POLITICS & POLICY

Brexit is making the headlines, as the UK Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 to notify the EU about Britain’s intention to leave the Union. May sent a six-page letter to the representatives of the European institutions in Brussels, claiming that she was “giving effect to the democratic decision of the people of the UK”. The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, commented the reception of the letter saying that “there is no reason to pretend that this is a happy day”. But “Brexit has made the 27 EU Member states more united than before”, he added. Meanwhile, top EU diplomats contradicted the European Parliament on the possibility of revoking Article 50. Indeed, earlier this week, some MEPs suggested that Article 50 could be rolled back, on the basis of an agreement between the UK and the rest of EU Member states.

In Germany, an association of manufacturing industries (VDMA) called for the EU to not make concessions to the British government during the upcoming negotiations. At the same time, the executive director of VDMA said that everything needs to be done as to avoid a “no deal” scenario. The UK is the fourth largest export destination for the German mechanical engineering industry.

The refugee crisis continues to concern European politicians. On Monday, the Hungarian government said that it is ready to detain irregular migrants in detention centres along the southern border of the country. Over the past month, 324 container homes have been installed along the transit zones. The policy was approved by the national Parliament on 7 March and elicited harsh reactions all over Europe. Meanwhile, even the Austrian government said that it wants to drop out of the migrant relocation scheme approved back in 2015 by the EU institutions. Prime Minister Christian Kern argued that the country “deserves an exemption” , given that it has already fulfilled its duties if compared to other member states.

On Tuesday, the so-called Visegrad group, which includes the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland, blasted the European Commission, saying that they “will never accept diktats from Brussels on migration policies”. More importantly, the countries’ leaders said that it was unacceptable to link the migration issue to the allocation of EU funds. However, the Vice-President of the European Commission, Jyrki Katainen, recalled that solidarity, in the context of cohesion and migration, is not a “one-way street”. Katainen asked EU member states to contribute to the solution of this problem in a constructive way.

The campaign for the French presidential elections continues. On Tuesday, the Presidential candidate of the Socialist Party (PS), Benoit Hamon, visited Berlin. Talking about his meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Hamon said that the discussions “were amicable, but marked by different views”. Over the past months, Hamon has been critical of Germany’s management of the economic crisis. Hamon also met with the newly elected leader of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), Martin Schulz. Schulz granted full backing to Hamon in the French Presidential race, and said that “all socialist parties of Europe were supportive of his political project”. However, a few weeks ago, former SPD General Secretary, Sigmar Gabriel, suggested that the SPD would instead back Emmanuel Macron in his presidential bid.

Negotiations over the second revision of the third bailout agreement between Greece and its international creditors continue to make the headlines in Greece and Brussels. After a few months of deadlock, Greek authorities seem to be willing to accept the privatization of the country’s Public energy company (PPC). Over the past few weeks negotiations were stuck due to disagreements on the exact quantity of shares that should be sold by the Greek government. Meanwhile, the European Central Bank suffered a blow as Transparency International, a major anti-corruption organization, claimed that the European institution needs to revise its functioning and become more transparent. Earlier this month, former Finance Minister of Greece Yanis Varoufakis and Fabio De Masi, a MEP from the German left party Die Linke, launched a public campaign calling for the ECB to release documents linked to the 2015 negotiations between the Troika (composed of the ECB, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission) and Greece.


THE STATEMENT

“The EU should have an integration attitude, which means, create conditions for collaboration, resist the separatist tendencies for creating some kind of clubs within the EU”.

Andrzej Duda, President of Poland

Source: EurActiv, 28.03.2017


NUMBERS

€1.65 billion

The amount that the Spanish Popular Party (PP) and Ciudadanos agreed to earmark for new social measures in 2017.

Source: El Pais, 29.03.2016


Photo Credits CC Number 10 


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