POLITICS & POLICY
The economic development of EU member states, as well as the governance of the Eurozone, remain top priorities for politicians and institutions all over Europe. This week the European Commission (EC) has released a new round of analysis on the economic outlook of EU member states. The EC rounded on Italy for not having done enough to correct its excessive budget deficit. Commission experts called for the Italian government to introduce a correction in the budget law aimed at reducing the deficit by €3.4 billion. At the same time, the EC criticized Germany for running an excessive trade surplus. The Commissioner for Economic Affairs, Pierre Moscovici, called Berlin to increase its public investments: “The excessive trade surplus is not only an issue for the German economy, but represents a hurdle as well for the whole Eurozone”, he said.
Meanwhile, the German Bundesbank renewed its criticism against the monetary policy of the European Central Bank (ECB). More precisely, on Wednesday the Bundesbank announced that the risk profile of her balance sheet increased because of the quantitative easing programme promoted by the ECB President Mario Draghi.
Brexit continues to be the main concern of the political class in the UK. According to new estimates by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), net migration to the United Kingdom will remain over 300,000–way above Theresa May’s post-Brexit target. These figures are seen as a blow to the “take back control” argument that was used by Brexiteers in the run up to the June 2016 referendum. According to experts, statistics show that it is unlikely that immigration will decrease before the Brexit negotiations will be over. Meanwhile, UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson is back under the spotlight for having called Brexit a “liberation” during the recent Munich security conference. Johnson has been accused of “bad taste” and openly criticized by some Swedish members of the European Parliament.
The refugee crisis remains at the heart of the public debate all over Europe. On Wednesday, Robert Crepinko, the Head of Europol’s Migrant Smuggling Centre, released an interview to the German newspaper Die Welt. Crepinko claimed that the business of smugglers is reaching a new hike, and warned that the EU needs to keep both eyes open on the activities of ISIS in Libya. Meanwhile, 17 minors who managed to enter the UK as refugees wrote a letter to the government, calling for Theresa May not to shut down the UK government’s scheme to help unaccompanied minors.
In other news, fears of a Grexit scenario continue to make the headlines in Europe. On Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with the Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, in Berlin. The two leaders discussed the prospects of the Greek economy. Over the past few months Berlin and the Fund have been a the centre of a row over the restructuring of the Greek debt. According to the IMF, the country’s debt is unsustainable and any further austerity measure should be carefully evaluated against the risk of an anemic growth in the country. Moreover the Fund said that it will consider dropping out of the bailout programme in case no debt restructuring is included in the deal. At the same time, the participation of the IMF remains a key requisite for German authorities to approve the programme. As underlined by El Pais, no official comments were released after the meeting in Berlin.
The developments on the far-right political landscape continue to make the headlines across Europe. In France, the Front National is still under the spotlight because of the investigations conducted by Brussels institutions on the misuse of EU funds. The lawyers of the party argued that the Marine Le Pen is the victim of political “manipulation”. Meanwhile, in Germany the far-right Alternative fur Deutschland suffered is decreasing in opinion polls. According to recent figures, the party touched an all-time low of 8%. Some political analysts have hinted at a possible shift of preferences from the AFD to the Social Democratic party, following the latter’s selection of former European Parliament president Martin Schulz as its Chancellor Candidate.
“If the Front National wins the [French Presidential] elections, the consequences will be irreparable”.
Bernard Cazeneuve, Prime Minister of France
Source: Le Monde, 23.02.2017
The growth of the German economy in 2016, placing the country at the top of the G7 club.
Source: The Guardian, 23.02.2017
Photo Credits CC Christine und Hagen Graf
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