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Op-ed: Biden can help unite Europe. A closer political union is the rational outcome for Europe, and a globalist U.S. President can assist even passively

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A closer political union is the rational outcome for Europe, and a globalist U.S. President can assist even passively, writes former Romanian PM Mihai-Răzvan Ungureanu, in a joint op-ed with two US experts. The op-ed released to CaleaEuropeană.ro is published as an epistemic response to a piece authored by Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Klaus Leggewie in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung calling for a German-French Federation as a “breath of fresh air” for Europe. 

By Robert Braun, Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu and Dan Perry

The incoming Biden Administration is expected to break with its predecessor’s obsessively transactional foreign policy, enabling progress on issues ranging from global warming to international trade to human rights. An important consequence, not obvious from headlines at the moment, involves Europe.

Outgoing President Trump’s evident disdain for global cooperation, supranational governance and the European Union in particular has had a devastating effect on those who yearn for greater European political union. It emboldened the UK’s Brexiteers, Euroskeptic leaders in the east and nationalists in almost every country, creating a paralytic continental bad karma. Trump’s departure holistically offers a moment for the European Union to regain its ambition, boldness and creativity.

The EU embodied a successful economic vision, but failed to transform that business case into a shared political values to an extent that could drive action. The treaties of Maastricht and Rome ultimately amounted the rhetorical flourishes and bureaucratic advances that could not sweep aside nationalist resistance. This is now best exemplified by the  Polish-Hungarian effort to derail the European budget and halt political oversight over individual countries’ authoritarian practices.

If Europe is to make its mark in the world, it needs a bold vision for political union: tighter control over exploitive and corrupt practices of local and multi-national companies, an inclusive social net with universal basic income, a welfare system socially and economically strengthening unions and representation bodies, and safeguards for the independence of the free press, of universities and of civic-cultural institutions.

A unified Europe can be a beacon of progressive values and modernity to the world. This should be the response to those in the world who derided Europe as an ossified vessel of yesterday while benefitting from its values. 

This will strengthen Europe, and make it a better partner to a rejuvenated, post-Trump United States – and to other democracies. It is a vision that the new U.S. Administration will be able to get behind.

Of course, this is not currently the direction of things, nor will it be without an electrifying course correction. In theory, there would be a variety of ways to shock the system. We’d like to throw our support in favor of constitutional unification of Germany and France, an idea floated recently by French MEP and 1960s student leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit and German political scientist Claus Leggewie.

France and Germany have fought bitter wars, and can view each other through a narrow lens of stereotype and historical grievance. They have different labor market politics and instincts about fiscal and monetary policy. They speak different languages, and each possesses a profound patriotic instinct that may seem at odds with a ceding of national sovereignty. France is also more interested than Germany in a European security mechanism independent of the United States.

And they both have fostered business interest, sometimes at the expense of others in the European Union, that were grounded in “nation first” ideals.

And yet, France and (West) Germany are the two largest founding members of the European Economic Community that grew into the EU of today. The differences between their political and economic structures are minor when one considers their common fealty to Western and European values of the post-Renaissance and Enlightenment.  They are also the two strongest forces for political union among major EU members; there is a scenario where they agree to blaze the path.

A constitutionally unified, politically strong core would create economies of scale – combined population of 151 million and GDP of 6.73 trillion that make up 40% and 44% respectively of the bloc with the UK factored out – that would be irresistible, and prove that language need not be a barrier in a world in which English (ironically in light of Brexit) and innovation are unifying forces. 

Different languages may pose a challenge. But Canada, even with succession initiatives in Quebec, proves community and understanding are more about shared values than similar languages. Respect for different cultures and strong compassionate leadership are at the core of New Zealand’s political success. There is real reason to assess that a successful Franco-German unification would soon draw in an essentially liberal and internationalist countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark, linguistic satellites like Austria and Luxembourg, and then large countries of the southern cone like Italy, Spain and Portugal. 

What of former east bloc countries where populist nationalists currently hold sway?  The euphoria of expansion was driven by both idealism and business interests, and while it yielded economic growth for the East it also left many in that region with resentments about a perceived neocolonialism, yielding a nationalist backlash.  Deft political diplomacy and considerable sensitivity will be required to avoid a repeat. A strong European political union may create the political momentum to rejuvenate a progressive urban electorate in Eastern Europe as well. Western European politicians should also find ways to acknowledge that peoples east of Vienna are valuable beyond picking asparagus, caring for the elderly and doing menial jobs for less. 

It seems far-fetched today. Nations tend to wait for crises to break established paradigms. We propose getting ahead of the curve. Germany and France can jump-start the process of European unification.

National identity – indeed tribalism – has been one of the building blocks of civilization. The question has always been granularity.  Right now, what is needed for stability, prosperity and global impact is a European identity.  It won’t be easy, because local identities are strong. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. Quite probably, very much lost.

* * *

Historian Mihai Razvan Ungureanu was prime minister and foreign minister of Romania. Social Theorist Robert Braun was a top aide to Hungary’s prime minister and is a senior researcher at Vienna’s Institute for Advanced Studies. Dan Perry was Europe-Africa Editor and Mideast Editor of the Associated Press news agency and is managing partner of the Thunder11 communications firm.

