EM Germany Weekly Round-Up | week ending 02/04/2015
EM Germany’s weekly round-up summarises the past week’s key European issues in a brief press review, which also includes a look at EM Germany’s activities and topics trending globally on Twitter. German version here.
The week’s highlights in print, at EM Germany and on Twitter
28/03-02/04/2015 – European governments have been watching critically while Greece gets closer to Russia. Prime Minister Tsipras is expected to attend talks in Moscow in the coming weeks. Prior to these talks it has already become clear that the aim is closer cooperation in the energy sector, trade and agriculture. Tsipras is believed to be an opponent of strong sanction policy against Russia (Spiegel Online). Meanwhile in Brussels, the Greek list of reforms is being negotiated further. There still isn’t anything concrete, while Greece urgently needs more aid money. The Greek government’s measures focus on new and higher tax revenue, fighting tax fraud and privatisation. Investors lament the lack of details about the measures; long-term measures to restructure the labour market and the pension system are missing (Spiegel Online).
While the media’s focus remains on Greece and the danger of a “Grexit“, experts have in the meantime warned of a British exit. A “Brexit” would have disastrous consequences, and not just for the European economy (Finanzen.ch).
“France moves to the right” read the headline on Zeit Online, amongst others, after the departmental elections in France. The ruling Socialist party registered huge losses, while Sarkozy’s UMP party was considered a big winner. The right-wing party Front National (FN) was able to gain votes, however did not reach a majority in any department (Zeit Online).
The danger of deflation in Germany seems to have been averted. The ECB’s bond scheme is showing first signs of success: the inflation rate was 0.3% in March (Handelsblatt). Even the euro zone’s economic climate is showing a surprisingly positive trend. The mood has lightened in all sectors: in retail, for consumers, and in the service, industry and building sectors (Spiegel Online).
The milk quota was consigned to history on Wednesday. For thirty years it was one of the most important tools of European agricultural policy and guaranteed dairy farmers stable prices. The German market is said to be well-prepared for the end to the milk quota, according to EM Germany’s debriefing on the Agriculture Council in mid-March, where the milk quota was one of the key topics. There was some criticism however, that there still isn’t enough being done for small and medium-sized enterprises (Zeit).
In light of the critical security situation, also in Europe, the German, French and Polish defence ministers are urging stronger alignment of defence policy in the EU. Efficiency and visibility of EU security and defence policy must be improved. In their letter to the EU High Representative, Federica Mogherini, they demanded more modern technology and better equipment, as well as more powerful EU response forces (“battle groups”) (Euractiv). Mogherini also took a stance on the conflict in Yemen. She is convinced that a military intervention is not the solution and called on the affected parties to start negotiations (EEAS).
Foreign and defence policy was also a topic at the Franco-German council of ministers in Berlin at the start of the week (Deutsche Welle). The joint cabinet meeting’s agenda points also included growth, employment, climate, economy, finance, research and mobility (Die Bundesregierung). Given current events, the plane crash in southern France and terror attacks in Paris in January, Franco-German solidarity is stronger than ever. Within the framework of the council of ministers meeting, a new bilateral agreement for the recognition of university degrees, simplified pension taxation and a revival of the Adenauer-de Gaulle prize was signed. The prize will honour civil society engagement of citizens (Auswärtiges Amt).
Obligatory identification on Schengen flights? After the plane crash involving a Germanwings plane in southern France, officials experienced problems in finding out who was actually on board the aircraft. For many flights in the Schengen area it is often enough just to present a boarding pass, in order to enter the aircraft. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière sees this procedure as a “massive security problem” and as a result wants to review the requirement for identity cards (Tagesschau).
The topic #Greece, or #Griechenland, continues to dominate Twitter. Even so: #Grexit receives less attention online. The hashtag #dep2015 covers the “departmental” elections in France, which were significant to Europe due to the large number of votes for right-wing parties. Meanwhile, the parliamentary election campaign in the United Kingdom is in full swing, and can be followed via #GE2015. Negotiations involving @FedericaMog, @LaurentFabius and #Steinmeier on Iran’s nuclear programme are being discussed using #Irantalks.
EM Germany’s weekly round-up will be taking a one-week break for Easter. We wish you a happy Easter! The next edition of our weekly round-up will appear on 20 April.