EM Germany Weekly Round-Up | week ending 28/11/2014
M 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
22/11-28/11/2014 – A vote of no confidence against new European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has backfired, to the regret of the EU sceptics responsible i.e. the right-wing populist UKIP, National Front and Alternative for Germany (AfD). 101 of 751 MEPs supported the motion(Der Spiegel). The reason behind it was the revelations of large companiesavoiding tax in Luxembourg. Juncker was criticised as having enabled these tax deals as Luxembourg’s head of government (Frankfurter Rundschau). The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) explained the vote’s futility: the grand coalition, made up of Christian and social democrats, as well as liberals, have just elected Juncker as Commission President and finally want to get started with their work. However, there are some reservations, as an explanation from the Commission will not convince all citizens. An investigation committee should be appointed as soon as possible, FAZ writes.
How can we kick-start the European economy? Commission PresidentJuncker presented his answer to this question in the form of a 315 billion euro investment programme (Der Spiegel). A 21 billion euro fund is said to have been put in place for strategic investments, 16 billion euros will come from EU funds, five billion from the European Investment Bank. According to the Commission’s own calculations, this foundation will secure private investments, which will total around 315 billion euros in the coming years. Private investors will be attracted through the EU’s promise of loss liability protection. Especially projects in the fields of infrastructure, research and development will be funded. The Left in the European Parliament are calling the proposal “creative accounting” (Süddeutsche Zeitung), an MEP for the German Christian Social Union called it a package which lacks substance. Countries such as Italy, France and Spain welcome the change in economic policy (Die Zeit). It is however the right way to attract risk-averse investors, writes Die Welt.
The European Parliament (EP) has made a decision to restrict market power of large companies such as Google. Criticism is directed towards monopoly (90-95% of web searches) and tax evasion evident after the “Luxembourg leaks”. The EP’s statement is not binding for the Commission nor is it likely that it will be implemented. The Berliner Zeitung sees it as a good decision and calls for an urgent catch-up in cartel and competition legislation. However, the breaking up of a company is viewed critically, and is only justified when a company is proven to have a monopoly, which seriously damages competition or consumers (Handelsblatt).
Western sanctions against Russia are proving to be effective. Losses are estimated to be 140 billion euros (Die Zeit). The banking sector has been particularly effected, which is slowly moving into a crisis zone, as it is excluded from the capital market (Handelsblatt). Although stronger sanctions are in part being called for, Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warns of placing too strong a sanction on Russia: “is it our meaning and purpose to wrestle down Russia’s economy?”, Steinmeier asked in Berlin. „My categorical answer is: no. That is, was, and should not be the purpose of sanctions.” There should continue to be dialogue and a diplomatic solutions should be striven for (Der Spiegel).
One year ago, the first protests started on Maidan Square in Kiev. In anopen letter to the initiators of the protests, EM Germany board member Frank Burgdörfer recalled their courage and thanked them: “you have long since changed your country, you have changed the world. You have created facts that cannot be changed. We remaining Europeans can be proud that you have made our flag your symbol.”
The Pope in Strasbourg. In his speech in the European Parliament, Pope Francis shifted human dignity to the centre stage: “we cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a graveyard”, he said, demanding more help forrefugees. EM Germany member organisations also commented, such as Ulrich Lilie from Protestant social welfare organisation Diakonie Deutschland. Lilie, the organisation’s President, says that Europe could and should do more. The Pope’s now oft-quoted line “Europe must not lose its soul” was only uttered on Wednesday, however already on Monday at the21st European evening at the dbb-Forum (German Civil Service Federation) around 400 guests and former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer who was a guest speaker broadly agreed with this statement.
Jean-Claude #Juncker again ruled Twitter this week – at the start of the week the EP’s vote of no confidence, and on Wednesday the presentation of his EU investment package (#investEU). Tweets about the ‘European Semester’, which started on Friday, can be followed using the hashtags#EUsemester (international) or #Jahreswachstumsbericht (German).European Movement International‘s (@EMInternational) Federal Assemblyran until Saturday afternoon and could be followed via #EMIFA14.