POLITICS & POLICY
Discussions on the future of the European Union have been under the spotlight during the past few days, as European heads of state and government met in Rome on Saturday for the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. The common declaration signed at the meeting contains a shared commitment to enhancing security inside the Union and along its external borders; working towards a prosperous and sustainable Europe based on the Single Market; establishing a stronger social Union and, finally, increasing the EU’s prominence on the global scene. The positive attitude of the leaders gathered in Rome, was opposed by the leader of the French Front National (FN), Marine Le Pen. Speaking to a crowd in Lille, in north-eastern France, on Sunday, Le Pen said that people cannot stand the EU anymore, and that “this arrogant and hegemonic empire will perish”.
German politics are back under the spotlight, as regional elections were held in the State region of Saarland, in the south-west part of the country. Although Saarland is among the smallest regions of Germany, the elections were widely seen as a first litmus test for the new Social Democratic leader, Martin Schulz. However, the governing Christian Democratic Union won the elections comfortably, leaving the SPD 11 percentage points behind. The negative result of the SPD triggered harsh reactions on the left side of the party spectrum, with the radical leftist party, Die Linke, accusing Martin Schulz of having little substance beyond his rhetoric. On the other hand, the leader of Christian Social Union (CSU), Horst Seehofer, said that “the results show that the conservatives have to be confident in Angela Merkel’s ability to steer the electoral campaign”, and eventually win the next general election.
In other news, Boiko Borisov, leader of the pro-EU centre-right party, European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), won the country’s election ahead of the pro-Russian Socialist party (BSP). The results may lead to difficult negotiations between parties in order to create a coalition government. This was the third election in four years in the poorest country of the European Union. Borisov resigned as Prime Minister last November, because of his party’s defeat in the Presidential race.
Brexit continues to be one of the main concerns of politicians in the United Kingdom. On Saturday, thousands of British citizens took the streets of London to show they support to the European Union. According to organisers some 80,000 people voiced they discontent with respect to Brexit. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to trigger Article 50 on Wednesday. However, representatives of the UK manufacturers warned Downing Streets that the country needs to find an agreement with the EU on a trade deal and that a “no-deal” scenario would simply be unacceptable. The Brexit spokesman for the Labour party, Keir Starmer, voiced his concerns about the intentions of the Conservative party. Starmer said that the Labour party will not back any deal “that does not provide the exact same benefits as the Single Market”. However, over the past few months the European Commission made it clear that the UK cannot have “its cake and eat it too”.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) is back under the spotlight, as his only MP, Douglas Carswell, quit the party and moved into the independent group within the Parliament. Carswell had joined UKIP only two years ago, before the EU referendum campaign. Explaining his reasons to leave the party, he said that “he had accomplished his political mission”. After the recent defeat at the Stoke-on-Trent Central local by-elections, UKIP seems in disarray. Only a few weeks ago, Arron Banks, the leading party donor, quit the formation.
“After the financial, economic and refugee crises, it is urgently necessary for Europe to come up with a social agenda. Many people are afraid that globalisation and digitalisation are going to jeopardise their jobs. They want clear answers on how a minimum of security can be achieved”.
Thomas Oppermann, Chairman of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD)
Source: EurActiv, 27.03.2017
The percentage of so-called “posted workers” over the total labour force in Europe.
Source: EUobserver, 24.03.2016
Photo Credits CC Guled Ahmed
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