POLITICS & POLICY
Far right parties are back under the spotlight in Europe. On Tuesday, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French Front National (FN), told the press that she will not repay the European Parliament for misused EU funds. In late 2016, Marine Le Pen had been accused by European institutions to have used funds to hire employees working at the Front National’s headquarter in Paris. Meanwhile, Le Pen also announced that she will not re-introduce the death penalty should she be elected French President in the forthcoming election. While she had in the past declared to be in favour of the death penalty, she now said she would leave it up to the French people to decide on the issue, by means of a referendum.
In Austria, a citizen’s petition against the EU-Canada trade deal and the TTIP collected more than 500,000 signatures. According to the country’s law, any such petition signed by more than 100,000 citizens must be examined by the national Parliament. The organizers of the petition called for the Government to announce a referendum on the two trade deals.
The themes of corruption and transparency are at the heart of current public debates, as thousands of Romanians took to the streets of Bucharest to protest against a new law that is expected to decriminalize some offences, including cases of corruption. According to the wide majority of analysts, the new law would help corrupt politicians to remain in the shadows and not face justice. The President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, sympathized with the protesters and said that the passing of the law represents an affront to the “rule of law”. In Brussels, the President and Chief Vice President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker and Frans Timmermans, rounded on the Romanian Government, saying that they are following the developments in the east European country with concern. Romania is currently being monitored by European institutions, under the so called “Cooperation and Verification Mechanism” (CVM).
Carl Dolan, director of Transparency International Europe called for EU institutions to take the issue of revolving doors between institutions and businesses seriously. According to Dolan, public stories such as the one concerning former European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso going to work for Goldman Sachs, help populist and anti-European parties. Dolan accused the European Commission of under-regulating this area, and the EP of not acting on the matter.
In other news, Brexit continues to make the headlines across Europe and in the UK. On Wednesday, The Guardian revealed that at least 30 Labour MPs are ready to disobey Jeremy Corbyn’s voting indications on Article 50. Among the rebels are three former Ministers: Maria Eagle, Ben Bradshaw and David Lammy. MPs defying the party order will have to leave the front bench of the House of Commons, Corbyn said earlier this week.
On Wednesday morning, British factories were caught by surprise as costs paid for raw materials rose to a 25 year high. According to some business analysts, consumer inflation is likely to follow the same trend. However, a new business confidence index showed that markets are still optimistic about the prospects of growth in the UK.
Meanwhile, a paper leaked from European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs revealed that European institutions are worried about the outcomes of the Brexit negotiations, and in particular, about the prospects of the EU financial sector. According to The Guardian, the report states that: “[t]he exclusion of the main European financial centre from the internal market could have consequences in terms of jobs and growth in the EU. It is in the interest of EU27 and the UK to have an open discussion on this point”.
An unexpected backing of the UK–in the frame of Brexit negotiations–came from Germany. One of the country’s most prominent economists, Hans-Werner Sinn, called for EU institutions to give in to British requests and let the UK “go on generous terms”. Sinn claims that EU should aim at becoming a consensual community based on unanimity, rather than one based on majority voting and aiming at redistributive policies. Accordingly, he argues that the only way to let the EU flourish is to let Britain leave the Union and grant both sides a well-functioning trade deal.
“In a world full of tension and confrontation, what is needed is courage, determination and political solidarity of Europeans. Without them we will not survive”
Donald Tusk, President of the European Council
Source: EurActiv, 01.02.2017
The debt to GDP ratio that Greece could face by 2060 if maturities are not extended and interest rates are not insulated from market fluctuations, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Source: Statfor, 01.02.2016
Photo Credits CC Amy West
Also published on Medium.