EM Germany Weekly Round-Up | week ending 26/06/2015
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
20/06–26/06/2015 – News on the crisis in Greece arrived on an almost hourly basis. EU finance ministers met several times this week, however the search for a common solution remains tough. In addition, EU leaders met on Wednesday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasised, however, that she would stay out negotiation of the final details and would not force a political solution (Zeit). Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ government did indeed present a new list of reforms at the start of the week, which was also welcomed by creditors. At the same time, it quickly became apparent that it concerned a new basis for discussion and that in some points there was still a clear need for improvement. The main points of contention are pension and tax reform (Zeit). The IMF in particular appeared hostile at times, which meant that by midweek the fronts seemed to have hardened (Deutschlandfunk). Meanwhile, Tsipras has encountered strong headwinds in his own country, as he is accused of being too accommodating. There is even talk of new elections (taz). After flitting from one crisis meeting to the next, the weekend should finally see a breakthrough, when EU finance ministers meet again. A possible compromise could be presented to the national parliaments next week, according to the timetable. The deadline, as well as the day Greece could go bankrupt, is now this coming Tuesday (Welt). Greece is negotiating with the ECB, IMF and the European Commission for the pay out of a final multi-billion-euro tranche from the second EU bailout package, which expires in the next few days. The tranche is only to be paid out if the Mediterranean country make an effort to implement the relevant reforms, however, given the threat of bankruptcy and the possibility of an ensuing “Grexit” of the ailing EU state, it is more and more urgent.
After snubbing EU partners with his remarks on the reintroduction of the death penalty in his country a few weeks ago, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán caused indignation in Europe with his proposal to build a fence on the border with Serbia (DW). The planned measure is said to help stem illegal immigration to Hungary. The right-wing populist governing party Fidesz is also planning a change to the current asylum law. The aim of the change in legislation is supposed to be able to make it easier to deport asylum seekers to their countries of origin. On Tuesday, it also became public that Hungary wants to unilaterally suspend the Dublin Regulation and no longer take in refugees, should they be deported from other EU countries to Hungary (Zeit). Shortly afterwards, the government backtracked on the issue of stopping intake of refugees, however it wants to address the question in EU meetings (Spiegel). Plans to build a border fence were met with massive criticism once they were made public. Many see the plans as incompatible with EU values. “In a country that only a quarter of a century ago was the first Eastern-bloc country to break through the Iron Curtain, this has particular symbolic meaning for the whole of Europe”, wrote (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ)). European Movement International (EMI) immediately declared its position, condemning Orbán’s foray in the strongest terms and in the name of its members urged them to “tear down this plan!”. Bernd Hüttemann, EMI Vice-President said: “creating a ‘fortress Europe’ with the help of a 175 km wall is exactly the opposite of respecting human dignity, freedom and equality – and is therefore contrary to the central values of our European Community”. Hungary is not alone in the EU with its plans. At the beginning of the year, Bulgaria decided to extend its existing border fence on its border with Turkey, while Greece already upgraded its own external border years ago. There is a danger that Europe will gradually become a “continent of border fences” (Welt).
EU refugee policy has been keeping member states busy despite the latest news from Budapest. Midweek it became apparent that the previously planned mandatory refugee distribution quota would now be based on voluntary intake by EU states (DW). During the EU interior ministers’ meeting, nearly half of the national representatives there spoke against such a quota (Handelsblatt). Some heads of state and government subsequently commented on the latest developments and appeared to be frustrated (Spiegel). Originally, 40,000 refugees were to distributed amongst all EU states, using various factors including population and economic power – even this number is probably irrelevant. It remains to be seen, how the Community will reach a compromise. The idea to introduce a quota was suggested by the European Commission a few weeks ago, in order to take the pressure off EU states in the Medeterranean scuh as Greece and Italy, who have bore the brunt until now.
After last week’s EM Germany debriefing on the Agriculture and Fisheries Council, it was time for “European Parliament Rapporteur in dialogue” on the EU-Eco-regulation this week. Martin Häusling (Alliance ‘90/The Greens), member of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) in the European Parliament, granted a look into the views of the Parliament. Following this, there was an open panel discussion with an interested audience, chaired by EM Germany Secretary-General Bernd Hüttemann. Häusling views the Commission‘s proposal rather critically and also initiated 253 of the 1200 amendments from all parliamentarians. He campaigned in particular for a European eco agency, which will foster exchange of information and would represent an important basis for a common approach. The availability of organic seeds is also an important issue for Häusling. Organic seed is scarcely available in most member states, however is an important requirement for consumer trust in organic farming.
On Monday, 29 June, we welcome representatives of our member organisations to our Network Day including the EM Germany General Assembly at the Hertie School of Governance. Besides by-elections to the board, the day will also comprise realigning EM Germany member organisations’ political demands for 2015/16. We look forward to our many guests and an exciting day under the banner of European thought. The Network Day will start with an EM Germany debriefing on the “European Council”.
Our General Assembly can be followed on Twitter using the hashtag#EBDMV. The most important points of EM Germany’s European Council debriefing can be found via #EBDDeBrief, while the debate from “European Parliament Rapporteur in dialogue” can be found via #EBDBiD. Search terms for content on refugee and asylum policy are #MigrationEU and#Asylpolitik, and for Greece #Schuldenkrise, #Griechenland and #Grexit.