EM Germany Weekly Round-Up | week ending 06/03/2015
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
28/02-06/03/2015 – Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras horrified the political world with his speech in front of the Greek cabinet at the past weekend (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ)), in which he accused the Spanish and Portuguese governments of having an alleged suspicious/mistrusting attitude in the dispute over debt. “We stand in front of an axis of power, led by the governments of Spain and Portugal, who, for what are clearly political motives, have tried to bring the whole negotiation process into ruin”. Spain and Portugal subsequently expressed their indignation at the accusations (FAZ). The German newspaper Handelsblatt summarised Tsipras’ speech as a “rejection of the troika”, after he ruled out a third bail-out package. Martin Jäger, spokesperson for the Federal Ministry of Finance conveyed the German government’s position on the matter: “according to European standards that was a very unusual move[…] We don’t do that in the Euro group, it’s improper” (Spiegel).
On Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke at the European Investment Bank (EIB) on European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker’s 315 billion Euro investment package: “Juncker’s plan represents a paradigm shift in the European Union. We support the initiative.” The Chancellor also emphasised close cooperation with the European Commission to get CETA and TTIP of the ground before the end of the year. The timeframes are not endless (EurActiv). “Where there is the will to sign such an agreement, then a way will be found”, the Chancellor explained. Using this platform, she stressed that she “has underlined, during the discussions, that the Commission can only achieve this if it receives the support of its member states” (Tagesschau).
“Withdrawal of arms in Eastern Ukraine makes progress”, read Handelsblatt’s headline at the start of the week, following the starts of the peace process in the region. Deputy Chief of the OSCE monitoring group in Ukraine, Alexander Hug, gave a positive assessment: “we are seeing movement for the first time since Minsk”. In addition, Hug, who urges strengthening the mission, made it clear that “without delay, we need more monitors, precise satellite and drone pictures and the experts, who can evaluate these things” (Spiegel Online). At the start of the week, the European Union, as mediator, agreed an extension to gas delivery until the end of March with Russia and Ukraine. On Thursday, Russia and NATO started military manoeuvres near to Ukraine (Spiegel Online). Both sides confirmed the military resources were for military exercises. NATO deployed marine troops from Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey to the Black Sea. Russia will send more than 2000 soldiers for air defence exercises and field exercises will take place in Southern Russia and in the north Caucasus region. Evidently, the tug-of-war is not over yet.
The reaction to the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in Russia shocked the political world and generated differing opinions in Europe. Chancellor Merkel expects that everything should be done to solve this murder (Spiegel Online). On Tuesday, thousands paid their last respects to Nemtsov. Those present included the Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevucius and the former British Prime Minister John Major.
The NGO Forum took place in Riga on 2-3 March, a successful event in which non-governmental organisations and civil society took part. The aim of the event was to increase civic participation in European Union decision-making processes. A detailed report on the NGO Forum in Riga can be found here.
The four-week-long 28th UN Human Rights Council in Geneva started this week. Here, the European Union will defend the universality of human rights. At the same time, a European delegation travelled to Cuba, with the aim of reviving contacts and to agree concrete commitments (El País).
Wrangling over the Greek crisis was accompanied on Twitter by the hashtags #Griechenland #Schuldenkrise #Schuldenstreit #Hilfsprogramm and #Troika, especially after PM Alexis Tsipras’ speech in front of the Greek cabinet last weekend. All tweets on Ukraine can be followed using the hashtags #Ukraine, #UkraineConflict #Russland and #Gaslieferung. The NGO Forum Riga 2015 can be followed via the hashtag #NGOforumRiga. The hashtags #HRC28 and #idefend cover news from the 28th Human Rights Council currently running in Geneva.