EM Germany Weekly Round-Up | week ending 27/03/2015
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 EMGermany’s activities and topics trending globally on Twitter. German version here.
21/03-27/03/2015 – The week kicked off with a visit by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, in Berlin. The six-hour talks were said to be “business-like to optimistic”. Both governments saw the meeting as significant in order to strengthen mutual understanding between the two countries (Tagesschau). Neither Merkel nor Tsipras made a statement about the longed-for list of reforms at the press conference. The Greek government plans to submit a reform package to the euro group this coming Monday (Handelsblatt). Greece’s government has to raise 1.7 billion euros by the end of the month to pay pensions and public service salaries. Due to debt repayments to the IMF, however, the government is in danger of going overdrawn. Greece does not see a basis for transferring 1.2 billion euros from a fund to recapitalise banks. In the meantime, the ECB expanded the scope for emergency loans to over 71 billion euros (Tagesspiegel).
The mini summit on Greece was one of the topics at EM Germany’s debriefing of the European Council. Representatives from the German government and the European Commission informed 130 guests about discussions that took place at the summit on topics including the energy union, the European Semester, structural reforms in EU member states, TTIP and EU asylum policy.
The case of Greece shows that in times of financial crisis EU member states get communicatively defensive, and it cannot be resolved through classic public relations. Cross-border social ‘glue’ is now needed to support European Public Diplomacy. In an opinion piece, EM Germany Secretary-General Bernd Hüttemann welcomes the Federal Foreign Office’s decision to tackle this topic in its review process, however, he warned against putting democratically organised civil society at a disadvantage in the process.
Europe is in shock. On Tuesday, a Germanwings plane crashed en route from Barcelona to Dusseldorf in the French Alps. Examinations of the voice recorder concluded that the German co-pilot most probably crashed the plane on purpose (FOCUS Online). Spain declared three days of national mourning after the disaster, also in Germany the flags flew at half-mast(Stern).
A lot of Europe in the German Bundestag: with a large majority, members of the Bundestag ratified the association agreements between the EU and Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova on Thursday. The main aim of the agreement is to remove trade barriers between the EU and the three aforementioned countries. The agreements will only enter into force once all 28 EU member states have approved them (FAZ).
On Friday, the Bundestag voted to introduce a car toll. From 2016, car users must pay to use German motorways, while owners of cars registered in Germany will simultaneously receive a reduction in their road tax as compensation. After a visit to Berlin at the end of January, EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc declared that the German car toll may be enforceable under European law. Nevertheless, the European Commission wants to examine the new law for discrimination against foreigners(EurActiv).
Last week, EM Germany was characterised by its two large educational projects, the European Pupils’ Competition and the College of Europe: on Monday and Tuesday, the German selection panel for study places and scholarships at Europe’s oldest university institute of postgraduate European studies met. The panel selected 34 candidates who from this autumn will do one of four master’s degrees at the College of Europe in Bruges or in Natolin. Our article on the selection interviews can be foundhere. The European Competition’s federal jury selected 572 prize winners from the nation’s best 1,800 works. The jury, which met in Hamburg, not only evaluated and concluded the 62nd round of the Competition, but also set the course for the Competition’s next round. The corresponding article can be found here. This week, EM Germany also published an article on the state of play of Germany’s civil society consultation process.
On Twitter the debate surrounding Greece and the euro crisis can be followed via #Grexit, #Griechenland and #Eurogruppe. Mourning of the victims of the serious plane crash is being expressed using the hashtag #U49525. The results of EM Germany’s European Council debriefing can be found using #EBDdebrief. The hashtag #Maut can be used to follow the debate on the car toll and its results from the Bundestag.