POLITICS & POLICY
Discussions about the destiny of the European Union have gained prominence during the past few weeks, as several European leaders have evoked the scenario of a multi-speed Europe. After Jean-Claude Juncker presented the contents of the European Commission’s White Paper on the future of the EU, a top EU official claimed that the objective of a two-speed Europe represents a warning rather than a reality. The anonymous source cited by EUobserver claimed that the next Rome Summit will submit ideas of unity, and not disintegration. On Thursday, EUobserver wrote that it had access to a draft declaration by EU leaders to be shared with a wider public during the upcoming Rome summit. According to the Brussels-based outlet, the head of states and governments are going to take a much softer take on multi-speed Europe than expected. However, former President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy joined the reflections on a multi-speed Europe outlined by Juncker. Together with German MEP Elmar Brok, Van Rompuy drafted a position paper on the issue to be adopted by the European People’s Party group at the end of the month.
The conflict between the logics of “responsibility” and “fiscal consolidation” on the one hand, and “solidarity” and “public investments” on the other one, are shaping recent relations between the European Commission and the German government. Economic Commissioner Pierre Moscovici recently claimed that the Eurozone needs an independent budget managed by the European Commission with the aim of spurring growth through fiscal policies. Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble called instead for the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) to take up a wider role and replace the Commission in controlling Member States’ compliance with the Maastricht rules.
Next Wednesday, Dutch citizens are called to the ballot boxes to decide on the composition of the national Parliament. With the Freedom Party led by Geert Wilders scoring high in all recent polls, discussions on populism are gaining new traction among politicians across Europe. On Tuesday, MEPs and mayors met as to discuss strategies to face the populist threat. The vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, claimed that rural development policies are one of the keys to increase the trust in European institutions. Meanwhile, the European Commission and social partners met on Wednesday for the yearly Tripartite Social Summit.
In other news, Brexit continues to make the headlines in the UK. On Tuesday, a majority of members of the House of Lords voted against the prospect of a second referendum to validate the final Brexit deal between the UK and the EU. However, Britain’s upper chamber deliberated in favour of a vote of the Parliament on the final agreement. The vote comes as a blow to Theresa May’s plans. Moreover, Lord Heseltine was sacked by the government as he decided to steer the revolt of the Tories inside the Parliament. Meanwhile, a new poll suggests that Britons are against the UK leaving the European Union if a deal is not reached with the counterpart.
The relations between Poland and the rest of the European Union members reached a new low, as the Polish Government decided to increase the power of the legislative institutions over the judiciary. As EurActiv reports, deputy Justice Minister Marcin Warchol claimed that “society need to exert control over all powers”. More specifically a new bill would give the Polish Parliament the power to appoint 15 out the 25 members of the National Council of the Judiciary. Last year the European Commission called for the Polish government to backtrack on constitutional measures aimed at changing the power balance between the three branches of government.
The refugee crisis continues to be one of the main concerns of the European political class across the Continent. On Wednesday Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said that he will raise the issue of decreasing EU contributions to Member States who do not accept their migrant quotas. The declaration came right after the Hungarian government decided to hold newcomers in detention centres until a final ruling on their stay is issued by the competent courts. The European Commission and the European Council expressed their concerns with respect to the measures enacted by Hungarian authorities.
“The election of Marine Le Pen as President of the French Republic would represent the end of the European Union”
Pierre Moscovici, European Commissioner for Economic Affairs
Source: Handelsblatt, 08.03.2017
The number of migrants currently blocked on the Greek Aegean islands
Source: Ekathimerini, 08.03.2016
Photo Credits CC linthesky
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