EM Germany Weekly Round-Up | week ending 06/02/2015
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
31/01-06/02/2015 – It was a critical week for the future of the Economic Monetary Union (EMU) and Greece. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the Greek government’s refusal to continue cooperating with the EU’s appointed troika provided fodder for conversation this week. While the German government clings on to the troika format as a “reliable control mechanism”, the European Commission is showing more openness in the debate. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker deems it possible to replace the troika with a democratic and legitimised supervisory body (Die Welt). EM Germany’s President Dr. Rainer Wend sees the sovereign debt crisis as, above all, a political problem, for it needs more than a purely technical troika composed of officials (cf. the President’s article). During his tour of European capital cities, Tsipras canvassed for support from heads of state and finance ministers (Die Welt). In Brussels, Greece’s finance minister Yanis Varoufakis met with the presidents of the European Commission, Council and Parliament. Since the European Central Bank made it more difficult for Greece to access credit (Handelsblatt), also Federal Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble showed himself to be unforgiving. There was no evidence of rapprochement during the meeting: “we agreed to disagree”, said Schäuble (Focus Online). Varoufakis criticised the EU’s austerity policy in an interview. Decisions made in 2010 are said to have worsened Greece’s position and led to the dismissal of the wrong people, while elitism and nepotism coupled with corruption would continue to burden Greece’s economy and society. The EU should not trust Greece, but listen and take Greek citizens’ problems seriously (Die Zeit).
A new round of negotiations on the EU-US free trade agreement (TTIP) has taken place for the first time since the Commission’s new line-up was introduced in November 2014, after negotiations came to a standstill following public pressure. The especially controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process was already excluded beforehand (EurActiv). The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) called on the EU to finalise the negotiations quickly and to make a fundamental change to its negotiating position; investor protection, for example, must be axed. Also European Movement International (EMI) supports a competent and honest debate on TTIP and wants to “bring the concerns of civil-society actors to the negotiating table”, EMI Secretary-General Diogo Pinto told EurActiv.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s state visit to Hungary last week was eagerly anticipated. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán came under fire again due to his liberal policy towards Russia and his authoritarian governing style. Thousands of people in Hungary have been protesting against the lack of legal certainty and corruption in the country in the run up to the visit. They are calling for Orbán’s resignation and are hoping for a clear statement from the Chancellor (Tagesschau). Merkel remained reserved, however, and is now under fire herself because of this (Spiegel Online). EU values were the subject of EM Germany’s ‘Staatsminister im Dialog’ event. Michael Roth, State Minister for Europe in the Federal Foreign Office, urged strengthening and securing fundamental values and the rule of law in the EU, and shifted focus to the role of media pluralism.
Chancellor Merkel and France’s President François Hollande personally endeavored to resolve the conflict in Ukraine. The objective of the talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin was a comprehensive peace plan, which should contain an immediate ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy armaments, as well as an exchange of prisoners (Süddeutsche Zeitung). The escalation of violence in Eastern Ukraine as well as the debate about arms delivery to Ukraine by the US prompted the new peace initiative (New York Times). In principal, EM Germany board member Michael Gahler MEP deems the use of defensive weapons to resolve the Ukraine conflict appropriate and thus contradicts Merkel’s position on the matter (Deutschlandfunk).
Economists are anxiously observing deflation in the eurozone. The rate of inflation in the eurozone was -0.6% in January and caused the strongest drop in prices since the euro’s inception. The drop in prices for energy and food is said to be especially strong. There is a danger that the economy in the whole eurozone could slow down due to strong deflation (Spiegel Online). EM Germany Secretary-General Bernd Hüttemann, meanwhile, criticised the informal trilogue between the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council. EMI and EM Germany demand transparent legislation in a proper legislation process in order to safeguard strong parliamentary controls and the participation of citizens and civil society interests. The trilogue’s greatly shortened process could be insufficient, therefore the main argument of efficiency not being accepted.
The crisis in Greece can be followed on Twitter via the hashtags #Grexit und #Griechenland. Negotiations and debates on the free trade agreement can be found under #TTIP. Developments in Ukraine and the security situation can be followed using the hashtag #Ukraine. The debate on trilogues in EU legislation can be found via #Trilog. The debate about values during EM Germany event ‘Staatsminister im Dialog‘ can be read using the hashtags #Werte EU and #EBDStid.