POLITICS & POLICY
On Tuesday, European Parliament members elected the European People Party’s (EPP) MEP Antonio Tajani as new President of the EP. Tajani secured 351 votes against the 282 votes obtained by his main challenger, Gianni Pittella from the Social and Democrats (S&D). According to many political analysts, the election of Tajani marks a major shift in the EP’s stance vis-à-vis the European integration project, for the Italian conservative was backed by the Eurosceptic European Conservative & Reformists (ECR) group. The ECR granted its support after the Italian MEP came up with a statement on the future of Europe arguing, among other things, that: “The solutions [to the problems of Europe] are not found in more and more Europe, neither are they found in blowing up the European project”.
Moreover, as EUobserver underlines “Tajani’s win marks the end of a time-honoured cooperation between the parliament’s two largest groups […] and gives the EPP the leadership in three EU institutions, along with Jean-Claude Juncker at the Commission and Donald Tusk at the EU Council”. On the other hand, the break-up of the S&D-EPP alliance paves the way for a progressive front within the European Parliament.
The elections of the new EP President triggered some changes within other EU institutions. As a consequence of the new alliance between the EPP and the Liberal group (ALDE), Commissioner Margrethe Vestager could take over the vice-Presidency of the Commission replacing Kristalina Georgieva, who resigned from the position earlier in October.
In other news, reactions to Theresa May’s speech outlining the UK’s Brexit strategy continue to make the headlines in Britain and elsewhere in Europe. On Tuesday, Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon claimed that the probability of Scotland holding a second independence referendum increased, as Westminster is heading towards a “hard Brexit” that would exclude the UK from the European Single Market. On Wednesday, the mayor of London Sadiq Khan warned that the Government’s strategy on Brexit could tear the country apart and put younger generations’ well-being at risk. Moreover, David Isaac, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, warned that with the start of official negotiations between the EU and the UK, hate crimes against EU citizens could rise again.
Across the Channel, national leaders and EU institutions underlined the “clarity of May’s message”. However, most of them claimed that now the UK needs to trigger Article 50 in order to rapidly proceed with official negotiations. Harsh comments came from the current Brexit negotiator for the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, who said that the UK will not be, in any circumstances, better off outside the Single Market. Verhofstadt also claimed that threatening to transform the UK in a financial tax haven at the borders of the EU does not look like a promising negotiation strategy.
Meanwhile, diplomatic relations between France and the UK are suffering a blow as Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson compared Francois Hollande’s attitude towards Brexit with the behaviour of Nazis during World War II. On Tuesday, before May’s speech, France’s Economic and Finance Minister Michel Sapin argued that the British government is “helpless” as it has no real Brexit plan.
“Policymakers must deliver a vision of a better future – something that is lacking in Europe right now”
Pier Carlo Padoan, Italian Minister of Finance
Source: The Guardian, 18.01.2017
The number of British pensioners living in Spain who are at risk of losing free health care services as a consequence of Brexit
Source: The Guardian, 18.01.2017
Photo Credits CC European People’s Party
Also published on Medium.