Change occurs at a glacial pace in Brussels, spurred forward by the slow grind of seeking consensus among 27 diverse nation-states. Exhibit A is the past year, where it took a global pandemic to rub out longstanding red lines on the issuance of joint debt among member states. It was back in May 2020 when the recovery fund, dubbed “Next Generation EU,” was first proposed; it went on to be approved in December, and an initial tranche worth €20 billion was raised via a sale of 10-year bonds in mid-June. Those funds are now expected to be disbursed to Portugal sometime in the next month.
Over a year from proposal to disbursement is hardly a frenetic pace. Yet it’s difficult to overstate the importance of this latest evolution in the EU institutional framework, however long it was in the making. The size and symbolism of the recovery plan represent another step toward ‘ever-closer union,’ and the political aftershocks will continue to be felt long after the COVID-19 pandemic has faded from the collective consciousness.