Bulgarian political analyst Ivan Krastev and author of the 2017 book After Europe, which charts the intellectual’s view on the huge problems facing the European Union, has praised new European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. She took over the hot seat from Jean-Claude Juncker, who had served in the position for five years and was a key player in major decisions around Brexit and relations with US President Donald Trump. Mr Krastev was pleasantly surprised by the impact made by Ms von der Leyen and said she was proving to be “much more strategic than people are ready to acknowledge”, predominately due to her major push on climate change.
In an interview with Politico, the EU political expert said that move is “allowing the EU to reinvent its soft power”.
He added since in climate change the “multilateral response is the only possible response,” it’s a positive way of enforcing multilateralism.
Mr Krastev also said closing markets to goods that don’t respect green criteria could be a “way to justify a certain type of protectionism.”
The political analyst concluded Ms von der Leyen has so far been “very good at using her green agenda to reinvent the European Union”.
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But launching into a scathing attack on the bloc, he raged “a lot of time has been wasted”, which makes him “much more worried about the EU’s future”.
Mr Krastev pointed to the result of the EU referendum in June 2016 – an ongoing situation that has escalated into a political crisis – and the election of Donald Trump as US President in January 2017.
He said “there was a major crisis and because of the way both situations have escalated, the EU has consolidated in reaction to the failures of others”.
Mr Krastev warned “none of the problems we faced in 2016 and 2017 have been solved and from this point of view 2020 can turn out to be one of the most critical years” in EU history.
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The Bulgarian political expert also warned major political developments in two of the bloc’s biggest players are only complicating matters even further.
He highlighted the collapse of the party system in France which has strengthened the role of Emmanuel Macron in decision making but in Germany, the ongoing political transformation had made decision making increasingly difficult.
The French President’s role within the EU appears to have grown over recent months as he continues to speak out on how he would like the bloc to be shaped.
During the same interview with Politico, Mr Krastev said of Mr Macron: “He has two very positive sides and one major vulnerability.
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“He sends clearly the message that the worst that can happen to Europe is to defend the status quo that doesn’t exist anymore.”
The EU political expert even sympathised for the way the French leader is framing Europe’s sovereignty issues in that he is “trying to see how Europe can be a global player.”
But Mr Krastev then attacked Mr Macron, claiming while he “has the right intuition, most of his visionary talk is not necessary followed with a much more concrete vision.”
The EU political expert warned this creates yet another problem: as the French President “speaks poetry,” the Germans “don’t want to commit on anything that doesn’t have footnotes.”
Mr Krastev also added Mr Macron “tries to speak to Europeans the way he speaks to the French — trying to pretend that all of Europe shares the French idea of a European sovereignty.”
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been desperately trying to ward off several major crises in the country this year as she comes under huge pressure to step down from her position before her intended date of 2021.
She has seen the dominant position once held by her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party crumble following crushing defeats in several local elections and the resulting slump in national popularity in a number of leading polls.
Earlier this month, Germany appeared to be teetering on the edge of political turmoil after Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer – Mrs Merkel’s heir apparent – questioned the commitment of coalition partners the Social Democrats (SPD), saying: “You can’t be a little bit pregnant.”
Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer sharply criticised attempts by the SPD to push their ruling coalition to the left, accusing her partners of thinking of themselves more than Germany.
The EU figurehead has also been desperate trying to keep the German economy – the biggest in the bloc at more than £3trillion – from tumbling into recession, following continued struggles by manufacturers with trade disputes, problems in the car industry and uncertainties surrounding Brexit.