EM Germany Weekly Round-Up | week ending 12/06/2015
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
06/06–12/06/2015 – The week started with an eventful Sunday: at the G7 summit, which took place on Sunday and Monday, important decisions were made regarding environmental protection. Heads of state and government at the meeting not only agreed to phase out the use of oil, gas and coal by the end of the century, but also agreed to reduce greenhouse gases by 40 to 70 per cent by the year 2050. The G7 states also issued a warning to Russia over aggravated fighting in Ukraine. They are prepared “if necessary, to intensify sanctions”, said German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Tagesspiegel).
TTIP, the free trade agreement, was also discussed at the G7 meeting. The agreement is clearly backed by US President Barack Obama and Merkel, with the German Chancellor even saying it will be in place at the end of the year (Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ)). As a result, the European Parliament’s (EP) vote on TTIP was eagerly anticipated. It’s said to be a signal, not only to the European Commission, but also to the US. However, on the eve of the vote, EP President Martin Schulz decided to delay it, reason being that there are more than 200 requests for amendment of the agreement. The main point of contention, also from the public’s point of view, is the controversial use of private arbitration courts. The issue has mainly split socialists and conservatives; in the end even the plenum voted with 183 to 182 in favour of delaying the vote indefinitely (Spiegel, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) and others).
The EP demonstrated unity in another matter: with a large majority it urges a review of democracy in Hungary. Recent statements made by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on capital punishment prompted the European Parliament to do so. MEPs are expecting a report on the situation by September and are not ruling out sanctions here either (EurActiv, FAZ).
A look at a long-term EU candidate country: parliamentary elections took place in Turkey at the weekend. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AK party was the strongest party securing 40.9% of the vote. However, the pro-Kurdish HDP party was also successful, taking 12.7% of votes. Erdogan’s party thereby loses its majority (Spiegel, FAZ). Many EU officials congratulated Turkey on taking a step towards democracy (EurActiv).
Greece’s plight moved Europe this week. Shortly before Sunday morning’s EU summit started, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker appeared to be visibly disappointed and disgruntled by Greek PM Alexis Tsipras at a press conference (FAZ). Tsipras had not presented Juncker with a solution on the previous Friday, as was agreed. No one should count on “a rabbit being pulled out of a hat” at the last minute, he said, following the Greek parliament’s rejection of a compromise offer worked on with creditors (Berliner Morgenpost). Tsipras had called the offer absurd. In view of a possible extension to the aid package, which is due to expire on 30 June (and an extension also has to be approved by national parliaments), Chancellor Merkel, Commission President Juncker, and French President Hollande met with Tsipras for a new crisis meeting on the fringes of the EU-Latin America summit (Die Welt). The talks to bridge any differences indeed took place “in a constructive atmosphere”, however were fruitless (EurActiv). However, the suspense remained as the European Central Bank announced an increase in emergency aid of 2.3 billion euros on the same day (SZ). According to EurActiv, a scenario where Greece leaves the EU seemed a little more plausible this week.
Despite an incident regarding the Falkland Islands on the periphery of the EU-CELAC summit (EurActiv) participating heads of state and government declared Latin America and the Caribbean a peace zone. In addition, they promised to engage themselves to tackle global challenges with the aim of creating more prosperous, cohesive, inclusive and sustainable societies(Political Declaration EU-CELAC).
In Britain, the first effects of the Tory election victory are beginning to show: a law about the EU referendum was passed in the House of Commons on Tuesday (FOCUS). The referendum cleared its first hurdle with a large majority of 544 ‘ayes’ (out of 597 MPs present). The exact phrasing of the referendum question was also determined: “should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?”. When the referendum will take place remains unclear (EurActiv). EM Germany, together with its member organisations Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (Friedrich Naumann Stiftung) and the German-British Society (Deutsch-Britische Gesellschaft e.V.), hosted a corresponding fishbowl discussion on ‘Grexit’ and ‘Brexit’. There was consensus that it is now crunch time for European policy, which could change the EU forever. Only joint effort can keep Greece and Britain in the EU.
The future of employment in Europe was discussed at the Italian Embassy in Berlin on Friday: thanks to cooperation between the German-Italian parliamentary groups of both countries and the Italian Embassy, European Movement Germany and its Italian sister organisation CIME it has been possible to bring the most important representatives from German and Italian trade unions together. At the German-Italian ‘future dialogue’ it became clear that especially in times of globalisation a European social policy is necessary. EM Germany President Dr. Rainer Wend emphasised the similarities between the two countries in his europolitical statement: Italy, like Germany, once motors of European integration and now on their way to being this once again, both have strong organised civil society. “Both countries, and Europe, need the mobilisation thrust of social forces”, said Wend. “The state chancelleries will not manage it on their own”.
The ‘future dialogue’ can be followed on Twitter using #EUdialogDEIT. A lively discussion on #Grexit and #Brexit can be found using the hashtags, and used in combination leads to the aforementioned fishbowl discussion. The hashtags #Türkeiwahlen or #TurkeyElections lead to opinions about the elections in Turkey. #EUCELAC informs about the EU-Latein American summit.