POLITICS & POLICY
Alternative für Deutschland, the German populist right-wing party led by Frauke Petry, made the headlines all over Europe after gaining more than 20 per cent of votes in the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern regional elections. The party emerged as the second political force ahead of the Christian Democratic Union party (CDU) of Angela Merkel. According to many analysts, the striking electoral result is linked to the unfolding refugee crisis. In fact, the latter remains a major concern in Germany and in Europe. On Friday 02 September, German vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel criticized Angela Merkel’s management of the migration crisis. In the same vein, many Bavarian politicians from the right-wing Christian Social Union (CSU) party, blamed the Chancellor for neglecting the consequences of increasing immigration. On Tuesday 6th, Ralph Stegner, a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) stated that “Merkel has reached her peak”. For what concerns the internal immigration debate, Thomas de Mazière, the German Minister of the Interior, recently claimed that migrants should be sent back to Greece as part of a revival of the Dublin regulation. Although the German Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen, announced the launch of a pilot project aimed at integrating refugees using the national army, the German President of the Republic, Joachim Gauck, claimed that more needs to be done to integrate newcomers in the national labour market. However, the tone of the discussion on refugees is harshening all over Europe and creating divisions among national governments. The Austrian Minister of the Interior, Wolfgang Sobotka, said that the country won’t accept new refugees, at the cost of giving up the EU-Turkey deal signed in March 2016. Similarly, the Hungarian Foreign Minister, Péter Szijjártó, blamed Greece for its management of migration flows. On Sunday, in occasion of a press conference at the G20, the President of the European Council, stated that “Europe is running out of capacity” to handle migration flows. He invited non EU-member countries to contribute financially to overcome the crisis. On Monday the 5th , Nicolas Sarkozy, in his fight to win the UMP’s party nomination for the Presidential election of 2017, suggested to build a registration centre for refugees in Manchester: the hotspot should handle the asylum requests of people heading to the UK. The proposal is aimed at easing off the situation at Calais where, on Monday, thousands of residents launched a protest in order to shut down the notorious refugee camp. At the other end of Europe, on Thursday the 1st , around 500 migrants protested at four sites around Greece claiming faster execution of asylum procedures. According to Ekathemrini, some 60,000 migrants are still stuck on Greek islands.
The Brexit issue remains a big deal to most of the political class of the Continent. On Friday 2nd a senior judge of the EU court cast doubts over the prospects of an effective exit of the UK from the EU. On Sunday, at the G20 in Hangzhou, China, the British Prime Minister Theresa May, pledged to kick-off “a golden era” of relations with the Asiatic country after Brexit. However, on the same day, during an interview for the BBC, May told that there are difficult times ahead, confirming as well that a snap election in the UK is off the table. Some days before, Andrew Tyrie, a conservative MP, invited Theresa May to bring down to earth unrealistic expectations of the Leave electorate. The Brexit vote brought back to life Scottish appetite for independence. Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Prime Minister, seems to be constantly weighting the opportunity to launch a second independence referendum. On Monday 5th , UK’s Brexit Secretary, David Davis, said that he wants to find a solution that fits the interests of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England. Moreover, he stated that the UK government is looking ahead for a unique deal with the EU. Numbers show that after the referendum, the UK suffered a significant increase in recorded anti-immigrant attacks. The Polish institutions are particularly worried about the unfolding of xenophobic attitudes in Great Britain after the death of a 40 years-old Polish man in Harlow, Essex, last week. In occasion of a meeting in Warsaw, British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, tried to reassure his Polish colleagues that the UK government is committed to fight the trend of xenophobic crimes. However, hundreds of Polish citizens went on the streets in Harlow to protest against the situation. For its part, the Polish government started his own investigation on the murder in Harlow and, on Monday, three Polish Ministers travelled to London after renewed attacks against Polish citizens happened in the town over the weekend. Defining a way to control immigration flows to the UK remains the main concern of Theresa May’s government. The Prime Minister’s refusal of a point-based system (PBS) to control numbers of incoming migrants created tensions inside the cabinet. Although migration remains a controversial issue in the UK, former Green party leader, Natalie Bennet, stated that people didn’t vote to leave the EU on the base of the matter, but because of never ending spending cuts and lowering of wages. Her successor, Caroline Lucas, called for a second referendum, claiming that British citizens should have a say over any Brexit deal the government will be able to settle in Brussels. In the meantime, on Saturday 3rd thousands of pro-Europe supporters showed their commitment to the EU by taking the streets in London, Birmingham and Oxford, asking for a second referendum.
In the light of the refugee crisis, the relationship between the EU and Turkey remains a key issue. On Friday, EU Foreign Ministers met the Turkish counterpart in Bratislava for a round of informal talks on the management of the migration flows. The meeting was aimed at calming down fears that Turkey could potentially give up the migration-deal signed in March. However, as a condition for withholding migration flows in the future, Turkish officials renewed their request to speed up the establishment of a Visa-free travel system between the EU and Turkey. For her part, Angela Merkel stated that all the 72-preconditions need to be fulfilled in order to set up such a system. Both Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, and Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU Migration Commissioner, met Turkish counterparts in Ankara to ease-off the tensions that arose after the Coup attempt of the 15th of July. On Saturday 3rd, in an interview, Martin Schulz stated the intention of the EU institutions to follow through on the EU-membership negotiations with Turkey. However over the past weeks, especially Austrian politicians and official representatives blasted the hopes of Turkey to be part of the EU in the future. On Tuesday, Turkish authorities rescinded Austria’s excavation license for the ancient Roman city of Ephesus, in what appears to be a spill-over of political battles in the fields of culture and art.
“Angela Merkel has clearly reached her peak”.
Ralf Stegner, Deputy Presidential of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) after the electoral results in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern regional elections.
Source: Politico.eu, 6/09/2016
“I am not going to pretend that it is all going to be plain sailing. I think we must be prepared to the fact that there might be some difficult time ahead”.
Theresa May, Prime Minister of the UK speaking at a BBC interview
Source: The Independent, 5/09/2016
1 out of 4
The number of Brits who considered leaving the UK after the Brexit vote.
Source: Politico.eu, 5/09/2016
The number of people born in Poland that live in the UK.
Source: The Independent, 3/09/2016
Photo Credits CC: Metropolico.org