You can and must live with the fiscal results. Of course, it is completely open how well the enormous sums now being used to bring the European economy out of the Corona disaster will really help. Nobody knows today how much of the money ends up in useless consumption in a straight line in valuable investments or on winding budget paths. The shift from grants to loans, enforced by the “frugal five”, makes sense, but it does not guarantee productive use. The decisive factor will be whether the EU economy returns to dynamic growth, be it on its own or through the massive initial spark from the state. If it does so – as it did ten years ago after the global financial crisis – debt and transfers will be sustainable; if it does not, there will be a financial collapse. One can only hope that she does.
The same applies to the return to the rule of law in Poland and Hungary. The “observation status” under which these countries were placed is diaper-soft. It will hardly hinder their way away from the rule of law if they use funds from the fund, which they will do massively. This means that the last powerful instrument of influence has been gambled away lightly. One can only hope that independent and democratic forces will emerge in Central and Eastern Europe that oppose this wrong path.
These are not good prospects. We owe it to a diplomatic failure by Macron and Merkel – well before the summit. Taking everything together, the EU Corona project is worth 1.8 trillion euros, the largest fiscal amount ever discussed at EU summits. One never had the impression beforehand that the smaller net contributor countries of the EU were involved in the decision-making process. Merkel in particular disappointed the “Frugal Five”, which are actually closer to Germany in economic and fiscal terms than France. She did this by paying extremely high for Macron’s waiver of Eurobonds – apparently in the hope that the small net contributors would still accept the “fait accompli” without complaint.
An extremely arrogant misjudgment! The “Frugal Five” fought back with skill and toughness – and let the all-round, sometimes unspeakable insults, like the British before, miserable selfish shopkeepers, rebound, which they can afford, incidentally, because Denmark, Finland and Sweden but also the Netherlands and Austria are exemplary democracies, constitutional states, civil societies and market economies – and on top of that they are wealthy net contributors. They cleverly stylized themselves as serious housekeepers – a role that Merkel had dispensed with without need, only to demonstrate unity with Macron. Germany became the midwife of a new alliance that can revive at any time.
Even worse: In the slipstream and rain shadow of the tough clash between Macron & Merkel (et al) versus Rutte & Kurz (et al), Poland and Hungary were able to assert their interests against the rule of law – and, incidentally, also a Central and Eastern European parliamentary group with the Czech Republic and of Slovakia, a kind of new edition of the Visegrád group. A huge collateral damage to the Macron / Merkel initiative, which – according to the impression of Brussels – was accepted with approval by Germany and France. There are hardly any political levers left to remind clever autocrats like Orbán of fundamental European values in the future.
Conclusion: After the Brussels summit, Europe is more divided into homogeneous interest groups than ever before: the “Frugal Five” and the Visegrád countries, the Mediterranean nations Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece, all recipient countries in the euro area, and finally France and Germany in between , both currently advocates of southern interests, but with different motives: France, the “Grande Nation”, as a self-proclaimed pacemaker of large initiatives, Germany, tired of insults, as a moralizing model European and the largest net contributor country.
Can it go well? Doubts are appropriate, especially in the sobering post-Brexit period. Europe cannot afford another split. A new federal government after the Bundestag election 2020 also needs a new adjustment in European politics: As in the days of Helmut Kohl and Hans-Dietrich Genscher, it is also the close, trusting exchange and contact with so-called small EU nations that creates trust – even in large ones Projects. More than that: After the good-bye from Great Britain, these “small” nations have even gained significantly in weight. Not only Paris is important for Berlin, but also The Hague, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Vienna.