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European Affairs Non classé

Algeria at a crossroads: is the EGD a curse or a blessing in disguise?

Cristina Abellan Bustos

Researcher in the EU Affairs Department

Algeria at a crossroads: is the EGD a curse or a blessing in disguise?


1. The European Green Deal:

Goals, Trends and Challenge


The European Green Deal (EGD), announced in late 2019, sets high ambitions for the transformation of the EU’s economy and way of life so as to become the first climate-neutral continent. Among the many changes that will take place before 2050 as a consequence of the implementation of the EGD, a relevant one will be the implications for fossil fuels exporters into the EU. The EU intends to replace “imported natural gas and petroleum products with locally produced renewable electricity, gases and liquids”.[1] This serves a double purpose. Firstly, to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, and secondly, to reduce dependency on energy imports, with the geopolitical implications that this entails.[2] Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the global markets in an unprecedented way, consequently halting most of the climate-related policies that countries were aiming to implement in the upcoming years. After an initial period of crisis where both the EU and its Member States turned their back on each other and fought over medical supplies, the EU committed itself to using the Covid-19 pandemic as a catalyzer to increase the EU’s integration and implement the EGD. Thus, the EU has continued with its plans by allocating 35% of the Next Generation EU Covid-19 recovery budget towards green initiatives.[3]

Concerning natural gas, the EU will continue to rely on it until 2030, seeing as it is a lesser contaminating alternative than coal.[4] By 2050, natural gas is expected to make up only one tenth of the EU’s energy mix.[2] In 2019, gas accounted for 23.8% of the EU’s total energy consumed, but remains the most feasible alternative to coal, which made up 13.6% of the energy mix that same year.[6] In 2019, the EU imported about 92% of the natural gas it consumed.[7] If the EU is to reduce natural gas consumption so drastically, this will have important economic and geopolitical implications for the supplier countries. Estimates indicate that natural gas imports will shrink somewhere along 13% and 19% between 2015 and 2030, while after 2030, they will drop between 58% and 67% compared to 2015 levels.[8] This major shift will change the way in which the EU relates to its neighbors and partners, most notably the current main providers of energy and those that have the potential to become new providers in the near future.[9]

Gráfico, Gráfico de barras, Gráfico de cajas y bigotes

Descripción generada automáticamenteFigure 1 Evolution of EU energy imports (55% lower emissions in 2030 compared to 1990 and climate neutrality in 2050)

Source: Bruegel/ECFR based on European Commission (2020) MIX scenario.

Moreover, as the EU has already announced itself, it has the intention of fulfilling the role of initiator and leader of the global climate transition.[10] Countries are already following suit with carbon-reduction commitments, many of them ahead of the COP26 that will take place in Glasgow in late 2021. Therefore, not only is the EU initiating a shift towards clean energies and the eventual phasing out of fossil fuels and natural gas, but it is also using its normative power to push other nations to do the same.[11] Examples of this include the 2018 Free Trade Agreement with Japan, which was the first one to make an explicit reference to the Paris Agreements.[12] The EU has pursued its effort to encourage other countries to fulfill their environmental commitments, even those who may be less receptive, like the FTA attempt with the MERCOSUR block,[13] which included a provision to protect the Amazon, thus proving that the EU is willing to use all of its normative power toolkit to endorse its climate objectives. This overall shift in consumption could lead oil and gas-producing economies to lose $7 trillion USD by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency.[14]

Seeing the importance of the matter, it is surprising that after over a year since the introduction of the EGD, the EU still has no strategy to deal with the external dimensions of the Deal. Even more so considering the increased geo-politicization of energy dependence, especially in relation to energy security and dependence on Russia, which will push strategic partners from the EU’s neighborhood like Algeria to their socioeconomic limits. 


