POLITICS & POLICY
The level of terrorist alert has remained extremely high this week in the face of the attacks that took place both in France, where two armed men pledging allegiance to Daesh assaulted a church in Rouen, and Germany, where the bloodiest episode was due to a German teenager of Iranian descent who went on a rampage in a shopping centre in Munich (later, it was discovered that the rampage had nothing to do with Islamism). Since terror spreads all over Europe, this alert condition is expected to further European cooperation and integration on international security. Consistently with these expectations, the European Commission pledges “Europe’s solidarity and cooperation in the fight against barbarity”, as expressed in a letter to French President François Hollande after the attack in Rouen.
However, the European political scenario has evolved on other aspects too. After declaring that there won’t be any access to the Single Market for the UK without accepting freedom of movement, Jean-Claude Juncker named Frenchman Michel Barnier as the European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator. The appointment of Michel Barnier was not welcomed warmly in London, as he is perceived to be particularly hostile to the City given his tough stance on financial sector regulation during his time as commissioner in charge of the single market, from 2010 to 2014. In the meantime, after visiting Berlin and Paris last week, British Prime Minister Theresa May went to Rome on Wednesday, where she confirmed her willingness to take her time before triggering Article 50, while Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi urged a clear timeline be established so as to reduce Brexit-related uncertainties.
A conciliatory solution appears bound to take place as regards the sanctions on Spain and Portugal due to the breach of the deficit criteria imposed by the Stability and Growth Pact. Key economic commissioners, like the two Vice-Presidents Valdis Dombrovskis and Jyrki Katainen, backed a symbolic fine, but Jean-Claude Juncker opted for a zero penalty: this was a balanced approach aimed to show the Commission enforces the existing legislation without causing too much pain to citizens. An unlikely protagonist of this solution was German Finance Minsiter Wolfgang Schäuble: among the many political reasons that may have led Schäuble to change his mind, the first one seems the willingness not to hurt political ally Mariano Rajoy, the center-right Spanish leader who is struggling to put together a government after last month’s election. The same flexibility accorded to the Iberian peninsula may also be applied to Italy, as the Commission pledges a solution for Italian banks that will protect small investors, using the precautionary recapitalisation option foreseen under BRRD rules: under this clause, pre-existing EU state aid rules, and a “lighter” burden sharing would kick in. The executive and the Italian government are working on a proposal expected for the coming days, as the European Banking Authority will publish the results of its stress test on the financial sector on Friday 29 July.
Moreover, a number of issues involving Eastern Europe are emerging in Brussels. The Commission handed Poland a three-month deadline to reverse changes to its constitutional court to meet EU concerns over the rule-of-law and democracy: among the demands by the Commission are for the constitutional court rulings to be published. The move is the second step in an unprecedented procedure which could eventually see Warsaw’s voting rights in the European Council suspended. Also, east-west tensions keep increasing due to divergences on refugee crisis management. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán described the arrival of asylum seekers in Europe as “a poison”, saying his country did not want or need “a single migrant”, thus remarking his opposition to the plan to share migrants across the 28-nation bloc under a mandatory quota system–on which Hungary will hold a referendum on 2 October. Finally, EU-Turkey relations remain troublesome: after Turkey’s rejection of the criticism of the country’s state of emergency coming from European High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused European governments “not to be honest”, since they are not paying their way under a deal to send Syrian refugees back across the Aegean as established in March.
“There will be no access to the internal market for those who do not accept the rules – without exception or nuance – that make up the very nature of the internal market system.”
Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission President.
Source: EurActiv, 27/07/16.
“Every single migrant poses a public security and terror risk.”
Viktor Orbán, Hungarian Prime Minister.
Source: Politico, 27/07/2016
“The terrorists want to make us lose sight of what is important to us, break down our cohesion and sense of community as well as inhibiting our way of life, our openness and our willingness take in people who are in need. […] We’ll manage it and we’ve already managed a lot in the last 11 months.”
Angela Merkel, German Chancellor.
Source: EurActiv, 28/07/2016
The amount appropriated by the EU to help refugees in Turkey, about €740 million of which has already been allocated.
Source: EurActiv, 26/07/2016
The amount of “bad loans” within the Italian banking sector.
Source: EurActiv, 27/07/2016
The number of unaccompanied kids who applied for asylum in the EU in 2015.
Source: EurActiv, 29/07/2016
Photo Credits CC: Európa Pont