POLITICS & POLICY
After the Berlin terrorist attacks that occurred on Monday, the debate on national security became prominent in German politics. Predictably, this debate was swiftly linked to the refugee crisis by right-wing parties such as the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) and the populist Alternative für Deutschland (AFD). Horst Seehofer, the leader of the CSU, criticised Chancellor Angela Merkel for the low levels of security in the country and pointed at the risks stemming from uncontrolled immigration flows. Seehofer’s words provoked a rift within its own party and the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) between members who have criticised Merkel’s immigration policies over the past few years, and those who have granted unconditional backing to the Prime Minister. On Thursday, the Bavarian Minister of the Interior Joachim Hermann, also from the CSU, argued that new provisional detention centres should be established on German soil in order to better identify the people reaching the country. However, in a sign of national cohesion, in the wake of the tragedy the vast majority of the country’s mainstream parties backed Angela Merkel during the past few days.
Negotiations linked to the Greek bailout are back under the spotlight. On Tuesday, the Eurogroup Working Group (EWG) gathered in Brussels to discuss the new short term benefits for pensioners approved by the Syriza-led government. In particular, the EWG was concerned about the potential consequences of the policy measures on the fiscal adjustment path of Greece. The EWG asked the Greek government to send a letter to the representatives of the European institutions showing that the social benefits will not systematically increase public spending. However, Greek Minister of Finance Euclid Tsakalotos refused to do so on Wednesday, asking for more precise information about the institutional lenders’ requirements before making any promise.
Meanwhile, as the main conservative opposition party New Democracy called for snap elections, the Greek Prime Minister intervened in the debate on Wednesday. Alexis Tsipras said that elections are off the table at the moment. He confirmed that the Government will stay in charge until the end of its mandate, namely September 2019. Moreover, the PM called for EU Member States to tackle the uncertainty that Europe is facing everywhere. In what sounded like a reference to the condition of his country and to its relations with northern European countries, he said that “blocking the potential of a country of the EU would imply ‘shooting in its own feet’”.
In other news, the politics of austerity makes the headlines across the UK. Great Britain looks likely to suffer a harsh social care crisis during the winter. Tim Farron, a leader of the Liberal Democratic party, said that “the NHS is facing a massive crisis and most politicians seem happy to look the other way”. Over the past few weeks the issue has been at the centre of debates between the Conservative and the Labour parties. On Wednesday, questioned by the Commons liaison committee, UK Prime Minister Theresa May assured that the Government is looking for a long term solution to the problem. The crisis of the NHS results from the harsh austerity policies the UK has implemented in the past few years. According to new data released by Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office, Britain’s austerity policies are similar to those of poorer nations of the EU. The UK is the only “rich Member State” who cut welfare spending for four years in a row. Meanwhile, social protest is growing even in other sectors of the economy, notably transport.
“I am worried that under the conditions of loose fiscal policies [across Europe], monetary policies might get under pressure and that, eventually, the [needed] increase of interest rates will be delayed”.
Jens Weidmann, President of the German Bundesbank
Source: Handelsblatt, 22.12.2016
The number of UK homes that should benefit from a new broadband investment policy supported by the Government
Source: The Guardian, 22.12.2016
Photo Credits CC Risen1
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