2. The Energy Transition and Algeria


Concerning fossil fuel exporters, currently most of them are part of the EU’s neighborhood, an area that holds special strategic and geopolitical importance, and which will be heavily affected by the consequences of the transition. In its Southern Neighborhood, the EU has preferred to reluctantly accept semi-autocratic moderate regimes rather than Islamic governments, particularly after the instability caused by the Arab Spring and the events that followed.[15] This is because this region is especially relevant when it comes to the regulation of migratory flows and terrorism. In the specific case of Algeria, the ‘pouvoir’, the undemocratic power structures that have historically ruled the country, have been tolerated up until the social rise of the Hirak. Within this context, Algeria is one of the few countries in the region that remained stable during the Arab Spring, though the generous set of social programs targeting food, energy and housing prices resulted in a heavy strain on Algerian economy. Moreover, being the second largest military power in Africa, the country is especially important to the EU.[16] Hence, any signs of instability in Algeria can have direct consequences in key EU policy areas. The implementation of the EGD has the potential to destabilize Algeria due to the country’s high level of dependence on hydrocarbon exports to the EU, which remains its main export destination.[17]

Ultimately, however, market changes are going to be structural due to the energy transition and the long-lasting effects of the Shale Revolution, which consists in the development of new extractive methods of fossil fuels that allow access to previously thought inaccessible resources, thus increasing the offer.[18] Lately, markets have been characterized by an increase in supply.[19] Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) has been the source with the biggest trade growth, amounting to 13% in 2019.[20] In this regard, the European market has led the growth in LNG imports, reaching 117 bcm in 2019, 78% more than the previous year.[21] On the other hand, European gas imports through pipelines decreased by 6.5% in 2019, with Spain, as the main destination for Algerian gas, leading the drop with a 15% decline.[22] The first tendency is a decline of trade through pipelines and an increase of LNG, which is detrimental to Algeria, since it reduces the country’s comparative advantage in infrastructure. Moreover, barriers to market entry are shifting away from pipelines and towards ports and vessels equipped for the processing and manufacturing of LNG. 

 Figure 2 LNG Imports by source: Europe (in billion cubic meters

Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2020


Source: Bruegel/ECFR based on European Commission (2020) MIX scenario.

Source: The Global Gas Market 2020 Edition, Cedigaz

Although Algeria trades small portions of LNG, its infrastructures are constituted mainly by pipelines connecting it to Spain and Italy. Algerian pipeline exports fell by 30% in 2019 compared to the previous year.[23] Pressure was exercised both by the fact that cheaper LNG came primarily from the US and by the increased importance of Russian gas resulting from both the TurkStream and from a potential Nord Stream 2.[24] The steady increase in the production and consumption of renewable energies also influenced the market shifts. Renewable energy made up 19.7% of the EU’s energy consumption in 2019, in line with the 20% objective by 2020.[25] This market behavior illustrates the beginning of a decline that will continue into the future as part of the energy transition and the Shale Revolution. 

Source: Bruegel/ECFR based on European Commission (2020) MIX scenario.

 Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2020

Two additional damaging factors for Algerian natural gas exports are the decline in production and the increase in domestic consumption.[26] To fight against these issues, the Algerian government has implemented the 2019 New Hydrocarbon Law.[27] The main purpose of this law is to improve the attractiveness of Algerian hydrocarbon sector and to incentivize foreign investment in said sector. However, the government wants to maintain control over it, preserving the prior 51/49 ownership requirement.[28] This means that Sonatrach, the state-owned extractive company, must hold at least 51% ownership of projects initiated by foreign companies in Algeria. The approval of this law demonstrates Algeria’s willingness to continue developing its hydrocarbon sector through foreign investment, while still maintaining control over this critical sector, in an effort to increase exports. 