Cristian Bușoi

ITRE Chair Cristian Bușoi calls on EC Vice President Frans Timmermans to make sure the Guidelines of the Single Used Plastic Directive will not go beyond the Directive’s scope

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© European Union 2019 - Source : EP

The ITRE Committee Chair, Cristian Busoi, (EPP) has addressed two written parliamentary questions to Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice President of the European Commission regarding critical concerns about the Guidelines of the Single Used Plastic Directive.

“The latest version of the Guidelines shared with the Member States shows a tendency on Commission’s side to widen the Guidelines’ scope compared to the Directive text. Our goal is to help the Member States to implement the Directive at national level effectively. Given the concerns raised by member states, the industry, and civil society, all preoccupied with the European citizens’ interest, I expect the European Commission to offer more clarity on this process and make sure the Guidelines do not go beyond the scope of the Directive. ” stated ITRE Chair, Cristian Busoi, according to a press release.

The two questions are:

1) According to the latest version of the Guidelines, the Commission intends to go beyond the Directive’s scope and objectives. Can you confirm that this will not be the case? When the Commission plans to issue the Guidelines having in mind that they are essential for implementing the SUPD.

2) What are the economic costs of replacing the single-use paper packaging in quick-service restaurants with other materials, which use 0% plastic?

Subsequently, together with 32 colleagues from the European Parliament belonging to four European Political Groups, EPP MEP Cristian Busoi signed a joint letter addressed to Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice President European Commission in charge of the European Green Deal, Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, and Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market, expressing their concerns about the long-waited Guidelines meant to support the Member States for effective implementation of the Single Used Plastic Directive (EU) 2019/904

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Cristian Bușoi

ITRE Chair Cristian Bușoi and other MEPs call on the European Commission to make sure that the Plastic Single-Use Guidelines are consistent and fully aligned with the Directive’s objectives

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© European Parliament

Together with 32 colleagues from the European Parliament belonging to four European Political Groups, EPP MEP Cristian Busoi signed a joint letter addressed to Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice President European Commission in charge of the European Green Deal, Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, and Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market, expressing their concerns about the long-waited Guidelines meant to support the Member States for effective implementation of the Single Used Plastic Directive (EU) 2019/904, according to a press release.

The latest version of the Guidelines, shared with the Member States, shows a tendency on Commission’s side to widen the Guidelines’ scope compared to the Directive text. The signatory MEPs strongly believe that such an approach will create more problems for the Member States and the industries concerned than serving the public better. 

Based on the conclusions of the recent study conducted by Ramboll, comparing single-use, paper-based food and drink packaging used in European quick-service restaurants, to reusable tableware made by plastic, crockery, glass and metal, 33 mebers of the European Parliament call on the European Commission to pay particular attention to an essential conclusion of this study confirming that single-use paper packaging in quick service restaurants is better for the environment than reusable tableware.

The arguments presented in the letter are overwhelming: multiple-use tableware has 177% more negative impact on climate change, consumes 267% more water and 237% more fossil fuels, and generates 137% more fine particulate matter. Additionally, but equally important: paper single-use dishes are sourced and manufactured in Europe, opposite to plastic, ceramic or glass dishes that are sourced and/or manufacture out of Europe, mainly in Asia and China; paper/board containers are coming from EU sustainable forests; paper fibres can be re-used up to seven times for paper or board production; the disposable paper has a recycling rate as high as 85.6% in Europe. 

The members of the European Parliament consider strange that the European Commission assimilates these materials with plastic waste, despite these facts and the reality that paper disposable is in 55th place of the list of products found on beaches and account for only 0.27% of the marine litter examined. 

“According to the latest version of the Draft Guidelines, shared with the Member States, a polymeric layer measuring just a couple of microns is considered a main structural component of the final product. This goes way beyond rationality and scientific arguments. It also ignores the human health factor. Single-use paper dishes and packaging offer the best protection for food, prevent cross-contamination, and pay an important role in preventing the spread of COVID-19, which the European Environment Agency also recognizes. Therefore, together with my colleagues, we call on the Commission to reconsider the Guidance interpretation, including the single-use paper products within the Directive scope”, declared Cristian Busoi, Chair of ITRE Committee. 

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New Strategy Center organizes The conference “Unmanned Systems Forum.Smart Approach, Fast Development”

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© PatriotFest/ Facebook

The conference “Unmanned Systems Forum.Smart Approach, Fast Development” will take place between February 16-17, organized by New Strategy Center, with the institutional partnership of the Ministry of National Defense.

The debates will focus on topics such as assessing security challenges in the Black Sea region and the potential for using unmanned systems in this area, in rescue operations or for border protection.

The legislation necessary for the use of these systems, the involvement of civil and military research in the programs initiated by the Ministry of National Defense, industrial cooperation are other topics that will be addressed.

The countries in the region are increasing their investments in unmanned systems, and Romania is considering the acquisition and production in the future of such capabilities, very useful for surveillance and reconnaissance missions, including in the exclusive economic zone of the Black Sea.

Civilian and military officials and experts from Romania, NATO and other North Atlantic Alliance and EU countries, as well as representatives of companies with extensive experience in the field, will be present at this conference.

The event is organized under the Chatham House rules and in a mixed format, both with online participation and with a very limited participation in person, in full compliance with the protection measures against Covid-19 applicable in Romania.

More about the event is available on the official website: https://usf.newstrategycenter.ro/.

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