summits are like a regular medical check-up for our union. Expert eyes can immediately see how good its health is. One very good measurement is EU leaders’ ability to decide.

The leaders just had their second COVID-19 summit this year. Last year, from March to December, they met (mostly virtually) eight times to discuss the coronavirus and its implications.

In a perfect world, after ten such meetings, you would expect that the leaders would have taken the necessary decisions so that the pandemic was contained with minimum restrictions.

You would expect that the same rules apply for EU citizens so they don’t have to fight with each other’s bureaucracies, that all of us are equipped with the same COVID-19 app, that borders remain open unless Brussels decides on a temporary closure here or there, that vaccination campaigns are conducted in a uniform way, that an EU communication campaign would tackle anti-vaxxers, and much more.

In a perfect world, after 10 such meetings, EU leaders would have founded a European Health Union.

In our real world, which is far from perfect, leaders decide as little as possible. If there is one thing most leaders are happy doing together, it is bashing the Commission for not doing enough. But the Commission can only do what it is tasked with. The Commission is a powerful instrument used by leaders at minimum capacity.

If Europeans knew more about EU summits, if they could watch them online, they would be probably ashamed of their national leaders. That’s perhaps why summits are held in secret.

Leaders later hold national press conferences to distil messages for their audiences, while the Council and the Commission presidents say as little as possible and take fewer and fewer journalistic questions.

COVID-19 has had another side-effect. It also seems to have depleted EU leaders of the capacity to look beyond their nose.

As this latest summit was unfolding, political instability was growing at the EU’s borders, especially in the Caucasus – in Georgia and Armenia in particular. The enemies of the EU know that while the Union’s leaders are wasting their time not taking any decisions on how to tackle the pandemic, they can advance their geopolitical interests more safely than ever.

In an ideal world, the job of EU leaders should not be to scratch their heads over how to procure masks, ventilators or vaccines: that would be done smoothly by the European Health Union. EU leaders would meet to decide on the most important issues: on strategies to advance the interests of Europeans in an ever-more dangerous world.

The Roundup

Before you head into the weekend, have a read of our Global Europe and Digital Briefs.

Grilled by European lawmakers, the chief executive of AstraZeneca, Pascal Soriot, gave only vague explanations about recent supply cuts of COVID-19 vaccines and about the preferential treatment given to the UK, failing to guarantee the expected EU deliveries for the second quarter of the year.

EU leaders debated efforts aimed at beefing up the bloc’s defence capabilities. The discussion comes as ambitions of the EU as a ‘geopolitical actor’ remain unheeded.

American multinational technology company Apple has never held talks with the World Health Organisation (WHO) or the EU about the possibility to develop a COVID-19 vaccine certificate application and has made clear it does not want to access private data from such an app, has learnt.

Italy is up in arms, trying to defend the world-famous balsamic vinegar of Modena from an attempt to ‘standardise’ its production made by Slovenia, and the European Commission appears to have until 3 March to settle the issue.

The EU’s new ambitious food policy is ready to face tough parliamentary scrutiny from lawmakers who feel being pushed aside by the European Commission.

French people tend to eat less meat than before, according to the results of the Harris Interactive survey published on Thursday ( 25 February). This change in eating habits can only be welcomed, both from an environmental and health perspective.