However, a crucial issue concerning the imbalance between production, sale and consumption of natural gas is Algeria’s low level of energy efficiency. Energy consumption efficiency is an endemic issue in countries with an abundance of fossil fuels and state-owned extractive companies.[29] This is a direct consequence of the low prices that these goods tend to have, as well as the lack of environmental awareness of the population.[30] Energy products are typically highly subsidized, making prices very accessible for most of the population. This, in turn, has additional negative repercussions for CO2 emissions, for which Algeria ranks third in Africa, much against the country’s modest commitments to the Paris Agreements.[31] Since countries tend to prioritize energy autonomy, they will always make sure to meet internal energy demand before exporting any leftover hydrocarbons. In the case of Algeria, this has resulted in a sharp reduction of exports and consequently a reduction of revenues, since the sale price of hydrocarbons is very different at home than it is abroad. This has caused Sonatrach to become virtually economically sustained by the state as a consequence of the lax subsidy policy in Algeria and the exports drop.[32]

 

Nevertheless, Algeria is also on the way to develop its own renewable energy capacity. The Algerian government acknowledges the benefits of renewable energy and sees the overall need to diversify its economy by advancing its national renewable sector.[33] The most pressing matter, apart from the global energy transition, is that oil reserves are estimated to run out in 20 years, and natural gas in 50 years.[34] Therefore, even if Algeria wants to hold on to hydrocarbons for as long as possible, this cannot last forever. 

 

The Algerian government is aware of the enormous renewable energy potential the country has. The Sahara desert makes up 86% of Algerian territory; certain areas provide between 2,500 and 3,600 hours of sun per year.[35] This corresponds to approximately double the radiation that can be generated in the EU in a single year.[36]  In this sense, Algeria has set itself the target of developing its solar and wind capacity to 15,000 MW by 2035.[37] In 2019, the government presented a tender scheme to gather investments in which only Algerian companies or partnerships that respected the 51/49 requirement were allowed to participate.[38] The tender was not as successful as expected due to the formal requirements. Following this failure, the Algerian government launched a new corporation within the framework of Sonatrach dedicated to the development of renewable energy.[39]

 

To this day, the Algerian renewable sector is heavily underdeveloped considering the great potential the country has, both in terms of annual hours of sunlight and geographic proximity to the EU. The EU itself has foreseen in the EGD that it will not be able to produce all the necessary clean energy to supply the European region within its own territory.[40]Imports of green energy will be required to meet the demand. Algeria possesses the climatic characteristics, geographical and infrastructural features to become a main supplier of green energy to the EU via already existing pipelines.

 

Investment in the renewable energy sector would not only help Algeria’s energy transition, but also the diversification of its economy, which has been declared as a top priority for the upcoming years.[41] The Algerian government’s main goal is to provide for its people, especially by becoming self-sufficient when it comes to securing critical products like food and agricultural yields.[42] Afterwards, the government intends to limit its exports to a small number of specialized products.[43]  In terms of figures, Algeria has set itself the short-term goal of making $5 billion USD in exports unrelated to hydrocarbons during 2021.[44] This effort to diversify is not new, as Algeria has experienced multiple attempts in the last decades. However, all were unsuccessful because they went against the established power structures.[45] The strategy that Algeria is currently pursuing involves capitalizing on natural gas for the next 8 to 10 years until it is phased out by the EGD.[46] Moreover, the Algerian government is counting on an increase in the demand of gas.[47] While this increase may take place as the EU transitions from coal to gas, the gas market is diversifying and competition is rising. Therefore, Algeria will have to compete against energy superpowers, such as the US and Russia, in order to provide the EU with clean, cheap and secure natural gas. 

 

Algeria has been postponing an unavoidable reform of its economy and institutions.[48] The EGD poses both a threat to Algeria’s ‘pouvoir’ currently in place, and an opportunity for the country to embrace the shift to green energy, given its untapped potential in this sector. Nonetheless, this may require the ‘pouvoir’ to drive the change and lose part of its influence along the way. Certainly, the rentier character of Algeria’s politico-economic structure is the key determinant for resistance, but if the Algerian government does not hop on this train, there may not be many more opportunities like this. Momentum has been built internationally, with the EU announcing its ambitions and many countries following suit, but also domestically, with the Hirak taking the streets again after having stopped due to the pandemic. As difficult as it may be, Algeria finds itself in a privileged position to initiate a double transition: the transition towards renewable energies and the transition towards a non-rentier system. Whether it will be able to overcome these challenges, remains to be seen. 


