EM Germany Weekly Round-Up | week ending 05/06/2015
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
30/05–05/06/2015 – The threat of national bankruptcy in Greece hung over the EU like the sword of Damocles once again this week. A meeting between Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande on Monday should, for the time being, have the desired effect on the upcoming negotiations in the Greek crisis (Deutsche Welle). During Monday’s summit in the German Chancellery between Greece’s most important investors, their common approach was reinforced and a possible final offer for Greece prepared, which “on the one hand clears the way for further reforms, and on the other hand offers the possibility of more financial aid” (Die Welt). Nevertheless, Greek PM Alexis Tsipras pointed out that adequate reforms, such as a tightening of tax law and changes to early retirement, had already been tackled (Tagesspiegel). A scheduled midweek meeting between Juncker and Tsipras provided further clarification of possible compromises in the reform agenda (Süddeutsche Zeitung). Greece was supposed to pay the first instalment on Friday (05/06), however the IMF granted a deferment of the debt payment (Spiegel Online).
Progress in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the EU and the US (TTIP) continues to be the subject of controversial discussion. Chancellor Merkel wants to push through the negotiations and at the same time defends the much-discussed details of the trade agreement (Die Zeit). On Tuesday, Germany’s Minister for Economic Affairs, Sigmar Gabriel, defended the fundamental idea of a transatlantic trade partnership during a youth dialogue forum. Existing social and environmental standards would not be affected by the trade agreement. Concerns over this, as well as concerns about private arbitration courts having a too strong role were rejected by Gabriel as unfounded and he directed somewhat harsh words at critics (Neue Zürcher Zeitung). On the fringes of the G7 summit, which started at the end of the week, there were large demonstrations and protest marches with thousands of people taking part (Spiegel Online).
EU-Russian relations remain frosty. Russian entry bans on 89 people from EU states were published at the weekend (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ)). European politicians were disgruntled, describing Russia’s measures as “random, non-transparent and unjustified” (Die Welt). There is speculation that the measures are in reactions to the EU’s earlier measures, including economic sanctions and entry bans for the political and business elite in Russia. In addition, it became apparent on Wednesday that two Russian diplomats are to be refused to the EU institutions (Deutschlandfunk). Whether the parties will be able to approach each other any time soon seems unlikely. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was again not invited to the G7 summit at the weekend, the move was criticised by former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (Handelsblatt). German Foreign Minister Steinmeier made an impromptu visit to Ukraine this week, in order to get an idea of the situation in the conflict zone. He made renewed calls for a ceasefire and urged observance of the Minsk peace treaty. He also called upon Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk to be mindful of the points set out in the Minsk peace treaty to defuse the conflict, which has been simmering for months (FAZ). The peace treaty, which was drawn up in February of this year, has barely been implemented until now. Instead, there was once again heavy fighting in the border region this week (Tagesspiegel).
The EU’s relationship with its member state Hungary also remains tense. A few days ago, PM Viktor Orbán contemplated reintroducing the death penalty in his country (Deutsche Welle). Reaction to Orbán’s mind games promptly followed and were above all unsympathetic. In the meantime, Juncker even threatened Hungary with expulsion from the EU (Süddeutsche Zeitung). National decision makers aimed admonishing words at the Hungarian PM and reminded him of the duties of EU membership (taz). A few days later Orbán withdrew his statement. Nevertheless, the discussion comes at a time when Hungary’s domestic political agenda comes into the European public’s spotlight. A few days later, Orbán’s made everyone sit up and take notice again, this time with plans for toughening up immigration policy (Die Zeit). Since Orbán’s Fidesz party entered office in 2010 there have been repeated disagreements at EU level. Demand for a consistent approach by the European community to such populist statements seem important in the face of an impending jerk to the right in several national parliaments. All the more when they are made by a European head of state. EM Germany already dealt with the EU and Hungary’s differences two years ago in its EU-in-BRIEF publication.
In an EBD Exklusiv on Thursday, EM Germany focussed on the events surrounding the UK’s general election and the possible outcomes of a British exit from the EU: “Reform or Repatriation? What does the UK election and Cameron’s agenda mean for the EU?”. In which direction the EU-UK relationship will develop now mainly depends on concrete proposals by the new government, according to EMI Secretary General-elect Petros Fassoulas. Panellists agreed on the importance of keeping Britain in the EU. This week, top officials from member states as well as representatives from EU institutions showed clear opposition to Cameron’s proposed reforms of existing EU treaties. Reforms should only be contemplated in the framework of existing treaties (FAZ). Chancellor Merkel had indeed recently signalled her willingness to accommodate Cameron, however at the same time spoke in favour of proceeding with a “core Europe” (Die Zeit).
In the coming weeks, EM Germany is looking forward to a joint event with the Italian Embassy concerning the topics employment, social inclusion and economic progress in the EU.
The debate on our Brexit event can be followed using the hashtags #EBDExkl, #Brexit and #UKinEU. The hashtags #Grexit, #Griechenland and #Schuldenkrise lead to the EU negotiations. Everything about the much-debated transatlantic trade agreement can be found via #TTIP.