Friday, July 10, 2020


On July 17/18, the 27 EU member states will convene in Brussels for the most arduous of decisions, the coming seven- year budget 2021/2027. Charles Michel, president of the Council will have to find common ground to steer this mega- ambition through the ruff waters of discontent. The numbers are staggering:  1.074 trillion euros budget and 750 billion euros for a recovery fund (grants and loans).

The divisions run deep. The Netherlands are leading a group of countries (Austria, Denmark, Sweden) which oppose the philosophy of solidarity and pursue greater meritocracy under supervision of the fittest. Financial support for the weaker member states would only be considered if a number of prior monitored measures and conditions could be fulfilled.

Germany is in charge of the EU presidency since July 1st. It is  to be expected that Chancellor Merkel will actively consider every effort which to avoid a split and the de facto creation of a secondary tier of states among the 27.

While China and Russia are consolidating their control, the West looks vulnerable. The United States are in an existential free-fall and the EU looks rudderless. The pandemic's range remains unclear but even in the best of scenarios, the long-term consequences are ominous. The Covid-19 is a watershed in history.

Obviously the traditional Keynesian approach will not be enough. What is needed is an engineering toolbox that is geared to multiple, diverse priorities and avoids the suspicion of being sanctimonious. The Thatcher cry "I want my money back" should not be heard in the dire straits the EU finds itself in. One is tempted to sulk over "the good old days" of Jacques  Delors, but nostalgia for the past is no remedy for the future.

The prevailing feeling is one of exhaustion. The lack of an elementary mission statement is becoming a liability. It is also true that many European states look pathetic in their denial of fact. Belgium is a prime example of a state with bankrupt institutions that go against every notion of efficiency, transparency and rationality.  One must hope that the Belgian curse will not end up infecting the workings of Europe as a whole. The ambition of great endeavors should be spared the crudeness of small minds.


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