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EU Leaders Must Hold the Green Line

The European Union has taken monumental steps this year to deepen the bloc's integration and solidarity in the face of not just the pandemic but also the climate crisis. By threatening to derail this progress, Hungary and Poland have placed a risky bet, and other EU leaders must call their bluff.

PARIS – Historians will no doubt look back on 2020 as a turning point for the European Union. But which of two competing headlines will capture this critical moment?

On one hand, the year could be defined by struggle and disintegration: the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU; conflicts over migration policies; Hungary and Poland blocking the EU budget and COVID-19 recovery fund over the new rule-of-law conditionality on disbursement of Union funds. On the other hand, 2020 could go down as the year when Europe decided definitively to pursue a green, decarbonized economy, a renewed sense of solidarity, and deeper integration in order to shape its economic recovery.

With a critical European Council summit this week, it will be up to the EU’s heads of state and government to decide whether they will remain committed to the Union’s core values. This past spring, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed to establish the recovery fund, thus laying a foundation for Europe’s future. This proposal marked a significant departure from traditional EU policy – especially from the German perspective – because it envisioned common borrowing and a transfer union beyond the existing EU budget.