Political Briefing #25/2017

POLITICS & POLICY

The Serbian Presidential race is under the spotlight, as the pro-EU candidate, Aleksandar Vucic, won the elections with more than 56% of the popular vote. The 47-year old politician claimed victory on Sunday night, after the first results were released. His political programme is based, among others, on a pro-European course for the country, together with economic reforms. Although Vucic claims to stay true to the European integration cause, he is also backed by the Kremlin. The European Commissioner for Enlargement, Johannes Hahn, stated that “Vucic has now a certain responsibility to use its strong support in a careful way”.

Brexit continues to make the headlines all over Europe, as UK Prime Minister, Theresa May triggered Article 50 on March 29. Gibraltar, the British overseas territory located in the Iberian peninsula, is under the spotlight as it is unclear if the former British colony will retain some sort of special status after Britain is fully out of the Union. The UK government claims that it is not ready not concede any such status to Gibraltar without a specific request formulated by the population of the territory. Meanwhile, the EU Commission has changed its stance on the current diplomatic row between the UK and Spain, moving from neutrality to backing the Spanish government. European leaders have called all parts involved in the diplomatic conflict to lower the tone of their interventions. A few days ago, former British Conservative leader Michael Howard compared the Gibraltar case with the Falklands war between the UK and Argentina.

Scotland is another troubling case for the British government. After having officially asked Westminster to authorize a second independence referendum, the Scottish government raised concerns about the issue of immigration to its territory. On Monday, a report from the Scottish Chamber of Commerce argued that Scotland needs an autonomous migration policy. The report claims, in particular, that due to low population growth, free movement to the UK should not be blocked. The stance puts Edinburgh at odds with London on the issue. Moreover, according to a ScotCen survey, some 61% of the population backs free movement and the European Single Market.

Diplomatic relations and economic ties between Russia and some EU member states are making the headlines across Europe. After much talking about the support of German far right parties by the Kremlin, economic interests are gaining prominence in the definition of ties between Russia and Germany. In particular, two major infrastructural projects — North Stream 1 and 2 — aimed at transporting gas from Russia to northern Germany, are creating havoc in Brussels and among governments in the Baltic region. The European Commissioner for Energy, Manuel Canete, argued that the projects are giving too prominent a place to Berlin in the steering of energy policies in Europe.

The forthcoming French Presidential race is also high in the news all over Europe. On Sunday, speaking to a crowd in Bordeaux, the leader of the Front National (FN), Marine Le Pen tried to convince the traditional conservative electorate to vote for her. Unlike previous speeches, Le Pen did not mention a possible exit from the Monetary Union as a key element of her economic programme. According to many political analysts, the move signals her intention to bridge the FN’s traditional electorate and the more moderate republican one. Gaining the support of the moderate right-wing electorate could indeed become key in case of a run-off between Le Pen and centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron.

Meanwhile, the French Socialist party (PS) is facing an existential crisis, as former primary candidate Manuel Valls has decided to back Emmanuel Macron, instead of his party’s official candidate Benoit Hamon. The split within the socialists risks destroying its long political legacy. According to current polls, the PS risks coming fourth in the Presidential race, behind the FN, Macron’s En Marche, and the leftist movement France Insoumise, led by former socialist politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon.


THE STATEMENT

“We live from exports to other European countries. That is why we cannot simply compare net contributions made by different Member States to the EU budget as a base of a cost/benefit calculus. German themselves would profit from our country to invest more, and thus grant more purchasing power to other EU Member States”.

Vice Secretary of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel

Source: Die Welt, 03.04.2017


NUMBERS

9.5%

The unemployment rate in the Eurozone as of February 2017 — the lowest since May 2009.

Source: Le Monde, 03.04.2016


Photo Credits CC TimOve


Originally published at EuVisions.

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