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Review of the German EU Council Presidency: “Together. Making Europe Strong Again.”

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Berlin, 01 January 2021 - Corona, household, constitutional state, climate: In a politically full half year, the German presidency has strengthened the EU internally and externally.

Portugal übernimmt von Deutschland die EU-Ratspräsidentschaft
Portugal übernimmt von Deutschland die EU-Ratspräsidentschaft© deutsche presse agentur

The fight against the Corona pandemic has characterized Germany's Council Presidency.

But the EU has also made decisive progress on other key issues, acting internally in solidarity and externally in unity.

Fight against Covid-19

The EU is sticking together in the fight against Covid-19: thanks in part to many European scientists and European research, a vaccine was developed, procured and distributed in record time.

Citizens of the EU will have the opportunity to be vaccinated in the foreseeable future - a decisive step out of the pandemic.

Germany is working to ensure that the EU also distributes the vaccine to countries in particular need.

Multiannual Financial Framework and “Next Generation EU” recovery fund

After long negotiations and building on a Franco-German proposal, the EU has adopted a package of so-called “Multiannual Financial Framework” (MFF), i.e. budget for several years, and reconstruction funds to make the EU strong again after the Corona pandemic.

The “Next Generation EU” recovery fund comprises 750 billion euros and is a new instrument that is supposed to bring quick help to citizens.

Particularly in focus: more money for health, for climate protection, for digitization and for youth exchanges.

And the new budget has yet another innovation: for the first time, it ties the disbursement of EU funds to compliance with rule-of-law standards. Germany has lobbied intensively for this right up to the end.

This package makes the EU fit for a green and innovative future - and it strengthens European values.

Strengthening the Rule of Law

The Rule of Law is the basis for the EU's community of values, in which citizens enjoy protection of their freedoms and rights.

During its EU Council presidency, Germany therefore launched a new Rule of Law Dialogue in the Council between the EU partners.

The aim: to strengthen the common understanding of the Rule of Law in the EU in an honest exchange.

In a “horizontal” debate, all states discussed the general situation of the Rule of Law in the EU.

A second debate focused on the situation in five initial member states - gradually it will be the turn of all member states.

This Rule of Law Check is intended to sharpen the common view of the issue and identify problematic developments at an early stage.

Portugal will continue the Dialog under its EU Council presidency.

European sovereignty

Germany is committed to a European Union that strengthens its capacity both to act and to actively promote its policies - in areas such as security, technology and the digital world, trade policy and monetary policy.

The EU is pooling its strengths and acting together, especially externally, because nation states can no longer shape the global order on their own in the competition between the major powers.

In the area of security policy, Germany launched a kind of “strategic compass” during its Council presidency: EU member states exchange views on security and defense issues on the basis of a threat analysis and give themselves a common direction.

Germany has also successfully concluded lengthy negotiations on so-called “permanent structured cooperation”: In the future, non-EU members will also be able to participate in corresponding EU security and defense projects.

But conflicts can never be solved by military means alone - for sustainable peace, Germany promotes and strengthens civilian crisis management as a central part of the Common European Foreign and Security Policy.

With the establishment of the Center for Civilian Crisis Management in Berlin, the German government is making an important contribution in this regard.

Here, EU member states, together with their partners, pool accumulated knowledge and train personnel to improve EU civilian missions.

EU: pioneer in climate protection

Europe also remains a pioneer in climate protection: By 2030, the EU wants to reduce its CO2 emissions by at least 55%, and by 2050 we want to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent.

During the Council Presidency, the German government successfully campaigned for these targets to be enshrined in a European climate law.

This target is ambitious, but at the same time offers great opportunities: the transformation process toward greater sustainability is expected to pay off economically.

And: At least 30% of EU spending over the next seven years is to go toward climate protection.

Commitment to human rights and conflict resolution

The EU has adopted a new policy instrument against the most serious human rights violations, such as torture, slavery or systematic sexual violence: With the human rights sanctions regime, the EU can now impose entry bans on individuals or freeze their assets.

Germany has been a particularly strong advocate of this in the EU circle.

Mediation is equally important for resolving conflicts. Mediation between conflicting parties has, for example, set the peace talks in Libya on the right track.

Germany also promoted this instrument at European level during its Council presidency: The EU foreign ministers adopted a new mediation concept.

This means that for the first time the Council of the EU can decide on its own missions - for a strong EU as a global peace actor.

Global partners

Multilateralism, democracy, open trade as a common compass: the EU strengthens its relations with important regions.

The EU and the ASEAN states from Southeast Asia are now strategic partners.

Germany is now even more involved in the Indo-Pacific region. The EU also held a major virtual conference with Latin American and Caribbean states.

Common goals: Climate protection, biodiversity, sustainable business, value-driven digitalization.

The EU made a new offer to the USA - for a “New Deal” with the Biden administration and with the aim, among other things, of strengthening the rules-based order and reviving the transatlantic partnership.

Portugal and Slovenia: Partners in the Trio Presidency

Continuity is particularly important when it comes to making progress in the EU.

Regardless of which country currently holds the EU Council presidency, solutions to major issues such as the rule of law, migration or climate protection must be constantly advanced politically.

Not all reforms are completed after six months. Germany is therefore working particularly closely over 18 months with Portugal and Slovenia, which will hold the EU Council presidency after Germany.

Many initiatives, such as the Rule of Law Dialogue, have now been continued by Portugal since January 1, 2021.

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