Germany's 2020 EU Council Presidency: A green and digital recovery

Two of the main priorities of the German EU Presidency are to fight climate change and embrace digitalisation. A recent webinar looked at how Germany will attain its goals while tackling the economic and social repercussions of the Coronavirus crisis.
Angela Merkel and David Sassoli | Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual

By Lorna Hutchinson

Lorna Hutchinson is Deputy Editor of The Parliament Magazine

09 Oct 2020

The European post-Coronavirus economy will be stronger and more resilient if the recovery is sustainable, renewable and geared towards the digital transition. This was the message from a Dods/Polit-X webinar in early September, which examined the German EU Presidency priorities in the context of COVID-19.

In addition to an interview with German EPP deputy Peter Liese, the webinar featured insights from two of Dods’ EU consultants, Dirk Goll and José Guimarães, who discussed the evolution of EU digital, energy and climate policy in the coming months against the backdrop of the Presidency. Introducing the webinar, David Schoibl, Account Manager at Dods, said that in June this year Polit-X and Dods entered a strategic partnership.

This offered new possibilities to combine insider knowledge on European affairs with data-driven political analysis. “Dods and Polit-X complement each other, not only in geographic focus, but also in their approach to monitoring,” Schoibl said. Polit-X Account Manager Julian Hunneman agreed, saying, “I’m happy that we are able to co-host our first joint webinar with The Parliament Magazine and our new strategic partner, Dods. Dods’ human touch intelligence complements us greatly.”

Dirk Goll, Senior Consultant at Dods EU, working on energy and climate topics, explained that both the German Presidency and the European Commission were determined to keep the European Green Deal a firm priority in the recovery of the European economy. The Green Deal, which was proposed in December 2019, before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, foresees a transition of the European economy to one that is fully sustainable by 2050.

“In the midst of the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, the Commission has forged ahead with the Green Deal, arguing that this is the ideal way to make the economy stronger and create new jobs” Dirk Goll, Senior Consultant at Dods EU

In the midst of the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, the Commission has forged ahead with the Green Deal, arguing that this is the ideal way to make the economy stronger and create new jobs.

Goll said that the German Presidency, for its part, supported the Commission’s climate targets for 2030 and 2050. The 2030 target has just been proposed, and is set at 55 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on 1990 levels, and would replace the current 40 percent target. The target for 2050 will be zero emissions.

The German Presidency is committed to supporting regions affected by the phasing-out of coal-based power. In order to support those most affected by the green transition, such as coal mining and fossil fuel regions, the Commission has set up the Just Transition Mechanism, which aims to mobilise more than €150bn of investments between 2021-2027. Part of this mechanism is the Just Transition Fund, totalling €40bn.

Goll concluded by saying that the German Presidency’s goals align with the European Commission in aspiring to a sustainable, renewable, low-carbon recovery of the economy, as Europe emerges from the Coronavirus crisis. The Presidency will support the Commission’s Green Deal and the proposals coming up in the following months, with the aim of reaching agreement in the Council.

On digitalisation, José Guimarães, Political Consultant at Dods EU for the Digital Single Market, explained that since the outbreak of the COVID- 19 pandemic, and as a result of the subsequent lockdown measures, there has been an acceleration in the transition to a digital economy.

With social distancing measures in place, people are increasingly working, meeting and shopping online, which in turn leads to a much higher demand for digital services and innovative digital solutions. He warned, however, that this digital transformation entails both opportunities and risks.

He said that the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of ensuring the resilience of key infrastructures and the online safety of citizens, while ensuring that European companies can adapt and thrive in an increasingly digital socio-economic environment. Issues such as cybersecurity, the respect of the EU’s ‘acquis’ and fundamental rights such as data privacy go hand-in-hand with ensuring competitiveness and safeguarding the European economy.

Guimarães explained that the EU’s Digital Strategy, published in February 2020, highlighted the importance of trustworthy Artificial Intelligence (AI), investing in digital skills, increasing the responsibilities of online platforms, fighting disinformation and increasing access to high-quality data.

“The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of ensuring the resilience of key infrastructures and the online safety of citizens, while ensuring that European companies can adapt and thrive in an increasingly digital socio-economic environment” José Guimarães, Political Consultant at Dods EU

Another key priority, he said, is achieving sovereignty in the digital domain, with the EU developing and deploying its own key capacities and ensuring the integrity and resilience of its data infrastructure, networks and communications.

There were a number of key initiatives upcoming. These include the Digital Services Act package; legislation on ethical and legal requirements for AI; the updated Digital Education Action Plan; a proposal on European e-identity; the new Cybersecurity strategy and a framework for the governance of common European data spaces.

There is also a Member States’ declaration on building the next generation cloud storage supply for Europe, all representing the concrete proposals that embody the Digital Strategy

 Guimarães concluded by suggesting that since the publication of many of these initiatives seeking to increase the EU’s strategic autonomy will occur during its six-month EU Presidency tenure, Germany may end up playing a key role in shaping discussions among Member States on these issues at Council level.

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