POLITICS & POLICY
After the resignation and the last Prime Minister’s Questions session of David Cameron, the formation of the new British government that will be in charge of dealing with the transition towards Brexit has taken place quite rapidly this week. Theresa May, the new British PM and former Home Secretary in Cameron’s government, has clarified at once that no second EU referendum is going to take place in the UK. Despite the remarkable rapidity with which the British political impasse has been solved, criticism at the international level has been raised by the appointment of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary in the new government: both the French and German foreign ministers have expressed concerns about his figure, respectively calling him “a liar with his back to the wall” and someone whose behaviour has been “monstrous”. This might suggest that the path towards Brexit is not going to be very smooth.
Meanwhile, all of the efforts in the Continent are dedicated to push EU-27 to stick together and to possibly promote initiatives aimed at avoiding further disintegration. German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen has proposed to form a EU defence union, which appears to be feasible after Brexit, as the UK has traditionally been one of the strongest opponents to the project. Along the same line, French President François Hollande has launched an initiative that will take him all around Europe during the next weeks, visiting Portugal, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and Ireland, in order to follow up on work already started with Angela Merkel and Matteo Renzi and give “a new impulse to Europe at 27 in the areas of defence, growth, employment and competitiveness”. New efforts are being made in the area of international trade as well: various meetings have been held between Canada, the Commission, Bulgaria and Romania, in an effort to avoid a possible veto from Sofia and Bucharest on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada, due to Canada’s restrictions on Bulgaria and Romania concerning its visa-free regime which is granted to all other EU member states.
However, efforts to progress towards a greater degree of European integration might be hindered by hostilities within the EU. One of the last controversies sees the Iberian Peninsula against the EU Commission: Eurozone finance ministers have given the Commission the green light to pursue potential sanctions against Spain and Portugal for failing to meet the bloc’s budgetary rules; as a result, the two country could face a maximum fine of 0.2% of their GDP. Another enduring matter of contention is given by migration issues: as Italy overtakes Greece as Europe’s migration frontline, with about 750 people arriving per day vis-à-vis around 50 in Greece after the EU-Turkey migration deal, increasing pressure for an orderly management of the phenomenon is put on European institutions. On the one hand, the Commission has proposed a set of new rules that would harmonise asylum procedures and would deter claimants from travelling from one EU country to another. On the other hand, Frontex, which is due to become the European New Border and Coast Guard Agency by October, is developing migration “stress tests” based on the system used to evaluate the resilience of banks to economic shocks, in a bid to stop future refugee crises in the passport-free Schengen zone. Finally, the Commission presented a new proposal aimed at replacing the 1996 directive on posted workers, following the indication of France, Germany, and Belgium. Yet, 11 national parliaments (Denmark, Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia and Slovakia) have used their “yellow cards”–the subsidiarity control mechanism introduced with the Lisbon Treaty–against the proposed new directive, which would align the tax regimes of posted workers with those of local workers, and would limit their missions to two years. The debate has thus exposed a deep east-west divide.
“Brexit means Brexit, and we are going to make a success of it”
Theresa May, British Prime Minister.
Source: Politico, 11/07/16.
“The EU needs an asylum system which is both effective and protective, based on common rules, solidarity and a fair sharing of responsibilities. The proposed reforms will make sure that persons in genuine need of international protection get it quickly, but also that those who do not have the right to receive protection in the EU can be returned swiftly”
Frans Timmermans, First Vice President of the European Commission.
Source: Politico, 13/07/16.
“Clearly we have to give effect to the will of people in the referendum, but that does not mean in any sense, leaving Europe.There is a massive difference between leaving the EU and our relations with Europe, which if anything I think are going to be intensified and built up at an intergovernmental level”
Boris Johnson, British Foreign Secretary.
Source: Independent, 14/07/16.
The percentage of GDP spent by Greece on defence, which places Greece in the second place among NATO members, behind the United States.
Source: EUObserver, 05/07/2016
The number of years it might take to complete the process leading the UK outside of the EU, according to British former Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.
Source: Guardian, 12/07/2016
The number of people arriving in Germany (both from inside and outside the EU) in 2015, as recently revealed by federal statistics. This is the highest number in the history of the country.
Source: Politico, 14/07/2016
Photo Credits CC: European External Action Service