POLITICS & POLICY
The Transatlantic Trade Investment and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is back in the spotlight. On Sunday 28th the German vice-Chancellor and Minister of the Economy, Sigmar Gabriel, affirmed that the trade negotiations between the US and the EU have “de-facto failed”. The statement came as a bolt from the blue and rapidly provoked a chain of reactions across the political landscape. The day after, the European Commission spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, affirmed that the EC is ready to finalise the negotiations before the end of the year. On the same vein, a spokesman of the US Trade Representative claimed that negotiations are making continuous improvements. However, Gabriel’s declarations truly opened a Pandora’s box. Both the German Liberal party (FDP) and Christian Democratic party (CDU) called the government to step in and reaffirm its commitment to conclude the trade deal. The Italian Minister of Economic Development, Carlo Calenda, confirmed that the international agreement plays a crucial role in strengthening the country’s export. The negotiations may take some more time but a final deal is inevitable, he said. On Tuesday 30th, Gabriel poured oil on the fire blaming the US and its missing availability to compromise for the halt of the negotiations. To make matters worse, French Trade Minister Matthias Fekl said that his country demands “the pure, simple and definitive stop of the negotiations”. On the same wavelength Bernd Lange, Chair of the European Parliament Committee on International Trade, the EU and US are “flogging a dead horse” on TTIP. In the meantime, on Wednesday the 31st the NGOs Foodwatch, Campact and Mehr Demokratie committed a constitutional complaint to the German Constitutional Court. The legal action is backed by 125 thousand signatures and represents the biggest legal action in German history, the organizers say. Eventually Reinhold Mitterlehner, Austria’s vice-Chancellor and Minister of Economy shared the view that TTIP negotiations should be halted.
A day does not pass by that British and EU politicians don’t think about Brexit. At the beginning of this week, economic indicators have been under the lenses. The Inter-Trade-Ireland’s business monitor indicated that 97% of businesses and 92% of export firms did not expect the results of the EU referendum, causing volatility in investment projections. On top of that the EU ambassador in the US, David O’Sullivan, said that uncertainty following the Brexit vote casts doubts on many chapters of the transatlantic relationship between the two continents. On Tuesday 30th, the President of the French Republic, Francois Hollande, underlined once more that Brexit has to be concluded by 2019. However, EC Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Günther Oettinger, somehow provocatively stated that “he would not bet on a Brexit” at the end of the day. For its part, the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, said that a second referendum is off the table. In or out, what is sure is that Mrs. May already sniffed the opportunities raising from having her feet in both camps. “Any business is welcome in the UK”, she said shortly after an unprecedented EU tax-decision slammed Apple, casting doubts over the future of the tech-company in Ireland. Support to the Irish government came in from the Dutch Minister for foreign affairs Bert Koenders, although discussions between the parts dealt mostly with global political prospects. On Wednesday 31st. the Danish Finance Minister, Claus Hijort Frederiksen, claimed that the UK should pay up to its financial commitments while still being part of EU projects. However, the main point of concern for the British leadership remains the treatment of the EU labour force. On Tuesday, Chuka Umunna, former Shadow Business Secretary, launched a petition to guarantee EU migrants the right to stay in Britain, whilst on Wednesday, Business Minister, Anna Soubry, said that Britain’s growth prospects depend on the free circulation of European citizens. The statement came in right before a crucial meeting of the UK government at Chequers kicked off. The Cabinet reunion ended with Mrs. May setting the executive on a collision course with the Labour opposition, as well as with Brussels. On the one hand the Prime Minister confirmed that the Government will pursue Brexit negotiations without any approval from the House of Commons. On the other one, she restated her intention to follow through on a special deal with the EU. The objective is to grant her country both some access to the Single Market and control of immigration flows.
Only second to the Brexit debate, the refugee crisis remains one of the most rapidly evolving issues in Europe. After Nicolas Sarkozy’s recent provocative proposal to shift the Calais based refugee camp over to the UK, France and Britain managed to ease off tensions. On Tuesday, the Home Secretaries of the two countries reassured the public about their intentions to collaborate and strengthen security at the camp. However, on the same day, Dabiel Barney, of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), warned about the catastrophic security and health conditions within the camp. In the meantime, the governments of Austria, Denmark and Sweden decided to reduce asylum chances for incoming migrants. For its part, Norway decided to build a new fence along its border with Russia in an attempt to better control migration flows. The migrant crisis is creating havoc as well within EU countries. In Germany, the government is facing mounting criticism for its conduct over the last year. On Tuesday, Angela Merkel admitted that her government took the migrant crisis lightly. Faced with increasing competition from the populist right-wing party, Alternative für Deutschland, the governing Christian Democratic Party (CDU) wants now to reinforce laws punishing migrants that committed crimes inside German borders.
In the frame of the refugee crisis the EU-Turkey relationship plays a major role. On Tuesday 30th, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, Elmar Brok, and the social democratic MEP, Kati Piri, came back from a fact-finding mission to Ankara. They affirmed that Turkey is fulfilling its duties in the frame of the Migration deal signed in March 2016. The declarations came in handy as Greece showed scepticism in the face of increasing arrivals on its coasts over the last days. Although a Turkish EU membership is on the table since many years now, the Austrian vice-Chancellor and Minister of the Economy, Reinhold Mitterlehner, suggested that a “union of interest” between the EU and the Arab country would be a more realistic scenario. On the same wavelength, Günther Oettinger declared that it is unlikely that Turkey will join the EU, as long as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan holds power in his hands. In the meantime, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, pledged loyalty to the EU and Nato. His declaration served to reassure EU officials after a previous meeting between Erdogan and the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, had been interpreted as a stab in the back of the West.
“Labour must take a strong pro-immigration stance even if it means shedding votes to UKIP”.
Owen Smith, Labour leadership challenger
Source: The Independent, 31/08/2016
“We don’t simply ask but demand and expect specific measures that will make the debt sustainable”.
Alexs Tsipras, Prime Minister of Greece
Source: EuObserver, 29/08/2916
The number of German pensioners over-65 who are on part-time contracts (minijobs)
Source: Sueddeutsche Zeitung
The percentage of people in households earning less than 20,000£ a year that voted for Brexit
Source: The Guardian
The percentage of German bunds, with a maturity between 2 and 30 years, that the ECB is not allowed to buy because of an insufficient deposit rate gain
Photo Credits CC: UK Parliament