  • [1] European Commission, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions Powering a climate-neutral economy: An EU Strategy for Energy System Integration, COM (2020) 299 final, Brussels, 8 July, 20204.
  • [2] Ibid. 
  • [3] Oksana Antonenko, “EU green transition likely to reshape relationships with key energy suppliers”, Control Risks, 10 December 2020. 
  • [4] “An EU Strategy for Energy System Integration”, op. cit., 12-13. 
  • [5] Ibid. 
  • [6] Eurostat, Shedding light on energy in the EU. A guided tour of energy statistics (Brussels: Eurostat, 2020).
  • [7] Eurostat, “Natural Gas Supply Statistics”, Statistics Explained, 29 October 2020, 3.
  • [8] Leonard et. al., op. cit., 5. 
  • [9] Ibid, 2.
  • [10] European Commission, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions Powering a climate-neutral economy: The European Green Deal, COM 2019 (640) final, Brussels 11 December 2019, 2.
  • [11] Ian Manners, “Normative Power Europe: A Contradiction in Terms?”, Journal of Common Market Studies 40, no. 2 (2002).
  • [12] Karl Mathiesen, “EU-Japan trade deal first to carry Paris climate clause”, Euractive, 20 July 2018. 
  • [13] Daniel Boffey, “EU seeks Amazon protections pledge from Bolsonaro in push to ratify trade deal”, The Guardian, 20 October, 2020. 
  • [14] “Outlook for Producer Economies: What Do Changing Energy Dynamics Mean for Major Oil and Gas Exporters?”, International Energy Agency, October 2018. 
  • [15] Luigi Scazzieri, “Rethinking the EU’s approach towards its southern neighbors”, Center for European Reform, 10 July 2020.
  • [16] Etienne Copel, “Morocco/Algeria: The armed forces behind the Western Sahara conflict”, The Africa Report, 4 March 2021.
  • [17] European Commission, Trade Algeria (Brussels: DG Trade, 2020).
  • [18] Robert D. Blackwill, and Meghan O’Sullivan, “America’s Energy Edge: The Geopolitical Consequences of the Shale Revolution”. Foreign Affairs93, no. 2 (2014), 102.
  • [19] Ibid, 4. 
  • [20] Ibid, 8. 
  • [21] Ibid, 11. 
  • [22] Ibid, 13. 
  • [23] “Global Gas Report 2020”, International Gas Union, 14.
  • [24] Ibid, 13. 
  • [25] Eurostat, “Natural Gas Supply Statistics”, op. cit. 
  • [26] Lazhar Sahbani, “The main developments introduced by the Algerian New Hydrocarbon Law”, PWC Algérie, January 2020. 
  • [27] Le Parlement Algérien, « Loi n° 19-13 du 14 Rabie Ethani 1441 correspondant au 11 décembre 2019 régissant les activités d’hydrocarbures », Journal Officiel de la République Algérienne, nº 79, 22 Décembre 2019.
  • [28] Ibid, arts. 92-97. 
  • [29] Adela Syslová, “Whose Sustainability? Political Economy of renewable energy transitions in Morocco and Algeria”, MSc thesis (London: SOAS University London, 2020), 14. 
  • [30] Gonzalo Escribano and Lara Lázaro-Touza, “Oil Markets, Energy transition, climate governance and COVID-19: the short, the medium and the long term”, Elcano Royal Institute 6 (2020), 12.
  • [31] Mohammed Bouznit, María del P. Pablo-Romero and Antonio Sánchez-Braza, “Measures to Promote Renewable Energy for Electricity Generation in Algeria”, Sustainability 12, no. 4 (2020), 1. 
  • [32 Jekaterina Grigorjeva, “Starting a new chapter in EU-Algeria energy relations, a proposal for targeted cooperation”, Jacques Delors Institut Berlin 173, 30 September 2016, 10.
  • [33] Leonard, et. al., op. cit., 12.
  • [34] “Breaking Algeria’s Economic Paralysis”, International Crisis Group, 19 November 2018.
  • [35] “The People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, INDC-Algeria”, UNFCCC NDC Interim Registry, 3 September 2015.
  • [36] Grigorjeva, op. cit., 6.
  • [37] Commission Européenne, Document de Travail Conjoint des Services, Rapport sur l’état des relations UE-Algérie dans le cadre de la PEV renouvelée, SWD (2020) 285 final, Bruxelles, 18 Novembre 2020, 12. 
  • [38] Michael Hochberg, “Algeria charts a path for renewable energy sector development”, Middle Eastern Institute, 20 October 2020.
  • [39] « Processus de création d’une nouvelle société dédiée aux énergies renouvelables », Algérie Presse Service, 19 Février, 2021.
  • [40] The European Green Deal, op. cit., 12.
  • [41] Interview with an Algerian official, via videocall, 8 April 2021. 
  • [42] Ibid.
  • [43] Ibid. 
  • [44] Ibid. 
  • [45] Mohammed Benbouziane, Abderrahim Chibi and Sidi Mohamed Chekouri, “Algeria and the Natural Resource Curse: Oil abundance and economic growth”, The Middle East Development Journal , no. 2 (2017), 253.
  • [46] Interview with an Algerian official, op. cit. 
  • [47] Ibid. 
  • [48] Gonzalo Escribano, “Argelia no es Venezuela”, Elcano Royal Institute 22 (2018).

