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EU Affairs Human Rights & Rule of Law

From Poland With Love – December

Topic of the Month

The Deal

“We have reached an agreement of a kind that, let me stress it, has accepted all of our preconditions that we have made,” said Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki after the EU leader approved the EUR 1,8 trillion budget and Covid recovery plan. “We have a budget, together with the reconstruction fund, which means big funds for investment, big funds for supporting the development of Poland’s economy, for new technologies, for many goals that need to be implemented, especially now that we want to quickly come out of the pandemic. That’s important to us,” he added.

The new agreement still ties disbursements from the fiscal package to democratic and rule of law standards but such sanctions cannot be triggered before the Court of Justice of the EU has ruled on the legality of any nationally introduced measures. The Commission will refrain from implementing the legally binding rule of law mechanism while a member state challenges its legality at the CJEU. This is a process that can take years.

The new mechanism will also not come into effect until next year (after elections in Hungary).

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Election Monitor EU Affairs

Liberal Opposition Leader Kallas to become Estonia’s first Female Prime Minister

Estonia’s Prime Minister Jüri Ratas has resigned over a corruption investigation in his party. He paved the way for the opposition Reform Party to form a new governing coalition that excludes the right-wing populist allies of the previous government.

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EU Affairs

A Liberal Take on the Brexit Agreement

At long last, the EU and the UK agreed on a Brexit deal just before Christmas. After months of negotiations, white smoke emerged on 24 December, as EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that their negotiators had reached a historic agreement. Most importantly, this meant that a no-deal scenario, which would have dramatic consequences for the UK and EU economies, had been avoided. But is that enough to make it a good agreement for Liberals on both sides of the Channel?

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EU Affairs

EU-China: Human Rights Only Come Second for Conservatives

Largely unnoticed by the public – Brexit had been the dominant topic at the turn of the year – the EU Commission concluded negotiations on an investment agreement with the People’s Republic of China shortly before New Year’s Eve. The driving force behind the trade agreement, which largely excludes questions about Chinese human rights violations, was the German government. At the beginning of the German EU Presidency in the summer of 2020, Angela Merkel announced that the EU had a great strategic interest in “actively shaping cooperation with China, one of the key players of this century.”

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EU Affairs Security & Defence

This is Not the End of Britain’s European Story: Let’s Stay Connected Until the Tide Turns

By Sandra Khadhouri, Project Partner, Keeping Channels Open, supported by European Dialogue, Friedrich Naumann Foundation

This year’s coronavirus has taken the world by storm and created a sense of powerlessness among citizens everywhere. We have all had to be creative in finding ways to stay positive, productive and supportive of our local communities in the face of this unprecedented situation. Another area beyond the control of the average British person has been the course of the Brexit negotiations and the shape of the final deal. There has been little opportunity to influence a more constructive UK approach which safeguards precious trade and cooperation in a number of areas. Lobbying efforts by campaigners, opposition parties, and businesses has changed little, including the publicly-supported campaign for an extension to the transition period beyond 2020 in light of COVID disruption. This all begs the question – how do we proactively take action in the years ahead, rather than continuing to be a victim of circumstance, lamenting the damage to UK-EU trade and relations as powerless bystanders?

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EU Affairs Human Rights & Rule of Law

Common Understanding for Common Values: The European Citizenship of the Future

Officially born in Maastricht in 1993, European citizenship is unique in its kind: it is the first transnational citizenship of the modern era, and arguably the testimony of a prodigious path of integration among nations that, after years of troubled relations, finally came together to create the biggest area of democracy and freedom in the world. Almost thirty years later, European citizenship remains a highly topical issue for a number of reasons. In a general sense, it is pressured by the rise of populism, nationalism, as well as the constantly increasing constraining dissensus of national actors vis-à-vis supranational institutions. More specifically, however, recent developments, such as Brexit and attacks on the rule of law in some Member States, make a re-discussion of this form of citizenship ever more urgent.