POLITICS & POLICY
Greece is back under the spotlight. On Wednesday, the Greek government and international creditors were unable to reach an agreement over the second review of the current bailout program. After having met the President of the European Council in Athens on Wednesday, Alexis Tsipras warned that he will call for a special EU meeting in case solutions are not found soon. Tusk remembered that EU Member states stand by Greece’s side towards the objective of overcoming the economic crisis. As reported by Euractiv, the pension reform currently represents the main bone of contention. On Friday the Eurogroup will meet in Brussels and discuss again potential new reforms to finalise the second review. Meanwhile the President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi – holding a speech at the Goethe University of Frankfurt – claimed that he doesn’t foresee a reversal of the current monetary policy, namely the quantitative easing program. Draghi claimed that the economic recovery is “gradually gaining traction”. On Wednesday the President of the German Bundesbank Jens Weidmann called for the ECB to reduce its monthly volume of money injections, as to cool down inflationary trends in Northern Europe.
As the first round of the French Presidential elections looms, the electoral campaign gains momentum in the European political debate. In a recent tv-debate the 11 Presidential candidates had the occasion to confront on their visions on Europe. The main clash was between the leader of the Front National, Marine Le Pen, and former Economic Minister, Emmanuel Macron. The former pledged to hold a referendum on the EU membership of France. Macron replied that European history showed that “nationalism equates to war”. Meanwhile, all polls show Benoit Hamon – candidate of the Socialist Party (PS) – lagging behind all other main candidates, in fifth position. Nevertheless, on the occasion of a meeting in Nancy, Hamon claimed that he has not lost faith in a last minute electoral success, based on the turnout of undecided voters. As Le Monde reports, teachers and University pupils are among the most undecided voters.
The Austrian government stated the intention to drop out of the refugee relocation scheme established by the European Commission in 2015, thus generating new tensions between EU member states. The EC President, Jean Claude Juncker, called for Vienna to keep its word and proceed with the relocation of 1,900 migrants from Greece and Italy. Whereas the Austrian Minister of Interior, Wolfgang Sobotka, admitted that the country is forced to execute the program, Chancellor Christian Kern argued there might still be room for some flexibility. Meanwhile, the European Parliament called for the EU institutions to become more transparent about the way the so called “migration compact” agreements with third countries are struck. All the more important, the EP backed the UN campaign “Together” aimed at facing the negative public discourse on migrants and refugees.
In other news, Brexit continues to make the headlines in the UK, Spain and Brussels. On Wednesday, the EP set out the red lines for the upcoming negotiations with Downing Street. The European Parliament is required to give its final consent to the Brexit deal, at the end of the two-year negotiation process. The leader of the European People’s party Group, Manfred Weber, said that the EU will back Ireland and Spain in its confrontations with the UK over joint territories and borders. All EU representatives, however, agreed that a “no-deal scenario” would be the worst case scenario for both the UK and Europe.
Meanwhile, in Madrid the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy officially asked for political backing from the opposition to deal with the negative consequences of Brexit for the country. Rajoy stated that negotiating at the same time UK’s exit from the EU and the future relationship between the two might prove to be too difficult a task: so far, Prime Minister’s request has been supported by the Socialist Party (PSOE). Moreover, Rajoy argued that the protection of fundamental rights of Spanish citizens living in the UK shall be a priority for Madrid during the negotiations.
“Orban’s actions against the Central European University are an attack on knowledge and democracy. Europe must respond firmly and decisively”.
Gianni Pittella, Leader of the Social & Democrats Group (S&D) at the European Parliament
Source: EUobserver, 06.04.2017
The number of people who cross from Spain to Gibraltar every day.
Source: The Guardian, 06.04.2016
Photo Credits CC m.p.3.
Also published on Medium.