Political Briefing #28/2017

POLITICS & POLICY

The French Presidential elections are under the spotlight. On the left, the candidate of the Socialist Party (PS), Benoit Hamon, has been told to “not become an obstacle to the popular will”, by the spokesperson of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of the radical left movement, La France Insoumise. Mélenchon has been experiencing a boost in support over the past few weeks, leaving the socialist candidate even further behind. On Wednesday, renowned economist Thomas Piketty announced that he too will vote for Mélenchon should the latter make it to the second round. However, the leaders of the right-wing Front National (FN), Marine Le Pen, and of the centrist movement En Marche (EM), Emmanuel Macron, continue to lead the polls. A report from Le Monde revealed that the FN is backed by a plurality of young voters. At the same time, Macron announced that he will not stand for a parliamentary seat in the legislative election — which will take place shortly after the Presidential one — if he does not win the Presidential race.

The Brexit saga continues. On Wednesday, the British shipping industry warned that the sector stands in front of a cliff, if the Government will prove unable to negotiate a smooth trade deal with the EU. The UK Chamber of Shipping also said that the ports of countries such as Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Ireland would be equally concerned by a no deal scenario. Meanwhile, over the past few days, a Committee of British MPs have claimed that foreign powers, such as China and Russia, may have influenced the outcome of the June 2016 EU referendum.

After last year’s successful referendum campaign, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) has suffered a drop in support and struggled with the definition of a clear agenda for the years to come. On Wednesday, the newly elected party leader, Paul Nuttall, asked his Party fellows to retain faith in the strength of the party. He argued that Theresa May’s “honeymoon” with the British people will soon be over and that UKIP will be able to gain parliamentary seats across the country. The Office of National Statistics, meanwhile, has revealed new public data underscoring the importance of EU immigration for the British economy. More specifically the ONS claims that highly-skilled labour force from the rest of Europe is of paramount importance for the functioning of the British healthcare service, as well as for the wholesale, retail and public administration sectors.

The cleavage between Northern and Southern Europe remains prominent in public debates across Europe, as Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, shared his views on Jeroen Dijsselbloem’s recent remarks about EU debtor countries. Speaking to the German paper Die Welt, Costa argued that stereotypes and oversimplifications of national cultural identities are tearing apart the Union. He also discussed the issue of Brexit, arguing that both parties in the negotiation should aim for a constructive deal. Moreover, while criticizing Dijsselbloem, Costa remarked that the man indicated by many as the Dutch politician’s successor, Spain’s Luis de Guindos, would not be a much better alternative.

Meanwhile, the leader and Chancellor candidate of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), Martin Schulz, recently shared his views on the rift between northern and southern Europe. In his first interview with a foreign paper after his nomination, Schulz told the Financial Time that a Grexit is not yet completely off the table. More precisely, he highlighted that for some countries Eurozone membership is dependent upon the implementation of certain structural reforms. Discussing Schulz’s interview on EurActiv, Daniel Mützel argued that the SPD leader is changing his longstanding stance on the the Greek case. Previously, Schulz had stressed the need for growth-oriented reforms across Europe, and clearly linked Germany’s well-being to the growth chances of southern Member states.

On Monday, the European Commission published a report examining the growth prospects of low income regions across Europe. In the new report the EC stresses the need for structural reforms conducive to investments, the development of human capital, innovation and connectivity.


THE STATEMENT

“At a time when the EU needs to showcase its concrete added value for citizens, it should be careful not to let the free movement of citizens become just another nice slogan, against the reality of returning restrictions and indirect barriers of all types”.

Antoine Fobe, legal expert with Your Empire Advice

Source: EurActiv, 13.04.2017


NUMBERS

98,000

The number of asylum seekers the EC is expecting to relocate from Italy and Greece to other EU Member States by September 2017, in the context of its two-year relocation scheme. The EC is downgrading its target from the initial figure of 160,000.

Source: EUobserver, 10.04.2016

600

The number of migrants missing from official registers after the Dunkirk camp fire broke out.

Source: The Guardian, 11.04.2017


Photo Credits CC Benoît Hamon


Originally published at EuVisions.