POLITICS & POLICY
On Friday 26th Angela Merkel met with the Prime Ministers of Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, in Warsaw to discuss the prospects of the European Union in the wake of the results of the British EU referendum. The encounter served as well to define a common ground for the post-Brexit discussions to be held at the institutional meeting of 16th of September in Bratislava. Angela Merkel affirmed that the Brexit vote represented a break in the history of European integration that points to the need for better communication within the bloc. However, the leaders of the Visegrad-countries sized the opportunity to push for a common security agenda. In point of fact, the Hungarian Prime Minister, Victor Orban, claimed that the EU is in need of a common European Army. Although his request was shared by most of his Eastern colleagues, Bohuslav Sobotka, Prime Mnister of the Czech Republic, showed a more cautious take on the matter, stating that the establishment of a joint army is not an “easy project”.
The worries about territorial security expressed by the leaders of Eastern Europe are linked to the never ending refugee crisis: the management of migration flows remains one of the most pressing concerns for the political leaders of the continent. Indeed, already in the run up to the intergovernmental meeting of the 26th, several European countries blamed Angela Merkel for her notorious “we can handle this” approach, outlined one year ago. In Austria, both the ministers of Defence and of Foreign Affairs, Hans Peter Doskozil and Sebastian Kurz, accused the German Chancellor of “irresponsibility”. Moreover, Angela Merkel had been booed and cheered by protesters on her arrival in Prague last week. However, the Chancellor is facing fresh barrages of criticism as well in Germany. On Saturday, the Finance and Home affairs minister of Bavaria, Markus Söder, claimed that Germans do not want “a multicultural society”. He stressed the need to relocate hundreds of thousands of refugees to their countries of origin. Most importantly, the vice-Chancellor and Minister of the Economy, Sigmar Gabriel, claimed that the Christian-Democratic party (CDU) blocked political measures to foster the integration of migrants over the last year. He stated that a cap on the number of incoming refugees shall sooner or later become inevitable. However Angela Merkel took issue with the vice-Chancellor’s declarations and invited his colleague to not escape his own responsibilities on the matter.
Although Germany’s political dynamics remain a key factor to understand the evolution of the European response to the refugee problem, the migration crisis remains a matter of concern as well in France. During a rally in the city of Touquet, northern France, the former President of the Republic, Nicola Sarkozy, said that the famous “Calais Joungle” – an unofficial refugee camp located near the French port – should be shifted over to the UK. However, the Minister of Housing, Emmanuelle Cosse, invited his country to buckle down on the refugee issue and declared to be ready to requisite public buildings to host migrants.
Besides the refugee crisis, the Brexit debate continues to be order of the day. On Friday 26th Iain Duncan Smith reaffirmed the need for the UK to trigger rapidly the article 50, the untested protocol for leaving the European Union. However, inside the Government, the formulation of a clear Brexit strategy, became a bone of contention between ministers that campaigned for different sides in the run up to the EU referendum. In point of fact, the treatment of EU-workers seems to be a delicate problem to solve. Amid these tensions Theresa May summoned a meeting for Wednesday the 31st in order to outline a way forward. On Sunday, the German minister of the Economy, Sigmar Gabriel, affirmed that the “UK can’t just keep the nice things after Brexit”, pointing to the fact that any special treatment of Great Britain would threaten the political cohesion of the Union. In the meantime, the former Remain campaign, known as Britain Stronger In, relaunched a new civil initiative, called Open Britain, to ensure that the UK remains an attractive spot for the rest of the world. In Scotland, Ruth Davison, the Scottish Conservative leader, took issue with the Prime Minister and SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon. Davidson claimed that the Scottish Government should stop evoking a second independence referendum and instead put stability of the country first on its agenda. A somewhat provocative proposal came from former UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who suggested that EU related power making could shift from Westminster and Brussels to Edinburgh in the frame of a rethinking of UK’s constitutional structure.
“The agreement between the EU and Turkey is the sign of incomprehensible panicking, as if the EU with its 510 millions of citizens was not able to welcome and integrate 5 million refugees. In the name of panic we sacrifice what 200 years of established right of asylum”.
Dimitris Christopoulos, President of the International Federation for Human Rights.
Source: LeMonde, 28/08/2016
“TTIP negotiations between EU and US have de facto failed”.
Sigmar Gabriel, Vice-Chancellor and Minister of the Economy of Germany
Source: Reuters, 29/08/2016
The number of new refugees Germany can cope with, according to the head of the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, Frank Jürgen Weise.
Source: Politico, 28/08/2016
The percentage of Spanish pensioners that get less than 1,000 euro a month.
Source: ElMundo, 27/08/2016
Photo Credits CC: Photo Unit