EM Germany Weekly Round-Up | week ending 13/03/2015
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
07/03-13/03/2015 – The situation in Ukraine remains tense. On Wednesday, the US declared that it wants to deliver military equipment to the Ukrainian army, to support it in the conflict with pro-Russian separatists. In addition, sanctions against Russia have been extended, due to persistent violations of the ceasefire as agreed in the Minsk treaty. Russia, meanwhile, revoked the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE). The treaty between NATO and former Warsaw Treaty members entered into force in 1992 and was to secure military balance in Europe. As a result of NATO absorbing former Warsaw Pact states, Russia wants to renegotiate (Spiegel Online). The OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine has been extended until March 2016 with express agreement from Kiev and Moscow. The number if monitors is to be doubled to 1,000 and strong financial support is to be given (Handelsblatt).
In view of the continuing conflict with Russia, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called for a joint EU army. The army would defend European values globally. Chancellor Angela Merkel and Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed the proposal and pledged their support (Spiegel Online). The idea of a common European army is certainly not new and has occupied Europe since the fifties. Until today Europe’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) is the EU’s least communitarised policy. The idea of a joint army is therefore far off, writes EurActiv in a commentary piece – closer cooperation in CFSP should be striven for first of all. A deeper CFSP and setting the course for a European defence union is also one of EM Germany’s political demands.
An important project for the new EU Commission is the creation of an energy union. This week, Juncker urged member states to show greater speed and engagement in its implementation. The energy union would make Europe more competitive and at the same time less dependent on imports, Juncker said in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. There were differing opinions amongst MEPs. Most notably representatives from the Greens and the Left accused the Commission of not backing renewable energies and energy conservation enough (EurActiv).
“Threats, relenting, temper tantrums but then another few tiny steps”, that is how Zeit Online summarised the negotiations surrounding further financial help for Greece. A meeting of the Eurogroup on Monday ended without concrete results. The lack of concrete proposals for reform from Greece’s side was criticised (Zeit Online). First talks with international investors since the new Greek government took up office started on Wednesday. Representatives from Greece’s government and experts from the Commission, ECB and IMF came together for talks in Brussels under a new name (“Brussels Group” instead of “Troika”). The aim is to work out binding reforms by the end of April (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung). Greek PM Alexis Tsipras met for talks with Juncker in Brussels on Friday. Federal Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble is meanwhile no longer ruling out an accidental Greek exit from the euro zone (Spiegel Online), and also among the German public the mood has changed: a majority (52%) thinks that Greece should not remain in the Euro (ZDF-Politbarometer). In Athens, demands for reparations payments as compensation for Germany‘s crimes during the World War Two were raised once again. Head of government Tsipras accused Germany of juridical tricks and dragging their feet (Süddeutsche.de).
On Tuesday, FAZ’s printed edition carried the headline “Greece lacks many things – above all trust” when it presented a study by the University of Mannheim’s Centre for European Social Research. The study showed that Greece is suffering from a lack of trust in politics and society specific to Europe. Greece’s decline is said to be less of an economic-financial nature and much more of a social and political one. The outcome of the crisis only offers targeted support of civil society structures. EM Germany President Rainer Wend already urged rethinking the difficult socio-political situation in Greece in his euro-political article at the beginning of February and named a weak civil society as one of the reasons for the crisis.
In the meantime, the ECB has started buying up bonds. The aim is to tackle low inflation in the euro zone. The euro recently fell to a record low. The exchange rate plummeted to below 1.08 dollars for the first time since September 2003. The euro has thereby lost six cents in value since February (Spiegel Online).
The European Parliament has engaged the EU’s Anti-Fraud Office, OLAF. The French party Front National (FN) is suspected of obtaining EU money for MEP assistants, even though they worked for the party in France. In return, party leader Marine Le Pen threatened to press charges against European Parliament President Martin Schulz for making false accusations (taz.de).
This year, the ‘Fachforum Europa’ (expert forum) in Dresden took place under the motto: “Communicating Europe today: plain.new.different!?”. Representatives comprised over 150 participants from the euro-political educational sector, including EM Germany as well as member organisations Young European Federalists (JEF) Germany, European Federalists Germany (EUD), Schwarzkopf Foundation Young Europe and the Allianz Cultural Foundation. The forum offered a platform to exchange news, experiences and discuss obstacles regarding educating young people about Europe. The programme included workshops, short presentations, opportunities to network, as well as a Europe-themed poetry slam. The full report can be read here.
Further debates on Greece’s debt crisis can be found via the hashtags #Griechenland, #Eurogroup, #Grexit and #Troika. The hashtags #Ukraine, #UkraineConflict and #Russland offer the latest developments in the Ukraine crisis. Tweets on the two-day event ‘Fachforum Europa’, about euro-political youth education, can be recalled using the hashtag #FachforumEuropa.