POLITICS & POLICY
The negotiations linked to the third Greek bailout remain one of the main concerns of European politicians and institutions. Last week, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced a measure to benefit low-income pensioners all over the country. The policy had been backed by the opposition party New Democracy. However, on Wednesday, Germany asked the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) to check whether the new social benefits are consistent with the agreements made under the current second review of the third bailout agreement. Consequently, the ESM decided to put on hold the short-term debt relief measures approved by the Eurogroup last week.
Meanwhile, Tsipras argued that the International Monetary Fund should be kept out of any future negotiation between the Greek government and its international creditors. However, the involvement of the Washington-based financial institution is a prerequisite for Germany to continue to sustain the country. On the other hand, the German government and IMF officials continue to be on a collision course over the necessary primary budget surplus targets, which should be achieved by Greece from 2018 onwards.
In other news, Brexit continues to make the headlines in the UK and Brussels. On Thursday, UK Brexit Secretary David Davis confirmed that the Government will not release any official EU exit strategy before February 2017. Meanwhile, the House of Lords said that, according to the views of British business leaders, new tight immigration rules would damage London’s financial service sector. Likewise, the Flemish PM argued that Brexit could significantly hurt the Belgian region’s export industry.
On Wednesday, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, threatened EU Member States, the European Commission and the EU Council, to break the EU’s institutional front should the EP not be properly consulted in the ongoing Brexit negotiations. Similarly, the outgoing President of the EP, Martin Schulz, called for the EU Council chief Donald Tusk to reconsider its plans to assign to the Parliament a secondary role in the talks with UK representatives.
On Thursday evening the leaders of the 27 EU Member States will discuss how to proceed with the Brexit talks.
Over the past week, austerity-related discussions gained new prominence all over Europe. On Tuesday, the Spanish Parliament approved a motion that asks the Government to review the labour market reform introduced in 2012. The Parliamentary motion, which was supported by a left-wing coalition composed of the Socialist Party (PSOE), Podemos and Izquierda Unida (IU), has however no binding force. However, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy immediately replied to the motion defending the reforms introduced by the previous government. The labour market reform was approved by the former conservative Government which, at the time, held an absolute majority in the Parliament.
In the UK, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn challenged Prime Minister Theresa May, over the social care crisis that is hitting many local administrations in Great Britain. Over the past week, the Government gave local Councils the freedom to raise their taxes to cover social expenses. However, Corbyn questioned May’s approach, arguing that leaving the task to local administrations could jeopardize the quality of care services across the country.
Meanwhile, the Government of the Italian region of Emilia Romagna introduced a new social policy called “solidarity income”, aimed at supporting low income families. According to the official records of the regional authorities, some
80,000 persons will benefit from the new scheme, which foresees to top up individual income by €400 per month.
“There is no question that [a joint fiscal target for the Eurozone] would be a step towards deepening the euro area, an ambitious step for the euro area, and it is a step towards a form of a budgetary union,”
Pierre Moscovici, EU Commissioner for Economic Affairs
Source: EurActiv, 14.12.2016
The number of months any intra-EU migrant will need to work in another Member State before being entitled to unemployment benefits, according to a new proposal by Employment Commissioner Marianne Thyssen.
Source: EurActiv, 13.12.2016
Photo Credits CC European Council
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