Political Briefing #12/2017

POLITICS & POLICY

The governance of the Eurozone is still a top concern for politicians and intellectuals across Europe. On Wednesday, Die Welt reported that the Director of the Institute for Economic Research in Munich (IFO), Clemens Fuest, proposed a new financial tool aimed at controlling excessive deficits and public debts in the Eurozone. Fuest calls for the introduction of so-called “accountability bonds”. Accountability bonds should be compulsorily issued by States whenever the latter wish to finance budget deficits that exceed the limits defined by European treaties. Interest rate on such bonds would be 4 per cent points higher than on regular bonds.
 According to Fuest, accountability bonds could be coupled with the more well-known “Eurobonds”, that would be linked to outstanding debt stocks instead.

CETA is back under the spotlight. On Wednesday the European Parliament (EP) approved the text of CETA, the trade deal that has been negotiated by the European and Canadian institutions over the past seven years. The trade deal has been backed by 408 MEPs and rejected by 254. CETA needs now to be ratified by national Parliaments of EU member states, and — according to many political analysts — the process will be a bit of a hurdle. Indeed, a majority of French MEPs in the European Parliament voted against the treaty. Moreover, only 1 out of 5 Presidential candidates for the French elections, namely Emmanuel Macron, is said to back the trade deal as it was approved by the EP.

The refugee crisis is still the subject of intense debates all across Europe. On Wednesday, the EU border agency Frontex, warned that, the rescue activity of NGOs in the Mediterranean sea is making it easier for smugglers and criminals to get migrants to Europe and boost their business. Frontex published a fully-fledged report on the subject, specifying that the Libyan coast represents the most critical area. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Minister of the Interior Arsen Awakow issued a warning to the European Member states and institutions. Awakow asks the EU not to turn her back on the Ukrainian conflict: a war between Moscow and Kiev would imply a massive influx of war refugees from Eastern Europe.

In other news, Brexit related discussions make the headline in the UK and in Europe. New official UK statistics show that most of the increase in employment noticed in late 2016 was due to non-British workers activity; these statistics can be seen as a blow to the Government’s stance on the matter, as Theresa May is defending a “hard Brexit” course aimed at limiting the arrival of new-comers in the first place. Meanwhile, the EU called the UK to solve its problems related to air pollution. According to recent analysis of the European Commission, Britain is one of five countries persistently on the verge of breaching EU rules, and will face heavy fines should appropriate solutions not be put in place soon. The issue risks to exacerbate the already tense relationship between London and Brussels over the Brexit negotiations.

As Scotland is reflecting on whether to hold a second independence referendum in the light of the hard Brexit course, even the Nordic Shetland Islands authorities of the are making their minds up over the possibility of leaving the Scottish Parliament. Euractiv reports that pressure to move away from Edinburgh’s control is mounting. The economy of the Shetland Islands features a fishing catch that is bigger than England, Wales and Northern Ireland together.

Meanwhile, the clash between EU member states and Berlin over the so called “German road toll” is gaining prominence in European circles. On Wednesday, the European Commissioner for Transports, Violeta Bulc, said that the Commission plans to introduce a new EU-wide road toll system aimed at hindering discriminations of any kind in the transport sector. However, many representatives of Member states along the German border criticized the Commissioner and accused the EC to have given in to Germany’s pressure to introduce a national toll system that would de facto discriminate against foreign truck drivers. Bulc said that she is committed to integrate the German road charging under the umbrella of a wider EU scheme.


THE STATEMENT

“If the IMF insists on debt relief [for Greece], one should let it go”.

Manfred Weber, leader of the EPP group in the European Parliament

Source: Süddeutsche Zeitung, 16.02.2017


NUMBERS

€60.7 billion

The cost of the banking crisis in Spain in 2012, according to the Spanish Audit Court.

Source: Euractiv, 16.02.2017


Photo Credits CC Stop TTIP


Originally published at EuVisions.