By Susi Dennison15.07.2020Economics, Europe, Media

Susi Dennison, of the European Council on Foreign Relations, believes this week’s European Council meeting presents an opportunity for the EU to come together in its response to COVID-19 – and to push back at external forces, such as China and Russia, which could exploit divisions within the bloc.

26.05.2020, Borkwalde, Brandenburg, Auf dem EU Symbol liegen Geldscheine und steht ein Stempel mit dem Schriftzug Wiederaufbauplan. || Nur für redaktionelle Verwendung, picture alliance / ZB | Z6944 Sascha Steinach

ECFR’s recent pan-European polling revealed overwhelming support for coordinated EU action on major issues, such as COVID-19 and climate change.
It also unearthed growing unease about China – with as many as 62% of citizens in member states viewing Xi Jinping’s superpower in a more negative light.
Dennison urges European leaders to be politically minded about the EU’s recovery package and budget, in pursuit of an economically stronger, greener and more cooperative Europe.

As European leaders travel to Brussels for discussions surrounding the EU’s COVID-19 recovery package and long-term budget, leading policy expert Susi Dennison, of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), is urging these national figures to look beyond the technicalities of any arrangement and make this week’s meeting a “turning point” for the EU and how it responds to political crises.

Susi Dennison, who is a senior fellow and head of ECFR’s ‘European Power’ programme, believes that, while it may be difficult to find a deal that reconciles the ambitions of all 27 EU member states, this week’s special council meeting could be unique in providing a platform for leaders to build a Europe that better serves its citizens, post-COVID, and that has a strong voice on the international stage.

Dennison holds the view that Europeans have been unsettled by the EU’s lack of action during the coronavirus crisis and are conscious of external efforts to sow division within the bloc.

To counter this, Dennison believes EU leaders need to “step up” at this week’s council meeting and map out how they can protect Europeans from future crises and the aggressive ambitions of superpowers, such as China and Russia. Pointing to ECFR polling of nine EU member states – which, collectively, represent two-thirds of the bloc’s population and GDP – Dennison calls on leaders to listen to, and make an effort to implement, the wants of Europeans in these discussions.

Key findings of ECFR’s COVID-19 polling, include, 63% of Europeans want to see more European co-operation as a result of COVID-19 – with a majority also in favor of more coordinated EU responses to global threats and challenges.
There is a growing appetite for bringing the production of key goods back to Europe. In Germany and France, for example, over 50% of citizens would support efforts to concentrate the manufacture of medical supplies to the EU. Around 40% in both countries would also back such a move for non-medical goods.
Support for action on climate change has grown during the coronavirus crisis – with as many as as 61% in the UK, and 60% in Spain, reporting a rising support for decisive action on protecting the environment.
Europeans are aware of China’s attempts to deflect responsibility and sow division within the EU – with as many as 62% of citizens, in member states such as Denmark and France, reporting a deteriorated view of Xi Jinping’s China. Even in Portugal and Spain, which benefited from the delivery of Chinese state-aid during the coronavirus crisis, a plurality note a negative shift in view.

Dennison, who will be holding a press briefing with interested media on Thursday (please see notes for editors), concludes that, if European leaders can overcome some of their historic differences on budgetary matters, there is a real opportunity for the EU to emerge as a more confident and disciplined global actor. One which, in her words, can “take ownership” of key issues, such as climate change, and provide an international lead on China and the superpower’s abuses of the global rules-based system.

On the significance of this week’s special European Council, in Brussels, ECFR’s Susi Dennison said:

“Pushing the COVID recovery deal over the line this week is going to be difficult – and will almost certainly stir some of the historic differences between the EU’s net beneficiary and net contributor member states.

However, now more than ever, there is an appetite and need for greater cooperation within the EU. As ECFR’s polling and solidarity tracker reveal, aggressive superpowers, such as China and Russia, are already preying on divisions across Europe and painting themselves as alternative pillars of support – particularly in Italy, Portugal and Spain.

This puts the EU in a precarious position on its response to COVID-19, and will require its leaders to look beyond the technicalities of any deal. Any misstep, or attempt to leverage political capital from the discussions, will harm the bloc and could give rise to a fresh, and potentially fatal, wave of Euroscepticism.

Europeans want cooperation in these unprecedented times – and leaders, this week, should be mindful of this and come together to build a Europe that not only protects its citizens, financially, but provides them with a strong voice on the global stage.”

About ECFR

The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) is a pan-European think-tank. Launched in October 2007, its objective is to conduct research and promote informed debate across Europe on the development of coherent and effective European values-based foreign policy. ECFR is an independent charity and funded from a variety of sources. For more details, please visit:



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