19 Sep 2019

A Commission of concrete steps rather than grand strategy

Daniel Gros / Steven Blockmans

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In the absence of unforeseen major shocks, the EU institutions should now be less engaged in crisis management and more able to pursue a long-term strategic agenda. The President-elect of the European Commission has also set out her overall programme, which is highly ambitious in many respects, hits all the right notes in terms of policy prioritisation but, significantly, does not recognise any trade-offs between different goals. Recognising trade-offs is essential for policymaking.

In a string of policy contributions, CEPS will continue to expand on the choices to be made and actions that are needed in different areas to achieve the lofty overarching goals of this new Commission.

In this Policy Brief we limit ourselves to identifying the overall strategic backdrop against which the EU institutions must operate during their new mandate and single out two key challenges. They are not new but have taken on such importance that they are likely to represent long-lasting trends that should be taken into account in any EU policy:

  1. The fundamental internal issue is to counter the threat to the rule of law and democratic values in some member states.
  2. The fundamental external issue concerns the geopolitical position of Europe in an increasingly disordered world, now seemingly dominated by a struggle for primacy between the US and China.

Implementing concrete, if limited, steps in these two crucial areas will do more good for the EU and the European integration process than taking refuge behind resounding rhetoric and grand strategies.