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Defence and competitiveness central in next EU Strategic Agenda to be adopted by leaders

EU leaders will adopt a strategic agenda that will be implemented by the next European Commission
EU leaders will adopt a strategic agenda that will be implemented by the next European Commission Copyright Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Isabel Marques da Silva
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leaders from the 27 member states will gather in Brussels next week to finalise and adopt the Strategic Agenda.

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Russia's war in Ukraine will have an important impact on the European Union's Strategic Agenda for the next five-year mandate as it continues to have deep repercussions on the bloc's energy, economy and security.

The Strategic Agenda is the EU's political roadmap set out by leaders in the European Council and which will guide the work of the next European Commission for the 2024-2029 period.

The Green Deal, which encompasses landmark pieces of legislation aimed at turning the continent carbon-neutral by 2050 and which gained momentum after the EU sought to wean itself off Russian fossil fuels in the wake of its unprovoked attack on Ukraine, should remain central. This despite the watering down of some parts in recent months following widespread farmers' protests and ahead of the European elections.

But the focus will be different.

"Green policies will undergo a new turn in Europe," Simone Tagliapietra, a senior fellow at the Bruegel thinktank, told Euronews. "These policies will be put at the service of competitiveness on the one hand and security on the other."

"This makes sense because over the last five years we have done a lot of legislation for the European Green Deal, and now we need to move on to implementation,” he added.

China and the US

But the geopolitical circumstances influencing the Strategic Agenda - which the analyst described as "new international turbulent waters" - go beyond Russia's war against Ukraine.

China's unfair trade policy and the need to strike partnerships to obtain raw materials and new markets, particularly in Africa and South America, will also steer the EU's work.

But the need for a "strong and secure" as well as a "prosperous and competitive Europe" through greater industrial capacity - both civilian and military - also aims to reduce dependencies on the bloc's main ally, the US.

"There is another element that is very important: the US elections and what will happen if (former president Donald) Trump returns to the White House. What will happen to Europe in terms of its own defence capabilities in the event that, say, the US withholds some support in the context of NATO?" Tagliapietra pondered.

New financial resources

Another open question facing EU leaders is how to get the money to fund their ambitions.

According to the Bruegel fellow, there are three possible sources of revenue that should be reformed.

"Firstly, we need to make better use of the European budget. A discussion should be held about how we are going to spend this money and what its size will be", he said.

"The second is the European Investment Bank, which will certainly play a greater role in the coming years with regard to all of these elements. And finally, new debt. Will there be the possibility of creating a new line of credit after the end of the programme Next Generation EU, in 2026?" he said.

The draft agenda also includes a chapter called "Free and Democratic Europe", to strengthen the rule of law, as well as a part on enlargement and how to prepare for a new wave of members, including Ukraine, Moldova and Western Balkan countries.

"Enlargement implies that the countries that want to join have the ability to apply EU law, which requires a lot of reforms in these countries and will also require new governance at EU level," Tagliapietra said.

"Therefore, we will also need to rethink the way we make decisions: the unanimity we currently have on foreign policy may have to be revised in the future, because it is not conceivable to have veto power for any country if the club expands even further," he added.

EU leaders are expected to finalise and adopt the agenda at their next summit in Brussels on June 27-28.

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