Event Report: The Post-Pandemic EU Political System: State-of-Play Two Years into the New Institutional Cycle

Matteo Bottero (DCU Brexit Institute)

On 1 July 2021, the Brexit Institute organised a Policy roundtable entitled “The Post-Pandemic EU Political System: State-of-Play Two Years into the New Institutional Cycle” at, and in collaboration with, the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) in the framework of the Jean Monnet Network BRIDGE. The event focused on the institutional developments two years after the start of the 2019-2024 Parliamentary term, looking at how the EU has reacted to overcome the consequences of the disruptive Covid-19 pandemic.

The event was opened with a welcome remark by Anthony Teasdale (Director General, European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS)), followed by a keynote speech by Danuta Hübner (MEP, former Chair, EP Committee on Constitutional Affairs; former European Commissioner and Minister for Europe, Poland). Former EU Commissioner Hübner offered a reflection on the existing lack of respect of check and balances in the functioning of the EU institutional framework, which, in her view, raises the question of intergovernmental channels as effective policy makers. We need clarity, she said, on which direction we would like the EU to take, as the only way is to move forward by merging the presidencies of the Commission and European Council through an amendment of the Treaties. Hübner concluded by pointing out that, in light of the need to rebalance the EU governance system, the Conference on the Future of Europe can offer a moment for reflection on the EU constitutional balance and architecture.

The following roundtable discussion was moderated by Silvia Kotanidis (Policy Expert, Citizens’ Policies Unit, MRS, EPRS) and started with a presentation by Federico Fabbrini (Full Professor of European Law School of Law & Government, Dublin City University, Principal Investigator of the EU-funded Jean Monnet Network BRIDGE). In answering the question: “How do you see the state of EU integration after the pandemic?”, Professor Fabbrini observed that, in the last two years, EU integration has experienced both advancements and setbacks. While, on the one hand, NextGenerationEU constitutes a paradigm change in the context of the European Monetary Union, on the other hand, the Covid-19 pandemic has created pressure points on the EU, evidencing the importance of the European Council.

The second speaker, Helle Krunke (Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Copenhagen), delivered a presentation entitled “Can the ‘rule of law’ crisis strengthen the EU?”. On the premise that EU constitutional identity is still an uncertain concept, she noticed how the ‘rule of law’ crisis has emphasized the EU role on the scene in the field of constitutional law by enhancing general awareness of the EU fundamental rights and, as a result, contributing to the crystallization of the EU constitutional identity. These effects derived from a series of moments testifying the development of the EU, namely the establishment of the Coal and Steel Community, the Declaration of European Identity based on the 1973 Copenhagen Conference, the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, the introduction of Article 7 TEU in the context of the 2000 Nice Treaty, and the relevant case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union (especially its judgement in Kadi). According to Professor Krunke, the ‘rule of law’ crisis has triggered the development of new tools and sanction mechanisms to address the emerging issues, while forcing the EU to reflect on and refine the interpretation and scope of its values and principles.

Afterwards, Matteo Scotto (Research Fellow, German-Italian Centre for European Excellence, Villa Vigoni) expressed his idea that the Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to the creation of a more stable, constructive and mature EU intergovernmental structure. In particular, the novelties introduced by the creation of a number of EU mechanisms in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, in primis the agreement on the recovery plan and the creation, for the first time, of EU common debt, have a special importance. Mr. Scotto concluded by expressing his view that the recovery plan has the potential of achieving a new balance in terms of EU integration.

The last speaker of the roundtable, Richard Corbett (Secretariat of the Conference on the Future of Europe; MEP 1996-2009 and 2014-20; Co-author of ‘The European Parliament’), delivered a presentation centred on the concept of ‘system change’ in the EU. In his opinion, crises and processes have traditionally been the main drivers of EU institutional changes. Similarly to the Lisbon Treaty, which was the result of a process set up by a Convention, the Conference on the Future of Europe has the potential to generate EU institutional change. And the same result may derive from the EU responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. In particular, the expected EU changes will encompass issues of social justice, budgetary capacity, and decision making system. The event concluded after a brief Q&A moment and discussion, in which Professor Fabbrini, Secretariat Corbett, and MEP Hübner agreed on the unification of the role of President of the European Council and President of the Commission as potentially the most important EU institutional change.

To watch the event, please visit European Parliamentary Research Service Youtube channel

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