Four key issues the EU is facing as bloc braves internal fractures

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The global political scene has fractured under the weight of the Covid pandemic which, despite having receded slightly, remains ever-present. But for Europe, the pandemic is just one of several crises unfolding this summer. EU officials will have a lot on their plates as the bloc enters autumn 2021.

Afghanistan

Although the recent humiliation at the hands of the Taliban fell primarily on US shoulders, the EU has dealt with its fair share of fallout.

Several European nations followed the US as allies to help route out 9/11 orchestrators Al-Qaeda and keep the peace for 20 years.

They pulled out in mid-August with Joe Biden, but the process has ignited discussions about accepting refugees.

That conflict is reaching a boiling point on the Poland-Belarus border, with leaders in the latter nation allegedly accepting Afghan refugees only to move them to neighbouring countries.

Given this shared border belongs to the EU and Poland, officials from the bloc have had to step in.

They have accused Belarusian premier Alexander Lukashenko of using them as a tool to object to increasingly harsh sanctions against his government.

The EU previously upheld sanctions against his government over fraudulent elections and a crackdown on opposition parties.

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Four key issues the EU is facing as bloc braves internal FRACTURES (Image: GETTY)

EU politics: Afghan refugees at Poland’s border have prompted another EU crisis (Image: GETTY)

Brexit

The Brexit vote took place five years ago, and the UK officially left EU bounds on January 1 this year.

But several issues remain on both sides of the English Channel that continue to string the process along.

Some UK politicians want the Northern Ireland Protocol – a policy that keeps Ireland’s land border with the Republic barrier-free – repealed.

EU politics: Victor Orban has come under fire from the EU for his recent policies (Image: GETTY)

Experts have warned the protocol’s Irish Sea border is the only measure holding back a Good Friday Agreement busting hard alternative.

EU negotiators have to find a way to satisfy their British counterparts and keep the Irish border violence-free.

So far, they have postponed the implementation of border checks in Northern Ireland indefinitely as Lord Frost asks for a “total overhaul” of the protocol.

They added in a statement that their approach to the protocol is based on “the achievement of stability, certainty and predictability in line with the objectives of the Good Friday Agreement” and “to protect the Single Market.”

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EU politics: Northern Ireland politicians have railed against the protocol (Image: GETTY)

EU politics: Angela Merkel is stepping down as German Chancellor this year (Image: GETTY)

Internal struggles

As the EU battles with outside forces, it will also deal with member states infringing its core values.

Two countries – Hungary and Poland – have flouted these values over the last years.

Hungary, under Fidesz party leader Victor Orban, has passed a controversial law prohibiting the depiction of LGBTQ+ sexuality to minors, something the EU has asked he rescind.

As his party anticipates an uphill battle in next year’s parliamentary elections, Mr Orban has also ratcheted tensions with Brussels.

The EU has also locked horns with Poland as it debates whether or not to greenlight a pandemic recovery funding plan with few anti-corruption protections.

But Warsaw’s minority government headed by the Law and Justice party has shown it is willing to pull back from other controversial judicial reforms.

A changing of the guards

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union of Germany, and French President Emmanuel Macron are nearing elections.

Ms Merkel, one of the most vital EU supporters, will step down this year, and it is currently uncertain whether the CDU can stay on without her.

Neither she nor the opposing Social Democratic Party of Germany (SDP) has a clear lead at present, but the results will determine who leads as a de facto EU leader.

Mr Macron, who has represented EU giant France since 2017, is running for re-election in 2022.

He has appeared in lock-step with Ms Merkel during his first term and maintained close relations with the other constituent members.

His April race against far-right politician Marine Le Pen could determine the country’s conduct with other EU states.

She is currently neck-and-neck with him in first-round polls, suggesting she has a chance of pipping the President next year.