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European Affairs Non classé

Football: more than just a game?

Emma Somos


Health and Social Affairs Analyst

Football – more than just a game?

As the long-awaited final match of UEFA European Football Championship (Euros) takes place, thousands of eager fans will be crowded into pubs and bars across the World. The game’s sheer ability to draw-in people, including those who may not usually be football fans, into this multi-billion pound industry leaves economic and political powers at awe.

No wonder the game which was once a simple recreation has now evolved into one of the world’s largest institutions; with the symbolic (or “soft”) power to communicate and promote both cultural and political messages, all while generating huge revenue. So as we all sit and watch the final between England and Italy, somewhere in the back of our minds we must wonder…is football more than just a game?

European football attracts global attention, and despite a nominal political neutrality being strongly promoted by The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), one cannot ignore the political connections of individual teams. Clubs such as Paris Sain-Germain (owned by Qatar) and Manchester City (owned by the United Arab Emirates) present strong connections between national government interests and the game of football.¹ Countries that get to host important football games and tournaments also gain a global exposure which not only brings economic advantages such as increased tourism and investment opportunities, but also an increased exposure of their political leadership and values.

First introduced by Harvard Political Scientist Joseph Nye, the concept of “soft power” described the way countries can achieve their goals not by direct action, but by “getting other countries to want what it wants.² On one hand, sports can help popularise countries, and their respective governments can capitalise on such attraction by fostering political cooperation and asserting themselves as global leaders. Researchers view China and Qatar’s increasing engagement with global sports to be based on such a desire to acquire ‘soft power’.³ On the other hand, athletes (and increasingly fans) have also begun to realise how sports, especially football, can function as a platform to communicate and as a means to achieve social action. Society and sports are deeply embedded systems and the long history of athlete activism demonstrates this.⁴ Although most would agree that athlete activism is entirely different to governments and corporations asserting their interests and power through sports, some remain unconvinced. While athletes usually speak up for social diversity and inclusion, or against human rights abuses, governments and corporations tend to have more power and profit-related intentions.

The expected political neutrality of football games are fixed in Articles 1 and 2(a) of the UEFA Statutes, stating “neutral, politically and religiously” is essential to “promote football in Europe in a spirit of peace, understanding and fair play, without any discrimination on account of politics, gender, religion, race or any other reason”.⁵ Although the UEFA, and International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), have historically been stringent in their policing of political or social statements made by teams and players, there seems to have been more ease in restrictions over the past year.

