“The Brussels Diary with Yana Toom”: Summary So Far


You are reading this season’s last edition of the Brussels Diary. We will meet again in September, and maybe I will have some good news then. Our summer, as you know, is how it is. Brussels, for the most part, does not go on holiday, and by autumn the EU could be really transformed.

In fact, this was clear even without the coronavirus. After last year’s elections to the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen announced that she would prepare radical changes. No way forward without any changes. On the global arena, something between a cold war and a circus is happening, with an evil and unpredictable clown trying to control it. Economic growth leaves much to be desired. There is the threat of global warming, gloomily. Then there is Brexit. And an understanding that a common market requires common social policy. More so, a new seven-year budget is just around the corner.

Ursula von der Leyen promised to start with social issues first: during her first one hundred days in the European Commission, she was to propose a project on pan-European minimum wages. This was a step that could have started a revolution, for Brussels cannot really interfere in the social policy of the member states. Yes, von der Leyen moved on slowly and then, unexpectedly, came the pandemic and the topic faded into the background. The perspective of being back to square one was looming for the EU. Quick and decisive action and solidarity was required.

Not everyone passed this test on solidarity. This is bad; however, this crisis highlighted our problems. In fact, the crisis made it possible to resolve them. One thing is a planned revolution, where it seems necessary, with many opposing the idea. A completely different story is when a dam brakes and it must be repaired quickly. Here, the main characters – the President of France and the Chancellor of Germany – stepped onto the stage. They agreed on an unprecedentedly large budget. That the EU should take out a loan of 750 billion euros. That two thirds of this loan should be invested in the economy as subsidies, i.e., just distribute the funds, and third – give a long-term loan. That it is necessary in order to have common taxes. I believe that they agreed on many other matters. What is important here is to begin moving.

All of this was impossible before the pandemic. The EU should become different; however, sadly, this is only a probable future. We are still a confederation and the European Council takes all global resolutions by consensus. There are countries that not so long ago, in February, were against increasing the budget, let alone agreeing to subsidies.

However, the coronavirus raised the stakes. In principle, the future of Europe is on the line here. Either we are a group of countries unable to reach an agreement, who, one by one, will be taken over by much larger powers, or we will bring the European project to its logical completion. The residents of Estonia only stand to benefit from this. A specific example: if the European Commission introduced a common minimum wage, it would raise the minimum wage in Estonia by at least one hundred euros.

Let’s hope that common sense wins and Europe is taken to a new level. We face a fight with a crisis and a possible second wave of coronavirus. As the saying goes ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail, so we will get planning with our colleagues.

Be well. See you in September.