The European Union faces much bigger challenges than in the past
The European Union celebrated the “Europe Day” recently. The heads of the European institutions reaffirmed their belief that a “united Europe will emerge stronger” from the COVID-19 crisis. Perhaps it will, but it is far too early to tell. It is not so much that the jury still out but rather the trial has hardly even begun.
COVID-19 POSES AN EXISTENTIAL CHALLENGE TO THE EU
In such uncertainty, the EU, its Member States, and the rest of the world are in the same predicament. The most qualifed projections and forecasts can only be an educated guess at best. Today, the EU faces big challenges. In short, the outbreak poses a risk for the Union’s economic stability and welfare, the harmony among member states and its position in international relations. And when we look at the economic effects in detail, we see that the EU is expecting a recession that is, on average, 7.5% of aggregate gross domestic product (GDP). This is by far the worst in the Union’s 70-year history. Commission’s €1.5-2 trillion “Recovery Fund” has already been agreed in principle. However, the Member States still must iron out some difficult details, particularly the central issue of credits or grants to the Member States.
FAULT LINES MAY DEEPEN
Another important risk the EU faces for long years but becoming more evident recently is the prospect of deepening the fault lines across the Union. The anti-EU backlash in some countries combined with the economic consequences of COVID-19 presents a real challenge for the future of the EU when Brexit is also added to the equation. The EU is not in an easy game internationally and above all, finds itself alone… The crisis has widened the gap between multilateral Europe and the United States’ isolationist and protectionist policies. Unlike the 2008 financial crisis, there has been little, if any, consultation with Washington. And this situation paralysed the G7 and the G20. There are also increasingly frosty relations with China, who have recently caused various diplomatic spats and even apparently spread the rumours that the virus started in Italy. This cooling of relationships has led to debates over Europe’s reliance on China’s major role in the supply chain.
EU IS PROMOTING INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
Considering all these, what is left is a superpower vacuum. Despite the tense diplomatic atmosphere, the EU, with some success, has tried to take the lead in supporting the WHO and promoting international cooperation against COVID-19. To craft a new role for itself in the international order, the EU should continue to be the advocate of multilateral world order that has been under attack in the last years. The EU is now facing bigger challenges than in the past. However, it is important to remember that it was the foundation of the EU which brought peace to the European continent after becoming the two world wars. It is also important to build on the learnings and achievements of the past. The pandemic showed us that a global response is needed to the globalized problems we face today. It is time for cooperation rather than confrontation.
TURKEY-EU RELATIONS SHOULD BE REDEFINED ON A CONSTRUCTIVE BASIS
The EU has always been the strongest advocate of inclusiveness, multilateralism, dialogue, and solidarity in the world. These also continue to be the foundation of its relations with its partners – such as Turkey. The EU is in the process of rediscovering its role both in the eyes of its Member States and the world. In this period, Turkey and the EU should also redefine relations on a more constructive basis after a long stalemate. Because I believe that such cooperation would bene t both parties not only politically but also economically. Considering that the very nature of global trade will change in the future as countries start to de-localize their production from China, Turkey emerges as a strong alternative. Turkey has always been a reliable economic partner for the EU for its strong manufacturing capacity and quality workforce. Without any question, our country will continue to be so in the future.
As stated in the opening lines of the Schuman Declaration, “world peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.” These lines hold true after 70 years. There is no better time than now to make those creative efforts again. And those creative efforts require fore- sight, statesmanship, and commitment to founding values. This will determine whether the EU could eventually emerge stronger and more united after the pandemic.
Coordinating Chairperson of Turkey-Europe Business Councils Zeynep Bodur Okyay