Political Briefing #13/2017
POLITICS & POLICY
Brexit continues to be on top of the British agenda. On Monday, the House of Lords will start discussing the Article 50 bill that was recently approved by the Commons. According to Liberal MPs, the Lords are likely to amend the bill in the part on EU citizens’ rights. Meanwhile, a new analysis conducted by The Guardian revealed that in the case of a no agreement scenario between the UK and the EU, Britain’s export sector would suffer a damage amounting to up to £6 billion.
Labour is trying to recover from its failure to amend the bill in the House of Commons. Last Friday, former Prime Minister Tony Blair rounded on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Blair said that a “debilitated Labour party” is a facilitator of Brexit. He also called for a wide cross-party alliance aimed at impeding Brexit. His words were greeted by the Liberal party, as well by 47 rebellious Labour MPs who defied the party line during the Article 50 vote. Nevertheless, the majority of the party questions the timing of Blair’s intervention, which came right before two critical byelections in Stoke and Copeland. On Monday, Corbyn urged Labour MPs to back the party to keep their seats in the two constituencies.
In other news, the developments of leftist and right-wing politics in Europe are making the headlines across the continent. On Monday, the former leader of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), Pedro Sanchez, called for his party to build a coalition with Podemos. Sanchez talked about the “unity of action” among the Socialist party, trade unions and other leftist forces in the parliament, needed to improve social justice in the country. Meanwhile, in Germany, Martin Schulz claimed that he wants to change some key elements of the controversial Hartz IV welfare reforms, which were approved in the early 2000s by the SPD-led government of Gerhard Schroeder. Schulz’s move has been interpreted as a sign of openness towards Die Linke, a radical leftist party. Nevertheless, last week, Social-Democratic Labour Minister Andrea Nahles criticized Die Linke, arguing that the party promotes an economic and political vision that is stuck in the 1990s.
Meanwhile, right-wing populist parties are trying to widen their international alliances. On Monday, the German newspaper Die Welt, revealed that Frauke Petry, the leader of the populist Alternative für Deutschland (AFD) party, visited Russian authorities in Moscow. The official topic of discussion were the relations between the local authorities of the Russian capital and the Parliaments of German state regions. On Monday, Marine Le Pen, the Presidential candidate of the Front National (FN), kicked off a two-day meeting with the Lebanese government in Beirut. Le Pen aims at showing off international credibility ahead of the French elections. Meanwhile, however, the party’s headquarters in Paris have recently been raided by the French national police as part of an official investigation involving a fraudulent use of EU party finances.
The destiny of the European project remains a top concern of the European political class. On Monday, several European newspapers revealed that the Prime Ministers of Germany, Italy and Spain have been invited to Versailles on March 6 for a closed-door meeting. According to some analysts, the meeting might be interpreted as a first step into the direction of a so-called “two-speed Europe”. On the other side of the continent, the so-called Visegrad group is creating a coalition with the aim of preventing EU institutions from fining Poland for not having implemented judiciary reforms aimed at restoring a full functioning rule of law system in the country. In particular, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban warned EU institutions that he would not back any form of sanction by the Council. However, on Monday, the Czech deputy Prime Minister, Andrej Babiš, released an interview for EurActiv in which he denied the existence of an Eastern front within the EU.
After much speculation over the possible resignation of Jean-Claude Juncker from the Presidency of the European Commission, the EU executive officially denied any such prospect on Monday. Earlier this month, Jean-Claude Juncker had revealed that he will probably not run for a second term in 2019. Later, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, shared insiders’ informations according to which Juncker should be expected to resign already in 2017.
Finally, the refugee crisis is back under the spotlight. Over the weekend several groups of migrants stormed the EU external border in Ceuta, a Spanish semi-enclave in Morocco. According to Die Welt, around 800 people made it into European territory. Meanwhile, German Minister of the Interior Thomas De Mazière called for a faster expulsion process for refugees who have not been granted a refugee status in Germany. In particular, deportation to Afghanistan should proceed at a faster pace, he said.
“I can never promise the end of austerity [in Greece]”.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, President of the Eurogroup
Source: EUobserver, 21.02.2017
The growth of intra-EU migrants in the Netherlands between 2013 and 2015. (Migration and national identity are central topics in the ongoing Dutch electoral campaign).
Source: Central Bureau voor de Statistiek, 03.02.2017
Photo Credits CC socialistasvascos
Originally published at EuVisions.