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First half of 2021: COVID-19, future of Europe, climate law




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During the first half of 2021, Parliament tackled the COVID-19 pandemic, launched the Conference on the Future of Europe and approved the EU Climate Law, EU affairs.


In June, Parliament approved the EU Digital Covid Certificate, urging EU countries to implement it by 1 July. While the certificate is widely seen as a tool to restore freedom of movement, MEPs underlined the importance of its compliance with people’s rights.


Parliament also backed a temporary waiver of patents for COVID-19 vaccines and in February said that the EU must continue a concerted effort to fight the pandemic and take urgent measures to ramp up vaccines production.

In March, MEPs adopted the new EU4Health programme, which will enable the EU to better prepare for major health threats, while making affordable medicines and medical devices more readily available.

Check out how the EU is tackling the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in 2021.


The Conference on the Future of Europe was officially launched on 9 May in a ceremony at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The Conference allows Europeans to share their ideas of Europe and formulate proposals for future EU policies.

The inaugural event followed the launch of the Conference's  multilingual digital platform in April to collect contributions and facilitate debate. In June, Parliament hosted the first plenary session with representatives of the EU institutions, national parliaments, civil society and social partners as well as regular people.

Climate and environment

Parliament approved in June the new EU Climate Law, which increases the EU’s 2030 emissions reductions target from 40% to at least 55%. Parliament also adopted its position on the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 to tackle the current biodiversity crisis. MEPs want at least 30% of EU land and sea to be protected by 2030.

In May, Parliament approved the €5.4 billion Life programme for 2021-27. It’s the only EU programme solely dedicated to the environment and climate, but one of many programmes approved during the first six months of 2021.

The Circular Economy Action Plan, adopted in February, aims to achieve a sustainable, toxic-free and fully circular economy by 2050 at the latest.


In June, Parliament called on the EU to punish those involved in forcing a plane to land in Minsk in May and holding Belarussian journalist Roman Protasevich in detention. MEPs also urged EU countries to continue sanctions against human rights violations in the country.

Rule of law

In a resolution adopted in June, MEPs instructed Parliament President David Sassoli to call on the European Commission to fulfil its obligations and take action under the new Rule of Law Conditionality Regulation, designed to protect EU funds from possible misuse by EU governments.

In response to backsliding on LGBTIQ rights in some EU countries, MEPs in March declared the EU an LGBTIQ Freedom Zone. They also raised concerns about attacks on media freedom and called on the Commission to do more to protect journalists in Europe.

EU-UK relations

Parliament approved the EU-UK trade and co-operation agreement in April, setting the rules for the future partnership. MEPs argued the deal was the best option to minimize the worst effects of the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

EU-US relations

MEPs welcomed in January the inauguration of the new US president Joe Biden as an opportunity for Europe to strengthen EU-US ties and tackle common challenges and threats to the democratic system. In June, the first EU-US summit since 2014 was held in Brussels.

European elections

Germany’s far-left party eager to join coalition while others steer clear



Co-leader of the Left Party Susanne Hennig-Wellsow speaks at a press conference during a convent of Germany's left party 'Die Linke' in Berlin. Copyright  Credit: AP

While Angela Merkel (pictured) avoided political campaigning for much of the election, as it became increasingly clear that her party was trailing in the polls, she went after her centre-left deputy with an old attack line, writes Lauren Chadwick

“With me as Chancellor, there would never be a coalition in which the Left is involved. And whether this is shared by Olaf Scholz or not remains to be seen,” Merkel said in late August.

Scholz also had criticism for Die Linke -- the Left Party -- but stopped short of completely rejecting the possibility of a coalition with them. He told German daily Tagesspiegel the far-left party would be required to commit to NATO and the transatlantic partnershipIt’s now been a constant attack line from the Christian Democrats in what some say is a last-ditch effort to grab moderates on the fence between Merkel’s centre-right party and the centre-left Social Democrats, who are leading in the polls.

Voters see “behind” the attack line from the CDU, said Dr Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck at the University of Mannheim, as it is “so old hat".about:blank


Schmitt-Beck added it was a “sign of desperation” the CDU was resorting to this attack line once again as candidate Armin Laschet has failed to galvanise voters, polls show.

A possible governing coalition?

