EM Germany Weekly Round-Up | week ending 07/08/2015
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
01/08-07/08/2015 – Talks between Greece and its creditors about a third bailout worth up to 86 billion euros are going positively. Both Greece’s finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos and Commission spokesperson MinaAndreeva declared their satisfaction with the negotiation process(EurActiv). European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker assumes the talks will wrap up by 20 August at the latest, the deadline for the repayment of 3.4 billion euros to the ECB (Tagesspiegel). On Monday, Greece’s Ministry of Labour already declared it was ready to accept controversial pension reforms – including increasing the retirement age from 62 to 67 – proposed by creditors (Reuters). However, Wolfgang Schäuble doubts the talks will finish on time and has brought the possibility of interim loans into play (Süddeutsche Zeitung). After already causing a stir last week by demanding a restriction on the European Commission’s power (Die Zeit), Germany’s Finance Minister thereby consciously positions himself against Brussels’ policy again.
In reaction to the planned cash injections, ratings agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded their long-term rating for the European Union from “stable” to “negative” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ)). The Athens stock exchange, which reopened on Monday after a forced five-week closure, started at a three-year low (Die Zeit). Greece’s four largest banks, Piraeus Bank, Alpha Bank, Eurobank and National Bank, had to some extent accept incursions of up to 30%. To get the situation under control,Syriza is planning quick access to the funds made available by creditors(SpiegelOnline).
Another refugee boat has sunk in the Mediterranean Sea. The overfull boat with more than 600 people on board capsized off the Libyan coast on Wednesday night. 360 people who were saved, as well as 25 bodies were taken to Sicily; a search for the remaining people is ongoing (Die Welt). In the preceding days, 1,800 refugees were saved from their overcrowded boats by the Italian coast guard (EurActiv). An estimated 188,000 refugees and migrants have travelled to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea since the start of the year, more than 2,000 lost their lives in the process (Deutsche Welle).
Furthermore, Europe has been watching Calais this week. For weeks now, hundreds of refugees have repeatedly tried to reach Britain in trucks and goods trains via the Eurotunnel, using the cover of darkness. In the last two months alone, ten migrants have had fatal accidents. Interior ministers from both countries explained that everything is being done to get the situation under control. France deployed 120 additional police officers to secure the tunnel while the UK provided financial help for border protection (Die Welt, SpiegelOnline). In view of the traffic delays, which has not only affected logistics companies but also tourists, David Cameron has been criticised for not taking action quickly enough. The British Prime Minister rejected these allegations and called for swift action by the EU(Tagesschau.de). On Wednesday, Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU Commissioner for Migration, promised both countries nine-figure financial support as well as technical support from the EU’s border protection agency Frontex and put the emphasis on European cooperation in order to overcome such a complex challenge (Die Zeit). Not enough for Britain: scare tactics are planned, such as withdrawing benefits for rejected asylum seekers, as well as enabling termination of contracts without notice for tenants without a residence permit (Der Standard). Also in Austria the situation is getting out of hand. Since communities were successful in resisting taking in refugees, the country’s only two reception centres are full and the humanitarian situation is precarious. In the meantime, Juncker has called on EU governments to stand their ground against right-wing populist movements (SpiegelOnline).
After negotiations lasting two-and-a-half years, EU and Vietnamese representatives were able to reach an agreement on the introduction of a free trade agreement on Tuesday. The contract, which comprises goods, services, investments and public procurement, will remove barriers and encourage trade with Vietnam as well as with the whole of South-East Asia in the long term (EurActiv). At the same time, the European Parliament in Strasbourg debated TTIP. After earlier intense talks, representatives for the public were able to agree a compromise this week: the previously heavily criticised private arbitration courts will be replaced by independent courts in order to avoid potential disadvantages for European companies in complaints against states (SpiegelOnline).