POLITICS & POLICY
The diplomatic relations between the European institutions and the Polish Government are at a new low after Warsaw decided to push for a constitutional reform that would limit the freedom of the judiciary branch vis-à-vis the government. On Wednesday, the vice-president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, told the press in Brussels that the EU is ready to trigger Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty, according to which a Member State can lose its voting rights if it is in breach of the common values of the Union. The Foreign Minister of Luxembourg, Jean Asselborn, defined the situation in Poland as breathtaking. Critical comments also came from the German Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel. So far, the Polish Foreign Affairs Ministry has replied that any criticism against the country’s government is premature, given that the reform process has just begun. Meanwhile, even the International Monetary Fund blasted Poland, calling for the Government to respect the financial rules set by European treaties.
The outlook of the Greek economy continues to be one of the main topics of discussion in Brussels and Germany. According to the German economic newspaper Handelsblatt, international private investors are looking forward to Athens being able to raise cash on financial markets again. Over the past few years, the Hellenic country avoided a bankruptcy only thanks to funding from European and International institutional creditors. However, the current bailout program is set to expire next year, in August. By then, it is fundamental that Greece stands on its own feet in front of international investors. However, a Greek Government spokesman said that Athens will make the critical move only once ready. On Tuesday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras defended the economic and social policies of his government, and underlined the improvements of the national labour market.
In other news, Brexit continues to make the headlines in the UK and across Europe. After British representatives visited Brussels for the second round of negotiations, about 60 prominent personalities of the Scottish civil society wrote an open letter to Downing Streets asking for Prime Minister Theresa May to change the UK stance on Brexit and halt the exit from the European Union. Likewise, the House of Lords warned that Brexit represents an existential challenge for the British political system. Indeed Theresa May seems to struggle to keep her cabinet in line on the matter. On the occasion of the latest Prime Minister’s question time, Theresa May said that there is “no such thing as an ‘unsackable’ minister”. According to recent polls, the Labour party has taken the lead over the Tories in the preferences of the British public opinion.
Meanwhile, the UK economy is slowing down after a first year of bold resistance against the prospects of Brexit. Some financial experts said that business actors of the City could take a decision on whether to move away from the country by 2017. Likewise, European capitals are stepping up their efforts to win the race to host some of the European agencies currently based in London.
The migrant and refugee crisis continues to divide EU member states. Whereas Germany defends the so-called Dublin regulation, southern European member states such as Italy continue to call for European institutions to have a larger role in the management of immigration flows. On Tuesday, Austrian interior minister Wolfgang Sobotka threatened Italian authorities, claiming that Vienna is ready to close its southern borders. On Tuesday, new clashes between asylum seekers and Greek authorities took place on the island of Lesbos, in the Aegean sea. Meanwhile, the German Minister for Internal Affairs, Thomas de Maizière, blasted the NGOs operating the Mediterranean sea to rescue migrants who attempt to reach the European coasts. De Maizière’s intervention came after a public discussion on the matter broke out in Italy a few weeks ago. However, many German opposition parties attacked the German minister, claiming that he should be grateful to the organisations for taking concrete action in tackling the crisis.
“There continues to be a need for a loose monetary policy [by the ECB] that strengthens the economic outlook [of the Eurozone]”
Francois Villeroy, President of the Central Bank of France
Source: Handelsblatt, 19.07.2017
The proportion of Irish citizens covered by private healthcare insurance.
Source: Irish Times, 18.07.2017
Photo Credits CC:European Parliament
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