The national soccer teams of Norway, Germany, and the Netherlands all wore T-shirts that supported human rights during the 2022 World Cup qualifiers voicing a criticism of migrant workers’ rights in Qatar, the host of next year’s World Cup.^5 Furthermore, the murder of George Floyd and recent police brutality towards the African-American community in the United States inspired many football players to take the knee before matches to show support for racial justice and solidarity with people of colour. In a step away from its usually neutral position, UEFA announced its support for players taking the knee because it “has a zero-tolerance against racism and any player who wants to demand equality amongst human beings by taking the knee will be allowed to do so”.⁶ An act as simple as dropping to one knee has had the power to bring discussions of racial inequality and discrimination onto the global agenda. It has proved a powerful tool in the ongoing fight for racial justice, but also provides an example of how the soft power of football has the ability to impact positively on society, and not just increase power and revenue for some stakeholders.

In addition to racism, LGBTQIA+ discrimination has also became a central topic during the Euros 2020. Discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ Community in Hungary increased as a new law passed in the FIDESZ majority national parliament practically banned any LGBTQIA+ representation or support from education.⁷ Members of the LGBTQIA+ community in Hungary already had no legal right to marry, adopt kids, or have legal recognition of gender reassignment. This latest bill is particularly outrageous as it falsely conflates LGBTQIA+ with paedophilia. Despite this, the UEFA showed support for Viktor Orban, national conservative and openly anti-LGTIQ prime minister of Hungary, only one year before national elections in Hungary take place. Orban has been known for his obsession with football, or more precisely, with building unnecessary and enormous stadiums in Hungary (of which the construction contracts have been awarded to his close friends and allies).⁸ Although Orban’s right wing voter coalition building has proved to be effective⁹, as his party has been re-elected twice in the past 10 years, there is increasing opposition among Hungarians against his openly homophobic and discriminative policies.¹0


The UEFA’s open support for such a political leader has raised questions from players, fans, and activists in solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community.


Prior to the Euro 2020 match between Germany and Hungary, Munich City Council requested to illuminate the Allianz Arena in rainbow colours to show support for social inclusivity and diversity¹¹. UEFA rejected their request saying they are a politically neutral organisation and that the request would contradict this stance due to the “political context” given the illumination would be “a message pointing to a decision made by the Hungarian national parliament”.¹² Interestingly, Sándor Csányi, a Hungarian banker and close friend of Viktor Orbán, serves as the vice-chair of UEFA’s executive committee and FIFA, as well as being the President of the Hungarian Football Association. One is forced to consider whether such an alliance would bear influence on UEFA’s decision. In another example, UEFA’s Control and Disciplinary body also considered whether Manuel Neuer’s (goalkeeper and captain of the Germany national team) rainbow armband should be punished for displaying a “political message”, but the investigation was later dropped.¹³ Adam Crafton from The Athletic rightly reported that the UEFA is passive on homophobia, but proactive when players show solidarity.¹⁴ Aleksander Čeferin, President of UEFA is known to have a good relationship and has been pictured with authoritative Eastern European leaders such as Alexander Lukashenko (President of Belarus), Vladimir Putin (President of Russia) and Viktor Orban (Prime Minister of Hungary).

As a young Hungarian myself, I recognise the advantages and joy of attending such high-level games in my capital, however the UEFA providing spotlight and prestige for undemocratic leaders without any challenge or scrutiny is a shame. There is an urgent need to engage and grow the game outside of Western Europe, and be more aware of the game’s subtle association with certain leaders, countries, and organisations.

