Interview with Kinga Brudzińska, PhD, Programme Director of Future of Europe for GLOBSEC Policy

Kinga Brudzińska, PhD, is Programme Director of Future of Europe for GLOBSEC Policy Institute.

Kinga has ten years of professional experience in country-specific and policy analysis and advice. Her main research interests lie in the fields of EU foreign policy and EU institutional architecture, with a particular focus on relations among the Member States, and the concept of differentiated European integration. She has chiefly worked on Visegrad countries, and Spanish speaking world. Prior to GLOBSEC, she worked at the Permanent Representation of Poland to the OECD, the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM) and the Permanent Secretariat of Community of Democracies. Kinga is an author of the chapters in books, articles in press (i.e. Fair Observer, Es Global, EurActiv, Public Service Europe) and various analyses on the EU and the Latin America and Caribbean region. She is Alumna of the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius Global Governance Network, and the Humanity in Action & Lantos Foundation’ Senior Fellow. Kinga holds Ph.D. in Arts of Political Science, Faculty of Political Science and Journalism from the University of Warsaw, MA in International Relations from the Faculty of Economics at the Cracow University of Economics and Diploma in Latin American Studies from Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (TEC Monterrey) in Mexico. (Source

Last time we met at the GLOBSEC conference in Bratislava which took place under the slogan "Europe on the Move: Open or Closed Borders?". If we take a look at the current COVID-19 crisis, do you agree that the EU needs more power in the field of public health? Do you think the Member States would support this development?

Yes, I remember our last conference very well. It was a pre-Zoom physical event that welcomed participants in Bratislava. It is interesting that we spoke about the Schengen zone in early March, and only few experts saw the closure of borders and border controls as a possibility in the light of the COVID-19 outbreak. Today, we live in the EU where we have limited options to “be on the move”. However, things are slowly changing, and the Member States are thinking about re-opening borders and going back to normal. I hope Bratislava and Vienna will be soon re-connected.

I find your question about public health difficult. I am afraid, I do not have a clear answer. The EU has as much power as the Member States decide to share with Brussels, and, according to the study to be published on Friday 29 May “Making Flexible Europe Work? European Governance and the Potential of Differentiated Cooperation”, the Member States do not currently show any appetite for delegating more power and sovereignty to Brussels. Therefore, there are little chances that we will see the EU involved more in the field of public health. 

Today, when it comes to health protection, the primary responsibility lies with the Member States, and the EU plays an important role, for example in harmonising health strategies between the Member States, or investing in pan-European research and development. Today, what is crucial for the whole EU to succeed is not necessarily to think about transferring the power to Brussels but rather to focus on two aspects. The EU institutions should keep paying attention to research in terms of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics against COVID-19. The Member States will have a crucial role to play in the negotiations on the next EU’s budget and decide on how much should be allocated for health protection.

In early March, we also discussed the recent Slovak parliamentary election (February 2020). What do you think the result means for the foreign and EU relations of the Slovak Republic? Can major changes be expected in the future?

I think that we should not expect major changes. The new government has already stated that it will continue Slovakia's European and pro-Atlantic orientation. On Europe Day, 9 May 2020, Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová, Parliament’s Speaker Boris Kollár and Prime Minister Igor Matovič signed a joint statement on foreign policy emphasising that the EU and NATO membership is the best path for a successful and prosperous Slovakia. A joint declaration also envisages increasing defence spending (from 1.7% today to 2% of the GDP by 2024), and a preparation of a new security strategy. It seems like Slovakia wants to keep being constructive, predictable and reliable partner both in the European Union and on the global stage.  

The EU, United States, Russia and China: COVID-19 intensified a rather complicated relationship between these global actors.
What do you think about the upcoming future of:

- the Transatlantic Partnership?

- Russias influence within the European Union?

- the worldwide influence of China?

I think that, despite the fact that COVID 19 will change things in the upcoming future, it will not lead to a totally new global order.

From what we can see now, COVID-19 is indeed sharpening great-power competition, in particular between China and the US. It is hard to believe today that the two countries were able to sign a “first-phase” trade deal in January 2020. China has become a more assertive and expansive global actor. Its “mask” or “donation” policy around the globe has raised appreciation by ones and concerns by others. Some experts indicate that China may even launch a medical Belt and Road Initiative in Africa to strengthen its role as a global leader. Interestingly, the perceptions of the US and China are changing very rapidly. For example, Germans now see Berlin’s relationship with China as equally important as their relationship with the US according to the recent poll. I would definitely not underestimate the power and leadership of the United States, which is aware of its global status, China’s intentions and is likely to fight back to reassert its role as a global leader.

When it comes to the Transatlantic relations, COVID-19 has so far done little to worsen the relation. The certain mistrust between the EU and the US was apparent even before the pandemic. Yet more, the US shift away from prioritising Europe was visible even before the presidency of Donald Trump. It’s worth to remember that, even before the pandemic, EU leaders were calling for a more ambitious common European foreign policy and European strategic autonomy. To me, there are three potential scenarios for future Transatlantic relations. First, the EU becomes more assertive, and independent from the US’ role in global stance. Second, there is a decline in the EU-US relations which pushes the EU to balance its strategic interests between the US, China or Russia. Finally, Transatlantic partnership endures, and the EU-US combo keeps cooperating closely on political, economic and security fronts. Only time will show which scenario will become a reality.

What is your prediction about the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom?

The experts often say that it “takes two to tango”, and I agree with it. The future relationship would be mutually beneficial only if there is a will, common understanding and constructive approach on both sides of La Manche. The EU made it clear in the past that the UK was not a standard “third country” due to its economic interdependence and its geographic proximity with the bloc.

The June Summit will be decisive, and I think that the UK should not expect the EU to change its position only because it is busy with tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. As in the past, the EU will remain united. Due to the fact that the UK government wants to stick to 31 December 2020 as a deadline for a deal, Hard Brexit is not very likely but still on the table.