Friday 17 January 2020

Editorial: 'It's make your mind up time as EU prepares for key moves'

'Having an influential hand in a bloc of 450 million people at such a pivotal time for Brexit is reassuring given the enormity of what lies ahead.' (stock photo)
'Having an influential hand in a bloc of 450 million people at such a pivotal time for Brexit is reassuring given the enormity of what lies ahead.' (stock photo)
Editorial

Editorial

Last month an American political magazine included both Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan on its list of the 28 most powerful people in Europe.

It is intended to put a spotlight on the people it believes are gearing up to be "shaping, shaking and stirring Europe".

Having an influential hand in a bloc of 450 million people at such a pivotal time for Brexit is reassuring given the enormity of what lies ahead.

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The unfolding year will see Mr Hogan become a key player in the Brexit talks.

The Kilkenny man will also be charged later with leading the EU team in crunch talks with the US on the future of world trade.

Mr Hogan has made plain he regards agreement on a level playing pitch for standards and regulation will be the toughest nut to crack.

Clarity on where checks and controls would be carried out on goods moving between the British mainland and Northern Ireland would also be welcome.

If the markets are a bellwether, the mood has been upbeat of late as investors take heart from clarity on two of the major risks to global economic growth - the US-China trade war and Brexit.

But in too many of the key areas, the ability to move things forward has been anything but impressive.

For three years, Brexit has eclipsed almost everything else in Brussels.

Progress on what the bloc termed its "global strategy" centring on foreign and security policy has been minimal.

The strategy was also written up in 2016 with a view towards streamlining "military capabilities and anti-terrorism as much as on job opportunities, inclusive societies and human rights".

While the ambition cannot be faulted, the drive to follow it through has yet to materialise.

Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief, has articulated how the EU must "learn to use the language of power".

The most obvious impediment to this is the fact military budgets at EU and national level are likely to be too small and unco-ordinated for genuine strategic autonomy, as noted recently in the 'Financial Times'.

Some time back, the Commission's economic division also laid out its vision for the zone's economy.

Its conclusion? We're at a crossroads.

The main directions "are either further weakening with the possibility of entering recession, a muddling through with a protracted period of low growth and low inflation" or a rebound.

It concludes the economy "is not likely to rebound in the near term" and that we're stuck with low growth rates for a long period.

In truth, the bloc has pretty much slowed to a standstill.

But expecting the ECB to do more seems futile. It may feel it has played its hand.

There is a view, and it is valid, that the countries which can spend should spend now.

Irish Independent

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