Although experts say a coalition involving the far-left Die Linke is not what Social Democratic leader Scholz wants, he is not likely to completely rule out the possibility.

That’s because if current polling is correct, the future government coalition in Germany will need to be formed with three political parties for the first time, meaning the Left Party has never been closer to receiving a possible spot in a coalition.


The party is currently polling at around 6% nationally, making them the sixth most popular political party in the country.

Die Linke party co-leader Susanne Hennig-Wellsow even told German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung in early September: “The window was as wide open as ever before. When if not now?” in regards to a possible coalition with the Social Democrats and Greens.

Many saw her words as demonstrating the party’s high hopes and preparations for entering government.

But while the current Left Party has become more mainstream since it was officially formed in 2007 - its direct historical ties to communism and hard-left foreign policy might forever keep it out of government.

Communist history and hard-line views

Die Linke was formed as a merger of two parties: the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) and a newer Labour and Social Justice party. The PDS is the direct successor of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, the communist party that ruled in East Germany from 1946 to 1989.

“There are many people in Germany who see this legacy as a big problem," said Dr Thorsten Holzhauser, research associate at the Theodor Heuss House Foundation in Stuttgart.

"On the other hand, the party has been de-radicalising for a couple of years or even decades now. It's shifted towards a more left-wing social democratic profile in the last years, which is also something that many people have recognised."

But Die Linke is quite polarised internally with more moderate politics in East Germany and more radical voices in some West German regions.

While a younger generation of voters is more connected to the social justice issues and hot political topics such as the climate, feminism, anti-racism and migration, other parts of the party appeal more to populism and compete with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), experts say.

The party currently has one state minister-president: Bodo Ramelow in Thuringia.

But some of the party’s hard-line foreign policy views make it an unlikely choice for a governing partner.

“The party always said that it wants to get rid of NATO, and it is a party that stems from East Germany, from a very pro-Russian political culture, a very anti-Western political culture, so this is in the DNA of the party,” says Holzhauser.

Die Linke wants Germany out of NATO and no foreign deployment of Germany’s military, the Bundeswehr.

“We will not participate in a government that wages wars and permits combat missions by the Bundeswehr abroad, that promotes armament and militarisation. In the long term, we are sticking to the vision of a world without armies,” the platform reads.

Die Linke also rejects treating Russia and China as “enemies” and wants closer relations with both countries.

‘Unlikely’ to join a coalition

“There is a chance. It's not a very big chance, but there is a chance (Die Linke could join a coalition)," says Holzhauser, yet traditionally the “scare tactics by Conservatives have been very strong at mobilising against a left-wing alliance”.

Die Linke, which used to poll ahead of the Greens and Alternative for Germany (AfD) could have a problem garnering support in the future, he said, as it becomes less of a populist party and more establishment.

“While in the past, Die Linke has been quite successful as a somewhat populist force that mobilised against the West German political establishment, nowadays, the party is more and more part of the establishment,” says Holzhauser.

“For many voters, especially in East Germany, it has successfully integrated into the German party system. So this is the flip side of the coin of its own success, that it is getting more integrated and established but at the same time it loses attraction as a populist force.”

On social issues, it's more likely to have similar demands to the Greens and Social Democrats, however, including a wealth tax and higher minimum wage. They are platform ideas that haven't come to fruition in the current SPD/CDU coalition.

But whether that means they will enter government remains to be seen, despite the perceived high hopes of the party's leaders.

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European elections

German conservatives raise spectre of far-left rule ahead of election




Gregor Gysi of the left wing party Die Linke speaks during an election campaign rally in Munich, Germany, September 17, 2021. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/File Photo
Germany's co-leader of the left wing party Die Linke Janine Wissler, top candidate for the September general election, campaigns in Munich, Germany, September 17, 2021. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/File Photo

A shadow is looming over Germany's election: the spectre of the far-left Linke party, heir to the communists who once ruled East Germany, coming in from the political wilderness, write Paul Carrel and Thomas Escritt.

At least, that is what Angela Merkel's conservatives want voters to think. Behind in polls just days before Sunday's (26 September) vote, her would-be successor is warning that Social Democrats, if victorious, would let the far-left into power. Read more.

"You have to have a clear position on the extremists," conservative candidate Armin Laschet told his Social Democratic rival Olaf Scholz during a televised debate earlier this month. "I don't understand why it's so hard for you to say 'I won't enter a coalition with this party'."


