POLITICS & POLICY
The CETA trade deal between the EU and Canada has been the one of the main concerns in the continent over the past few days. On Wednesday night, the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, decided to cancel his visit to Brussels scheduled for October 27, de facto admitting that there will be no agreement by the official deadline. However, the Canadian Ministry of Commerce released a statement claiming that the country remains open to signing the deal whenever the EU is ready. The signature of the deal has been postponed in order to give more time to Belgian regional authorities and EU institutions to strike a deal on the final text. At that point, however, the amended version will need to be evaluated by the representatives of the other member states and ratified again by the Parliament of Wallonia. The bones of contention remain the protection standards for industries and the agricultural sector, as well as the prominent role of the independent court system that should settle disputes between states and foreign investors.
The conflict between the European Commission and national institutions over the size of national budget deficits made the headlines in most of EU southern countries. On Tuesday, the European Commission questioned the budget laws of seven member countries, among which Italy, Spain and Portugal. However, the harshest remarks have been made concerning budgets forwarded by Italy, Finland and Cyprus. The EC has sent letters to these governments asking for clarifications about the hike in deficit figures. The issue is gaining salience especially in Italy, where a constitutional referendum is scheduled on December 4. The Italian government seems unwilling to give in on the Commission’s request fearing an electoral backlash. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi claimed that the increased deficit is legitimate, referring to “exceptional” events, such as the earthquake that hit central Italy in August and the migration crisis. On Wednesday, European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici asked the Italian government to not dramatize the tone of the discussion, hinting at a potentially easy solution to the problem.
Discussions about the need for more public investments are gaining new prominence all over Europe. In Germany, a special Commission is trying to formulate an investment plan aimed at sustaining the infrastructural renewal of the country. Recent news highlighted the need for investments in sectors such as public transport and schools. However the details of the plan are becoming a bone of contention between trade unions, some leading economists and politicians. Meanwhile, the President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi called for Germany to increase investments in a bid to revive the whole European economy. In France, the national police force has been asking for more resources since the beginning of October, leading the French government to recently top up the police’s budget by an extra €250 million.
In other news, the Brexit debate continues to make the headlines in the UK. On Wednesday, The Guardian revealed that it received leaked audio documents dating back to the Brexit campaign, according to which Theresa May, at that time Home Secretary, made a strong case for Britain to stay in the European Union, fearing the consequences for British business outside of the Single Market. Meanwhile, Lord Howard, a former Tory leader, called for the government to protect European citizens living in the UK. On the issue of intra-EU migration, a new poll revealed that a majority of Britons want the government to put migration controls at the top of Brexit negotiations. The poll contradicts the results of a previous poll, published last week. Moreover, new concerns about the security of the UK outside of the EU were expressed Helen Ball, the deputy assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan Police. Ball claimed that access to European-wide security databases is vital for the UK to face terrorism.
“We are calling on you to commit to increase national NHS spending by £350 million a week – that is £18.2 billion a year – as soon as this money becomes available by leaving the European Union. This additional funding must be over and above the amount that is currently planned to be spent on the National Health Service”.
41 British MPs in a letter directed to Philip Hammond, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer
Source: The Independent, 24.10.2016
The increase in the number of homeless children in the UK after six years of Tory government.
Source: The Independent, 27.10.2016
Photo Credits CC Maxence