The last weeks of 2020 saw agreements on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), the recovery plan “Next Generation EU” as well as a post-Brexit deal. The new year brings a change of Presidency; it is now up to Portugal to set out in new directions. In particular the stronger social focus of her Presidency programme is to be welcomed.
This time, no marathon meeting was required for the Heads of State and Government to reach agreement concerning an important issue at the European Council on 11 and 12 December 2020 in Brussels: the leaders found a compromise regarding the Multiannual Financial Framework and the related Rule of Law Clause, which is to be applied from 1 January 2021 – at least in theory.
On 12 November 2020, EU Vice President, Věra Jourová, and the Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, launched the first EU Strategy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, or queers (LGBTIQ).
On 7 November 2020, after days of waiting, it had become clear who the next President and the first Vice President of the US would be: the victory of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris mean a transition of power in the United States, which will also have consequences for the EU.
The COVID-19 crisis is a drastic reminder of what several years of austerity measures and privatisation of public services in many European countries have led to. Therefor, there is no further liberalisation needed, especially in the fields of water supply and public transport. Instead, investments in public services like water and electricity supply, public transport and childcare should no longer be counted as government debt. New funding opportunities are also necessary for local authorities and public enterprises to fulfil the goals of the European Green Deal.
Following the resignation of former Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan, the Commission has reassigned two portfolios. Whilst in future, Vice Commission President Valdis Dombrovskis will also be responsible for trade policy, the Irish politician Mairead McGuinness will assume the financial services portfolio.
While Council and European Parliament are still negotiating the linkage of respective principles with the EU budget, the EU Commission presented the first edition of its annual Rule of Law Report on 30 September 2020. Prior to this, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán called for the resignation of the responsible Commission Vice President Věra Jourová.
In 2019 already, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had announced a “fresh start” concerning the EU’s migration and asylum policy. On 23 September 2020, the Commission presented a new Pact on Migration and Asylum, in view of the humanitarian catastrophe in the Greek refugee camp Moria a week earlier than planned, but with changes for the worse for refugees.
On 16 September 2020, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gave her first State of the Union Speech before the European Parliament. Among other, she reflected on the first nine months, which have been marked by the pandemic and gave an outlook into the closer future.
Following Great Britain’s exit from the European Union, both contracting parties do not have much time left to agree on a future deal. Now the British government has announced its intention to change aspects of the EU Withdrawal Agreement.