For the conservatives, the Linke are just as unpalatable as the far-right Alternative for Germany, whom all major parties have pledged to keep out of government. Read more.

Scholz has made it clear that the Greens are his preferred partners, but the conservatives say he will need a third party to form a coalition government. And they say the Social Democrats are closer to the Linke on social policies than to the pro-business Free Democrats - the conservatives' preferred dance partner.

Few expect this to happen - the Linke are on just 6% in polls, half the liberals' 11%, which probably would not be enough to give Scholz the required parliamentary majority.


But for some investors, it is a risk that should not be overlooked.

"Inclusion of the Linke in a governing coalition would, in our minds, represent the single biggest wild card by far for financial markets from the German elections," said Sassan Ghahramani, chief executive of U.S.-based SGH Macro Advisors, which advises hedge funds.

Linke policies such as a rent cap and property taxes for millionaires would be enough to spook many in Germany's business class.

Most assume that a victorious Scholz - a strait-laced finance minister and a former mayor of Hamburg - would include the Free Democrats as a moderating influence in his coalition.

Both SPD and Greens have also ruled out working with any party refusing to commit to the NATO military alliance or Germany's European Union membership, both of which the Linke has called into question.


Undeterred, the leftists are pitching themselves as ready for government responsibility three decades after East Germany vanished from the map.

"We're already in NATO," party co-leader Dietmar Bartsch told a recent news conference, dodging questions over whether its foreign policy views would keep it from entering government.

Bartsch, 63, whose political career started when he joined East Germany's Socialist Unity Party in 1977, leads the Linke alongside Janine Wissler, 40, a westerner who hails from a town just outside Germany's financial capital Frankfurt.

If foreign policy is an obstacle, the party prefers to talk economics. Here it is not far from the Social Democrats or Greens and Bartsch says once in government the party would make sure its partners delivered on campaign promises, such as the SPD's proposed 12 euro hourly minimum wage.

The party has outgrown its East German base, establishing strongholds in poorer, post-industrial cities in western Germany.

It heads the government in the eastern state of Thuringia, and is the junior partner with the SPD and Greens in Berlin's city government.

Analysts say that, as a centrist, Scholz would be more comfortable with the Free Democrats, but will not rule out the Linke to keep leverage over the liberals, keen to play kingmakers in coalition talks.

The Social Democrats' lead in the polls also suggests the left's communist roots carry less weight with voters than in the past. Greens leader Annalena Baerbock said it was just wrong to say they were just as bad as the far-right because the latter did not respect Germany's democratic norms.

"I consider this equation of the AfD with the Left to be extremely dangerous, especially because it absolutely trivialises the fact that the AfD is not aligned with the constitution," Baerbock said in a television debate this month.

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European Parliament

EYE2021 online: Take part and shape the future



If you are aged between 16 and 30 and want to shape the future of Europe, take part in the EYE2021 online and make your voice heard, EU affairs.

During the first week of October, thousands of young people from the EU will take over the Parliament in Strasbourg for the European Youth Event (EYE), to discuss and share ideas on how to shape the future of Europe.

They will have the opportunity to participate in panel debates, workshops, sports activities, stands and artistic performances as well as exchange ideas with experts, activists, influencers and decision-makers.


Participate in a virtual experience

However, you don’t have to be in Strasbourg to take part: EYE2021 also features tons of online activities.

Connect to the online platform via any device or by downloading the dedicated app. Take part in real time and exchange ideas or catch up later.


To get the most from the experience, register on the platform, allowing you to:

  • Network with other participants, speakers, organisations: send messages to other participants and share your views with the speakers/organisation
  • Discover youth organisations and learn more about their work
  • Book the activities you are interested in
  • Ask questions, share comments, answer polls and chat with other participants live
  • Take part in online competitions and win prizes

Online activities start 4 October. You can follow it on social media with the hashtag #EYE2021.

The future is yours and ours

EYE2021 will also be the culmination of the European Parliament’s youth consultation process for the Conference on the Future of Europe. Share your ideas before 9 October.

EYE2021 participants will explore the ideas in workshops and then vote on them. The results will go into a report, which will be presented to members of the Conference and fed into the political debate.


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