EM Germany Weekly Round-Up | week ending 07/11/2014
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 EMGermany’s activities and topics trending globally on Twitter. German version here.
The week’s highlights in print, at EM Germany and on Twitter
01/11-07/11/2014 – This week, the papers have been keeping themselves busy with British Prime Minister David Cameron’s plans to introduce an immigration quota for EU citizens. In an interview with the Sunday Times German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that Germany would not tamper with the basic principle of free movement in the EU. Merkel wants to keep Great Britain in the EU, however, restricting freedom of movement represents a “point of no return” (Spiegel). The Guardian warns of an aggravation of the situation. In contrast, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung praised this clear statement, as Cameron seems to be prepared to do almost anything to “take the wind out of the sails” of Eurosceptic UKIP. However, there was an indication of willingness to discuss topics such as social security benefit fraud (Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), Daily Telegraph). The Bundestag passed a legislative package on Thursday, which would prevent the misuse of social security benefits by EU immigrants(Deutschlandradio). The law has yet to be approved by the Bundesrat.
The revelations over the Luxembourg tax deals have spread like wildfire, according to which the Grand Duchy has helped more than 300 companies to avoid billions in tax payments (SZ). Only a short time after taking up his post, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker finds himself in a public relations crisis. Why? Because he was Luxembourg’s Finance Minister for two decades – and ignorance is unlikely. Juncker’s actions and joint knowledge during this time must be addressed, writes the Frankfurter Rundschau. There is a lack of transparency concerning tax havens, which is why journalists instead of states had to uncover tax avoidance, criticised The Guardian. The European Commission demonstrated a readiness to punish Luxembourg if it is found to have broken EU law(Handelsblatt). The Twitter debate surrounding this topic can be found via the hashtag #LuxLeaks.
Can Germany’s interests in European policy be defined only by state actors? At EM Germany’s ‘EBD Exklusiv’ event representatives from politics, business and trade unions came together to answer this question. Germany’s engagement abroad is observed critically at national level – internationally Germany has been ascribed a leading role, which it still has to grow into. EM Germany sees the Grand Coalition has a duty, as set out in the coalition agreement, to lead regular dialog between state andcivil society actors. This event took place in the framework of the Federal Foreign Office’s “Review 2014 – A Fresh Look at German Foreign Policy”.
Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán’s proposed internet tax has been suspended after thousands of people took to the streets in Budapest and other Hungarian cities. Opinions in the Hungarian press on the reasons for the withdrawal ranges from “a real democrat” to “influence from the EU and USA” (entry ban for six Hungarian officials in the US). Orbán defended the tax in an interview and explained that he would still introduce the tax this year as part of a “national consultation” (Spiegel, Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung).
European communication – the new European Commission, which officially took up its work on Monday, wants to show that it is media friendly. Press officers will no longer represent individual Commissioners, but will represent work areas and report directly to the Commission President. Commissioners also plan to address the press personally more often – even when there are problems (EurActiv). In order to strengthen European communication, EM Germany initiative ‘multilateral dialogue’ met on Thursday, this time hosted by the European Commission Representation in Berlin. Participants discussed measures and opportunities for cooperation, as well as expectations of cooperation with the European Commission.
Besides #LuxLeaks international debate on Twitter was dominated by the EU’s freedom of movement with the search term #freemovement. Preparations for the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall are also running red hot on the social media channel. The official hashtag for the festivities is #BerlinWall25. The outcome of the generational conference on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, organised by EM Germany last weekend in cooperation with the European Commission Representation in Berlin and the European Parliament’s Information Office, can be found under the hashtag #WallFall25.