EM Germany Weekly Round-Up | week ending 24/07/2015
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
18/07-24/07/2015 – Greece introduced new VAT rules this week – life for the Greeks will become noticeably more expensive. This largely concerns foodstuffs. While thousands continue to demonstrate against austerity on the streets of Athens, the Greek parliament voted through a second reform package in the early hours of Thursday (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung – FAZ). Beforehand, Alexis Tsipras reshuffled his cabinet and replaced numerous critics with close followers (FAZ). Prior to the vote, the ECB increased the so-called emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) by a further 900 million euros. In one week, Prime Minister Tsipras managed to pass more controversial reforms through parliament than his predecessor. He again conceded that his government had opted for a “compromise”, which “forces us to implement a programme, in which we do not believe”. However, he had no choice but to go through with the reforms, since “we were faced with a difficult decision” (FAZ). Furthermore, Athens paid back a loan of more than six billion euros to the ECB and IMF at the start of the week (Süddeutsche). Negotiations for a third bailout are due to take place – while the European Commission welcomes Athens’ decision to accept the second bailout and set a 12 August deadline for the next agreement (Die Welt), the IMF fears that the negotiations for a third reform package could be difficult (EurActiv). France’s President François Hollande has in the meantime spoken out in favour of an “enhanced organisation of the Eurozone”. With this proposal, he aligns himself with the former European Commission President Jacques Delors, who advocated a Eurozone government. This would have to be coupled with a specific budget and a parliament for democratic control (EurActiv).
After a new round of talks between EU interior ministers last week, there was still no consensus in the debate surrounding the intake of refugees. The aim of the ministerial meeting was to determine how many of the 60,000 refugees would be accepted by which EU countries in the next two years. Luxembourg’s foreign minister Jean Asselborn called the proposals by some member states “encouraging”, while he called others “a little disappointing” or even “embarrassing”. In the end, a decision was made on the admission of 54,760 refugees (Spiegel). By contrast, the Hungarian government continues to resist and Austria is complaining that it has reached its capacity. Slovakia wants to step in and accept asylum seekers from its Austrian neighbour (EurActiv). According to a new media report, the EU wants to cooperate with authoritarian regimes in Africa, in order to deter people from fleeing to Europe and to fight people smugglers (EurActiv).
Negotiations between American and European mediators surrounding the transatlantic free trade agreement TTIP entered their tenth round this week: once again, they did not find a substantial solution. An earlier deadline to conclude talks in 2015 is no longer in question (FAZ). In addition, President of the Bundestag Norbert Lammert is calling for better access to negotiation documents. To date, only government officials have access to these documents, members of the Bundestag are said to be excluded (Die Zeit). In its political demands, EM Germany also campaigns for more transparency and a democratic involvement in the negotiations surrounding TTIP.
There were positive signs coming out of Ukraine at the end of the week. Russia and Ukraine’s leaders, Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko, are said to have pledged a withdrawal of arms in Eastern Ukraine during talks with Angela Merkel and François Hollande. Moreover, according to the talks, gas negotiations between Russia and Ukraine will be resumed. In view of the local elections this autumn, steps will be made in accordance with the Minsk treaty. The withdrawal from Eastern Ukraine as well as the upcoming elections will be supervised by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) (FAZ).
On Twitter, the current situation in Greece is still accompanied by the hashtags #Griechenland, #Rettungspolitik and #Reformen. Tweets on current refugee policy can be found via#migrationEU, #Fluechtlinge and #Asyl. Everything on the transatlantic free trade agreement can be followed via #TTIP and the latest developments in Ukraine can be followed using the hashtags #Ukraine and #Minsktreaty.