Politics & Policy
The strategy to deal with the uncertainty raised by the EU Referendum of 23 June seems to be increasingly focused on putting new efforts to relaunch the European project. This is what emerges from the meeting of Angela Merkel, François Hollande and Matteo Renzi on the island of Ventotene on Monday: here the three leaders urged more cooperation on security and job creation and help for young Europeans in an effort to lay the groundwork for an informal summit on the future of the EU without the UK, on 16 September in Bratislava. Also, the summit has been crucial for the Italian Prime Minister, asking about flexibility to finance investment in 2017 in order to kickstart Italy’s timid economic growth.The intentions to proceed in the path toward European integration have been also reaffirmed by Angela Merkel, who has later pointed out that Brexit won’t dominate the Bratislava summit, as it is important to set an agenda on all the priorities of the EU. The German Chancellor has indeed kicked off a tour of EU capitals in order to create consensus among EU member states not just on the common stance in the Brexit process, but also on other contentious issues, as in the case of migration.
Exactly on migration Germany is trying to set an important example: Italy’s Minister of the Interior, Angelino Alfano has announced that Germany has agreed to take in hundreds of migrants who are blocked in Italy in a move that might revive the relocation program. Together with Alfano, Greek migration minister Yannis Mouzalas has urged EU member states to step up the relocation of migrants within the bloc, thus following Germany’s lead. Yet, resistance to any form of concessions on the matter keeps on coming from Eastern Europe. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that the EU is unable to keep the promise made to Turkey concerning the possibility for Turkish citizens to travel without visa to Europe. This statement contributes to exacerbating tensions between the EU and Turkey, which are not just becoming greater, but also more complex over time.
Ahead of his visit to Turkey, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has exhibited strong support for Ankara, blaming the EU for showing “absolute non-solidarity” in the case of the refugee crisis and depicting Turkey as Bulgaria’s only ally in order to provide stability to the region of South Eastern Europe. Not as supportive toward Ankara as Borissov’s stance is the one expressed by EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who has called on the Turkish government to address the question of whether they are willing to fulfil the criteria to join the EU. In the meantime, diplomatic strains between Turkey and Austria have reached a new stage, as Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has declared that the Turkish ambassador to Vienna has been recalled to Ankara in order to review the relations between the two countries: in the past weeks several Austrian government officials had expressed serious concerns and hostility about the EU accession of Turkey.
Furthermore, rising tensions affecting European politics are coming from Russia. Ukraine remains the greatest matter of contention, as president Petro Poroshenko has recently revived worries over Russian expansionism, stating that Ukraine can’t “rule out a full-scale Russian invasion”. In the meantime, Angela Merkel has reiterated the intention not to lift EU’s sanctions against Russia, which have been extended until the end of January 2017. Yet, some form of mediation seem to be brought by Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico in a visit to Russia aimed at carrying Putin’s messages to the EU ahead of crucial meetings concerning the Union’s future.
As an unexpected byproduct, the aforementioned tensions may contribute to lessening other controversial issues, especially for what concerns government debt. On the one hand, the EU social affairs commissioner Marianne Thyssen has defended the reliability of Greek statistics on the country’s debt, and called on Athens to counter “misleading media reports” that the data was falsified. On the other hand, the Romanian government has announced the release of the first tranche of a 60 million euro loan to Moldova, in a bid to prevent the neighbouring nation from economic collapse and help it maintain a pro-European course.
“Turkey should soon make clear, whether it can and wants to accept the conditions [to join the EU]. This open question puts a strain on relations.”
Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Enlargement.
Source: EUObserver, 17/08/2016
“I think the Stability Pact has quite a lot of flexibility that we can use in a clever way. That is the responsibility of the Commission – it’s not one member state that decides vis-a-vis another.”
Angela Merkel, German Chancellor.
Source: EurActiv, 23/08/2016
“Under my leadership, Labour won’t give the Tories a blank cheque. We will vote in Parliament to block any attempt to invoke Article 50 until Theresa May commits to a second referendum or a general election on whatever EU exit deal emerges at the end of the process.”
Owen Smith, candidate for the leadership of British Labour Party.
Source: Politico, 24/08/2016
Amount that an EU exit would cost to Scotland by 2030, according to a Scottish government analysis.
Source: EUObserver, 23/08/2016
People that are ready to be relocated from Greece to other EU member states, according to migration minister Yannis Mouzalas.
Source: EUObserver, 24/08/2016
Real investment contraction in the first quarter of 2016 in Poland due to the constitutional crisis, according to credit ratings agency Moody’s.
Source: EurActiv, 26/08/2016
Photo Credits CC: European Week of Regions and Cities