All Round View (Peshawar): 2020 has been a turbulent year all over the world, Europe included. The Covid-19 pandemic dominated everything, costing lives, decimating growth, accumulating debts, stifling investment and increasing unemployment.
Yet, there could be a lot to celebrate in Europe in 2021 after this particularly hard year.
First, there is a Covid-19 vaccine on its way to Europe. Second, the European Union countries are going to benefit from a Covid-19 recovery budget that is bigger than the Marshall Plan put in place by the US after World War II. Third, the UK’s leaving the EU in the so-called Brexit is almost sorted.
Moreover, Europe’s leaders will have a friend in the White House in the shape of new US President Joe Biden after four tumultuous years under former president Donald Trump. Europe’s mantra over the last few years has been to achieve “strategic autonomy”. But a close ally in the White House is always welcome news, especially in a changing world.
Biden is the right man at the right moment for Europe. He was elected two months before the end of the Brexit transition period, and though it is difficult to evaluate Biden’s impact on the negotiations in their final stages, since he was elected he has repeatedly warned against Britain’s violation of the Good Friday Agreement that ended decades of bloody confrontation in Northern Ireland.
When Britain announced in December an agreement with the EU ending the possibility of customs checkpoints on the island of Ireland and specifying that these arrangements would be in the Irish Sea, many said this was a result of Biden’s influence.
The nuclear deal with Iran has also been affected by Biden’s election. A second term for Trump would have killed it, but with Biden in the White House on 20 January, all the talk in Europe is about when, not if, the Biden administration will re-join a nuclear deal that is considered a cornerstone of the EU’s nuclear non-proliferation policies.
As for the Paris Climate Accord, Biden has said his administration will re-join the accord in the first 100 days of his presidency.
Europe is thus looking forward to 2021 with an optimism it has lacked over the last four years. While there are many issues that need addressing such as trade relations with the US, Russia’s security challenge, China’s trade practices and Turkey’s threat to European interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya and Syria, the return of cooperation between the US and Europe on all these issues means a return to the effectiveness of international organisations such as the United Nations, NATO and the World Trade Organisation.