EM Germany Weekly Round-Up | week ending 27/02/2015
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 EMGermany’s activities and topics trending globally on Twitter. German version here.
The week’s highlights in print, at EM Germany and on Twitter
21/02-27/02/2015 – Greece’s future continues to keep the Eurozone in suspense. At the weekend, Eurozone finance ministers agreed a four-month extension to the bail-out package on the condition of concrete proposals for reform. The list of reforms arrived in Brussels on Tuesday and was approved during a subsequent telephone conference between Euro finance ministers. The reform paper is said to contain, amongst other things, proposals for combatting corruption and tax evasion, as well as measures to reduce bureaucracy. Parliaments in several euro states must now approve the extension of the bail-out package. Despite the odd critical voice, a broad majority voted in favour of the extension in the German Bundestag on Friday (Süddeutsche). Prior to the vote, the German tabloid Bild called on its readers to protest against the extension of Greece’s aid package with a selfie (Bild). Countless organisations demanded an immediate end to the campaign. Young European Federalists Germany (JEF Deutschland) and the Green Party faction in the Bundestag called for European solidarity with Greece.
At the weekend, Russian separatists and Ukraine agreed to withdraw heavy armaments as part of the Minsk treaty, which began midweek(Handelsblatt). The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) mission in Eastern Ukraine, in the meantime, will be extended. There are plans to arm the organisation. Developments around the port of Mariupol in Eastern Ukraine are being anxiously observed. After the capture of Debaltseve last week, both Germany (Spiegel Online) and the US warned of a new offensive. US arms deliveries are also open to debate again (Zeit Online). Russia is threatening to cut the gas supply to Ukraine, if advance payments for March are not made. Gas supplied until now is said to only last until the weekend. New negotiations for gas are to take place in Brussels on Monday with the EU acting as mediator(Handelsblatt).
The EU’s free trade agreement with the US (TTIP) has continued to occupy the European public. According to a current Eurobarometer survey, the majority of the population in 25 out of 28 EU member states supports the free trade agreement with the US. In Germany, however, a narrow majority is against it. EU Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström was unable to explain this position: “the debate in Germany is a bit hotter than in other countries. I am unable, however, to analyse it sociologically”, Malmström said at a Social Democratic Party (SPD) conference on Monday. Vice-Chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, meanwhile urged more transparency in arbitration proceedings, as well as a modern investment protection regime, in which the previously private arbitration courts will be replaced by public courts (Euractiv). The CETA agreement with Canada is considered a blueprint for TTIP. A compromise proposal was submitted to the EU social democrats. Clear boundaries should be drawn for investment protection and an international commercial court should be established(Focus Online).
The free trade agreement and the Euro crisis were also a topic discussed during EM Germany’s briefing with Peter Altmaier. The Head of the German Chancellery discussed Europolitical challenges and the new EU Commission line-up from the perspective of the German government with 120 representatives from interest groups.
The EP‘s environment committee approved a reform of the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) on Tuesday. Due to a surplus of certificates on the market, businesses do not have an incentive to reduce their emissions. A Market Stability Reserve should lower the number of certificates. The Parliament already wants to introduce the reform from the end of 2018, the Commission not until 2021 (European Parliament). The WWF welcomed the decision by the EP’s environment committee.
With regard to the Ukraine conflict and its dependence on Russian gas, an energy union for Europe was discussed this week. On Wednesday, the European Commission presented its plans for a European energy union, one of the Juncker Commission’s main projects. Plans include harmonisation of energy markets in Europe and integrated cooperation in the energy sector (Handelsblatt). EM Germany member organisations are positive about the energy union. The federation of German consumer organisations (Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband e.V) welcomed the Commission’s targets, however warns of a simplification of eligibility conditions for renewable energies. The Federation of German Industry(BDI) and the Federal Association of Energy and Water Industry (BDEW) talk of new momentum for Europe’s energy policy.
Dr. Angelika Niebler MEP was a guest speaker at ‘EP Rapporteur in Dialogue’, a series of events by EM Germany in cooperation with the European Parliament’s Information Office in Germany, discussing framework conditions for family businesses in Europe.
On Twitter, a look back at the Greek crisis is provided by the hashtags#Eurogroup and #Grexit. The hashtags #Ukraine and #Minsk follow the latest developments in the Ukraine conflict and the Minsk peace treaty. The debate surrounding the free trade agreement can be found using#TTIP. Topics discussed during EM Germany’s briefing with Peter Altmaier can be followed via #EBDbrief. The debate with EP rapporteur Dr. Angelika Niebler on family businesses can be found via the hashtag #EBDBiD.