January 1, 2021, Portugal took over Germany and began to hold the presidency of the European Union for half a year, shouldering the important task of leading EU countries to meet internal and external challenges.
There are many difficult problems.
In 2020, the EU will encounter many difficulties such as the coronavirus epidemic, economic contraction, deepening differences with the United States, and continuous contradictions with Turkey.
At the beginning of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, European countries took a series of epidemic prevention measures, and the epidemic was once under control. Since then, many countries have relaxed epidemic prevention measures to resume production and life, coupled with people’s slackness and other factors, the epidemic has rebounded.
The epidemic has seriously affected the European economy. The European Commission released economic forecasts in early November 2020, saying that the EU and eurozone economies are expected to shrink by 7.4% and 7.8% in 2020, while the economies of Spain, Italy and France, which are hardest hit by the epidemic, are expected to shrink by 12.4%, 9.9% and 9.9% respectively in 2020. 4%.
In 2020, the contradictions between the EU and the United States in security, economy, trade and international governance are becoming more and more prominent. The coronavirus epidemic has made European-American relations worse. At the beginning of the epidemic, the United States intercepted masks destined for Germany and France, shipped virus test kits from Italy, which was seriously affected at that time, and even attempted to take Germany’s COVID-19 vaccine research and development results for itself…
Relations with Turkey are also a pain point for EU diplomacy in 2020. First, due to the escalation of the war in the Idlib region of Syria, Turkey pressured the European Union to seek support by “opening the gates and releasing refugees”; later, Turkey continued to rift with the European Union because of the dispute with Cyprus and Greece over natural gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean.
Looking back in 2020, in terms of economic recovery, the EU launched an economic recovery plan totaling more than 1.8 trillion euros in July, including a long-term budget of 1.074 trillion euros for 2021-2027 and a recovery fund of 750 billion euros. This is the largest economic stimulus package in the EU to date.
In terms of the British and European negotiations, on December 24, 2020, the United Kingdom and the European Union announced the conclusion of negotiations on their future relations and agreed on a series of details of cooperation, including trade, which means that the “no-deal Brexit” haze has enveloped Britain and the EU for many years since the 2016 Brexit referendum. Finally dispersed.
Moreover, as 2021 approaches, China and the EU complete the investment agreement negotiations on schedule, injecting strong impetus into deepening China-EU cooperation, driving the world economic recovery in the post-epidemic era, and jointly promoting world development and prosperity.
In addition, in terms of the coronavirus vaccine, the European Union has learned the lessons of the lack of unity during the spring outbreak, strengthened coordination on the issue of the novel coronavirus vaccine, unified funding for research and development, unified pre-order, and simultaneous distribution to all countries. On December 27, 2020, several EU member states officially launched the COVID-19 vaccination process, increasing European confidence in defeating the epidemic.
On December 20, 2020, Portuguese Prime Minister Costa introduced three important issues during his presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2021: first, to address climate change and the digital transformation into a two-wheel drive economic recovery plan; the other is to launch a society based on the green revolution and the digital revolution. Plan of Action for the Pillar of the Conference; Third, Strengthen Europe’s Strategic Ownership and Focus on Opening to the World.
European public opinion believes that launching the EU economic recovery plan as soon as possible, creating more jobs, and further enhancing the resilience and sustainability of economic growth will be the first priority during Portugal’s presidency.
Theresa Coratella, an expert at the European Council on External Relations, believes that Portugal will undertake a “subtle political task” to coordinate the implementation of recovery plans in member countries and needs to “ensure that European citizens benefit economically, socially and politically from the ‘Recovery Fund'”.
Some analysts pointed out that the European Union has been worried that enterprises that resume production from the epidemic will ignore environmental standards, emphasizing that the post-epidemic economic recovery should be more “green” and sustainable. However, the emission reduction levels and claims of EU countries are different, and it remains to be seen whether Portugal can bridge its differences when leading the EU agenda.
After the new U.S. government comes to power, it may bring opportunities for the better relations between Europe and the United States. However, on the one hand, there are intractable entanglements between Europe and the United States in many aspects; on the other hand, the European Union has been committed to developing its strategic autonomy for many years. According to the article on the website of the Wall Street Journal of the United States, it is afraid that it is difficult for the new government of the United States to restore the “normal” of the United States-European relations in the past.
In addition, many other issues delayed by the European Union due to the epidemic, including the new immigration strategy and the reform of the Schengen mechanism, may be discussed during Portugal’s presidency of the European Union. Portugal also faces great difficulties in coordination with the EU’s problems in recent years, such as refugee reception, repatriation management and border control.