This being said, we are now witnessing a change across the entire footballing industry. Some clubs and players are becoming increasingly aware of their soft power and have begun to show support for particular social justice matters. The lighting of stadiums with rainbow colours by several German clubs during recent matches shows solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community. Posting images and messages on social media has also allowed clubs to demonstrate their support for a more inclusive and diverse society. Following the controversy prior to the Germany/Hungary match, German player Manuel Neuer addressed his position as an athlete activist: “In the past, it was often the case that we did not position ourselves politically that way and instead followed the guidelines as it always has been, but we want to give the national team a face and show people that there are important things outside of football that we point out and that we stand behind. We are role models for many children and young people, and I think that we are currently giving a positive image”.¹⁵

Sports is not something that exists in a bubble and that can be fully autonomous. Football can serve as a platform of discussion and be the leader of change. And while the space of football has long been dominated by powerful stakeholders such as football federations, governments and corporations, athletes and consumers are beginning to realise their voice in the game. The coming years will be a turning point for the industry and I, for one, am looking forward to the witnessing the growth of the game.


[1] East, S. (2015). Middle East millions fueling European football [Online]. CNN. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2015/01/12/football/qatar-uae-sponsor-football-europe/index.html (Accessed: 09 July 2021)

[2] Nye, J. S. (1990). Soft Power. Foreign Policy, (80), 153. doi:10.2307/1148580 https://www.jstor.org/stable/1148580

[3] ‘Qatar’s big push to establish itself as a footballing soft power’. (2019, September 09) [Online]. Goal. Available at: https://www.goal.com/en-sg/news/qatar-football-soft-power-major-investment-world-cup-fifa/1ftx705j09k0f16omvssx82f90 (Accessed: 09 July 2021) and Leite J. E. and Rodrigues C. (2020) Belt, Road and Ball: Football as a Chinese Soft Power and Public Diplomacy Tool. In: Leandro F., Duarte P. (eds) The Belt and Road Initiative. Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-2564-3_4

[4] Reeves, R.. (2021). A new era of athlete activists inherit a centuries-old fight for justice [Online]. The Undefeated. Available at: https://theundefeated.com/features/a-new-era-of-athlete-activists-inherit-a-centuries-old-fight-for-justice/ (Accessed: 09 July 2021)

[5] ‘Qatar World Cup: Germany, Norway and Netherlands players voice human rights concerns’. (2021, March 30) [Online]. SkySports. Available at: https://www.skysports.com/football/news/11095/12258996/qatar-world-cup-germany-norway-and-netherlands-players-voice-human-rights-concerns (Accessed: 09 July 2021)

[6] ‘Europe divided on taking the knee during EURO 2020 football tournament’ (2021, June 11) [Online]. Euronews. Available at: https://www.euronews.com/2021/06/11/europe-divided-on-taking-the-knee-during-euro-2020-football-tournament (Accessed: 09 July 2021)

[7] Papp, R. (2021). Discrimination against LGBTIQ Community in Hungary. [Online]. 4Liberty.eu. Available at: http://4liberty.eu/discriminating-against-the-lgbtiq-community-in-hungary-and-its-implications/ (Accessed: 09 July 2021)

[8] Lambert, S. (2018). Orbán Government Stadium Construction. [Online]. The Orange Files. Available at: https://theorangefiles.hu/government-stadium-construction/ (Accessed: 09 July 2021)

[9] Goldblatt, D. and Nolan, D. (2018). Viktor Orbán’s reckless football obsession. [Online]. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/jan/11/viktor-orban-hungary-prime-minister-reckless-football-obsession (Accessed: 09 July 2021)

[10] Simon, Z. (2021). Same-Sex Parenthood Draws Unexpected Support in Hungary. [Online]. Bloomberg. Available at: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-03-21/same-sex-parenthood-draws-unexpected-support-in-hungary (Accessed: 09 July 2021)

[11] Gulácsi, P. (2021, February 23.). Instagram post. [Online]. Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/CLon2VUlbKL/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link (Accessed: 09 July 2021)

[12] Vaski, T. (2021) FM Szijjártó Praises UEFA for Declining Munich’s Rainbow Stadium ‘Provocation’. [Online]. Available at: https://hungarytoday.hu/munich-rainbow-stadium-uefa-rainbow-flag/ and Miller, G. (2021). Uefa blocks the protest at the LGBTQ + rainbow stadium in Munich | Euro 2020. [Online]. Available at: https://insider-voice.com/uefa-blocks-the-protest-at-the-lgbtq-rainbow-stadium-in-munich-euro-2020/ (Accessed: 09 July 2021)

