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Wednesday, September 18, 2019, 10:52
New EU leaders face tough task of reviving bloc's economy
By He Zhigao
Wednesday, September 18, 2019, 10:52 By He Zhigao

With the new European Union leadership set to take office in November, it is hoped that it will strengthen the European integration process and play a leading role in meeting the global challenges.

There is reason to believe that the new EU leadership, which was elected in July, has basically worked out its development course for the next five years, especially because European Commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen, European Parliament president-elect David Sassoli and European Central Bank presidential nominee Christine Lagarde are considered leaders of vision.

Coordination among the EU states and European integration are regarded as major challenges for the new EU leadership owing to the differences in the EU states' economic development levels, social and political structures, and governance systems as well as the rise of populism and euroskepticism.

As the uncertainties over US-EU ties persist, Brussels’ ability to maintain its rules are declining. Therefore, the new EU leadership has to find more feasible ways to implement its policy agenda in order to settle the differences among the member states and deal with the external challenges

The EU's economic growth has remained below expectations in recent years. Its economic growth and inflation rates are both expected to be 1.6 percent in 2020, particularly because Germany, the main driver of EU growth, faces downturn risks. The slowing growth rate of the EU could have a negative impact on the labor market, which would further widen the wealth gap in the European countries.

Moreover, owing to the Brexit dilemma and tough negotiations with the EU, Britain's economy faces an uncertain development future.

Given these facts, the new EU leaders have to find new ways to effectively deal with Brexit and advance the European integration process after Britain eventually leaves the EU.

Although the refugee crisis has eased to some extent, the trust between the EU and the member states has weakened as the latter are not willing to cede the required powers to EU institutions. And despite France and Germany being the mainstays of EU integration, the two countries still have differences over eurozone reform, and the European security mechanism.

Furthermore, since the new EU leaders are mainly from Western Europe, many of the appeals from the Eastern European countries could go unheard, creating further divisions within the bloc.

That the external environment has deteriorated and the transatlantic partnership is weakening due to the United States administration's" America first" policy has further complicated matters for the EU. Trade and economic relations, and security cooperation are the cornerstone of transatlantic ties. But the fact that the US seeks to change them has cast a shadow on future transatlantic relations.

For example, the US-Europe trade disputes have undermined the EU's efforts to maintain existing multilateral trade rules. If the US and the EU continue to bicker over such vital issues, the risks faced by Europe would increase, affecting the EU's economy and weakening the European integration process.

As the uncertainties over US-EU ties persist, Brussels' ability to maintain its rules are declining. Therefore, the new EU leadership has to find more feasible ways to implement its policy agenda in order to settle the differences among the member states and deal with the external challenges.

It is also incumbent on all EU member states to propel European integration and on the EU leadership to play a leading role in the process.

If the EU and the member states fail in this endeavor, the European integration process could collapse forcing the EU states to return to the Westphalian system. Therefore, the EU leaders have to advance European integration and make the social resource distribution mechanism fairer, so as to guarantee healthy economic growth and strengthen European security.

The author is a researcher of the Institute of European Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. 

The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.


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