POLITICS & POLICY
The politics of austerity is back in the spotlight. On Friday September 9 the Prime Ministers of Greece, France, Italy, Malta, Portugal, and the Secretary of State of Spain met in Athens to bring investments and anti-austerity measures back at the centre of EU policy-making. However, Manfred Weber, a German conservative MEP and chairman of the European People’s Party Group, took issue with the so called “Club Med” initiative. In a statement he claimed that the initiative was aimed at creating divisions inside the Union while in this historical juncture unity is needed more than ever.
On Friday, the Eurozone Finance Ministers met in Bratislava for an informal meeting, evaluating the progress made by Athens in the implementation of the adjustment programs. The Greece is called to implement new reforms in exchange of fresh cash by the end of October. However, the President of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, blasted the Greek government. “The pressure is back on, it really needs progress”, he said. His critical remarks were shared by the German and Austrian Finance Ministers. Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, speaking to French newspaper Le Monde, claimed that his European partners should eventually agree to pitch in on and accept a debt relief for his country. More generally, he claimed that it was time for Europe “to give a sign and exit the economic crisis”. On Saturday, the Greek PM said that his country was closer than ever to a settlement of the issue with the country’s creditors. Unexpected backing to Tsipras initiative came from Austrian Chancellor, Christian Kern. Writing for the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, he stated that the EU austerity course is responsible for the rise of Euroscepticism all over the continent. In the meantime, Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, is preparing an informal meeting between the 27 EU member states (all minus the UK) to be held on Friday in Bratislava. The gathering is aimed at defining a “road map” for the evolution of the European integration project in the light of increasing diverging political priorities between Southern, Eastern and Central European countries.
The post-Brexit referendum scenario remains one of the main concerns of European politicians. Last Thursday Guy Verhofstadt, a Belgian MEP and President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, was appointed Brexit negotiator for the European Parliament. Verhofstadt was one of the strongest pro-EU voices within the European Parliament in the run up to the British referendum. On the same day, Peter Sutherland, former director of the World Trade Organization, slammed Theresa May’s government, accusing the UK executive of creating nothing but confusion on how it intends to proceed on the Brexit issue. In the same vein, the Czech State Secretary for EU affairs stated that UK’s request to keep access to the Single Market while limiting free movement of people is totally unrealistic. However, on Sunday, the UK Interior Minister, Amber Rudd, told that in the future EU citizens shall be able to work in the UK only on the base of a specific permit. The measure is aimed at decreasing low-skilled worker immigration into Britain.
On the same day, speaking on the first day of the TUC conference in Brighton, the General Secretary of Unite, Len McCluskey, gave his personal interpretation of the Brexit vote. In his opinion, British voters aimed at “kicking” the British establishment, he said. McCluskey put the vote in relation with the negative consequences of globalization and austerity policies. All the more important, he warned that employers could use Brexit as an excuse to further weaken worker rights in the UK. In the meantime, the rise of hate crimes targeted at Eastern European citizens continues to make the headlines in Britain. However, on Monday, Daniel Hannan, a leading figure of the Leave campaign, rejected the evidence that a surge in hate crimes is taking place in the UK, attracting criticism from all over the British political landscape. On the same day, the UK Minister responsible for Brexit talks, warned that the negotiations could become the most difficult in the country’s history. In the meantime, Sir Julian King was appointed British EU Commissioner. During his hearing in front of the MEPs he pledged loyalty to the EU and claimed not to represent Britain’s voice in Brussels.
“There will be new attacks, there will be [more] innocent victims.”
Manuel Valls, PM of France, speaking at Europe 1 radio about terrorism.
The number of religious leaders who are calling the UK Prime Minister Theresa May, to change her refugee policy and do more to help Syrian refugees.
Source: The Independent
The percentage of votes obtained by the German populist right-wing party, Alternative für Deutschland, in the state elections in Niedersachsen.
Source: Spiegel Online
Photo Credits CC: Peter Kurdulija