[13] ‘Manuel Neuer: UEFA drops review of rainbow armband worn by Germany captain at Euro 2020 during Pride Month’ (2021, June 21) [Online]. SkySports. Available at: https://www.skysports.com/football/news/19692/12337162/manuel-neuer-uefa-drops-review-of-rainbow-armband-worn-by-germany-captain-at-euro-2020-during-pride-month (Accessed: 09 July 2021)

[14] Crafton, A. D. . (2021, June 22.). Tweet. [Online]. Available at: https://twitter.com/AdamCrafton_/status/1407230000055607297?s=20 (Accessed: 09 July 2021)

[15] Salt, N. (2021). Germany are in talks about taking the knee ahead of Euro 2020 Wembley showdown against England tomorrow despite not kneeling at all in 2021… with goalkeeper Manuel Neuer impressed by solidarity of Three Lions in tackling racism. [Online]. Mail Online. Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/sportsnews/article-9732631/Euro-2020-Germany-talks-taking-knee-ahead-Wembley-showdown-against-England.html (Accessed: 09 July 2021)

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European Affairs

The EU faces its current challenges: will its fragility precede a renewed vitality?

Petra Pakodzi

European Affairs Analyst

The EU faces its current challenges: will its fragility precede a renewed vitality?

Challenges from inner institutions, member states and external threats have always had an impactful role in the history of the European Union. Being aware of these current affairs is a key in becoming a responsible citizen.

Generally speaking as the coronavirus pandemic started in 2019, the EU had to share its attention towards equally important issues-facing economic, social hardship and the largest health crisis of the new century. The availability, amount, schedule of vaccination was the main question throughout 2020 which is trying to be resolved. What about this pandemic’s financial, mental and educational aspects? A crisis is in progress as people are losing their job, struggling with mental health, youngsters and students are missing their experiences from education. This mechanism has started to test the eurozone and its institutions, which system has been standing on weak legs since its formation because Europe has failed to address it.

Moreover, 2020 contained many more sensitive debates: the first country left the Union a Brexit deal had to be reached. This phenomenon illustrates the fragmentation of the strongest economic and social bond ever existed. Besides, two key countries of the union have tense uncertainty towards their future-Can Mario Draghi solve Italy’s crisis? Who is going to be the next leader of Germany?


Threats to democracy are coming from in- and outside of Europe.


For example, Russian influence could have been observed since the establishment of the Soviet Union. This still impacts countries such as Belarus, Ukraine, Hungary and Poland. Not just European values, but human rights and dignity are being threatened by populist leaders of member states. In the inner circle of the EU, Hungary and Poland have been implementing laws limiting LGBTQ+ people’s life, abortion concerns, free press and education. As this process is taking place in other leading countries-such as China-the EU has a major role in intervening and standing up for human rights. By the development of the information technology industry the risk comes from a new part of checks and balances-the medium and via this-the influence of Big Tech. As the process has already started in the US, the European Union is also starting to regulate the tech giants . Furthermore, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, expressed the willingness of the EU to work strongly together with the new Biden administration, slightly articulating the new bond with the US, leaving aside the departing UK.

All these cases have to be dealt with sensitivity, by putting emphasis on the impacts on the climate. The EU can indicate its countries preferences by negotiating international treaties, funding projects and encouraging member states to a new green direction. As the European Green Deal is the first of its type people tend to be ambitious about its goals and significance. This aims to improve people’s quality of life by making the union a low carbon economy. Every aspect of the new world order has to be altered such as consumption, energy generation and transport. The target for the Union is to create a bloc of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Besides, the EU as a leading actor in the economy, has to promote green transition to other players of the international game.

In conclusion, with the beginning of the pandemic the EU started to face many more problems than before. Problems that were not resolved and which have to be shed light on to create a diverse, tight economic and social bond in Europe.