EM Germany Weekly Round-Up | week ending 31/07/2015
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
25/7-31/07/2015 – Greece and its former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis once again caused a stir this week: according to Greek media reports, Varoufakis had developed a plan B, which in case of a Grexit would have enabled Greece to immediately switch back to the Drachma and thereby exit the Eurozone (EurActiv). Varoufakis eventually confirmed the reports in part, however reprehended press coverage for the supposed “currency putsch”. He had indeed worked on an exit strategy for leaving the euro, however it was never his aim to leave (Handelsblatt).
During the media frenzy surrounding the Grexit plan, talks in Brussels about a third bailout for Greece went by unnoticed. Cooperation between the IMF, European Commission and ECB – also known as the “troika” – was complemented by Nicola Giammarioli from the European Stability Mechanism (POLITICO). The main points for negotiation between creditors and Greece are the controversial tax and pension reforms. On Thursday, the International Monetary Fund announced that it would not participate in a new rescue package for Greece as long as the Greek government has not accepted the reforms demanded by its creditors. Another sticking point is that the IMF’s demand for a Euopean debt relief has not been accepted for the new bailout package. (EurActiv)
Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is not only wrangling with creditors, but also having to deal with infighting in his party. In an attempt to resolve this, Tsipras proposed an internal referendum on Sunday in order to vote on the future direction of the party (SpiegelOnline, Handelsblatt).
In the course of the Greek crisis, plans have surfaced for a separate government for the Eurozone. The plans are based on the so-called Five Presidents’ Report, already published in June (Die Zeit). The report sets out long-term reforms for the European Union, which should lead to a harmonised Economic and Monetary Union, and does not rule out a separate tax and a finance minister for the Eurozone (Die Zeit, EurActiv). While a strengthened Eurozone is being worked on on this side of the Atlantic, there were some harsh words from the US: the Eurozone is a “trap”, and confidence in the Euro is dropping mainly due to the actions of leading European politicians (The New York Times).
Brexit also came back into the spotlight this week: Prime Minister Cameron announced his intention to hold a “Brexit” referendum as early as the summer of 2016 (EurActiv). In the meantime, Chancellor George Osborne is touring Europe and presenting Britain’s reform wish list for remaining in the EU (BBC, EurActiv). During a meeting with France’s Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron in Paris, it became apparent, however, that the chances of successfully achieving an “à la carte” Europe remain slim (International Business Times, POLITICO).
On Sunday night and all of Monday, French farmers blocked France’s borders with Germany and Spain because of competition from German and Spanish farmers (EurActiv). EM Germany member organisation, the German Farmers’ Association, expressed its understanding of the situation in a press release, however it equally made clear, that at present all European farmers are experiencing a similar pricing pressure, which in particular leads back to the Russian embargo. On Thursday, the protests against the European competitive landscape spread to Belgium, where Belgian farmers blocked important transport routes to France. (Aachener Zeitung)
The demand for a European refugee policy grew again in the past week. Not only Austrian and German communities are unable to cope with the wave of refugees arriving there. Difficulties also became apparent in France and Britain. Particularly the often fatal attempts by refugees to escape from France to Britain through the Eurotunnel have raised concerns (Süddeutsche Zeitung).
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán accused the EU of failure regarding its refugee policy (Die Welt). In a speech, he warned of “masses of illegal immigrants” who could threaten European culture. In addition, Orbán announced that the border fence between Hungary and Serbia will already be finished by the end of August, in order to stop further refugees from entering the country (Tagesspiegel). Criticism of the Hungarian Prime Minister’s drastic statements was until now mostly absent (The Guardian,FAZ). Meanwhile Ralf Stegner, Vice Chairman of the SPD, calls upon German celebreties from society, sports and culture to stand up against any kind of xenophobia and racism publicly. (Handelsblatt)
As a hot spot on the edge of the EU, Turkey came into focus this week. In recent days, events dramatically worsened as Turkish military shot at Kurdish areas, which caused a break in peace talks between Kurds and Turks (Süddeutsche Zeitung, Die Zeit).
The current situation in Greece can be followed using the hashtags#Griechenland, #Rettungspolitik and #Reformen. Tweets on current refugee policy can be found via #migrationEU, #Fluechtlinge and #Asyl. This week, especially #grenzzaun #ungarn and #Calais contributed to the discussion. The hashtags #Brexit and #EUReferendum accompanied fresh announcements about the British referendum. The keyword #Türkei leads to discussions on said topic in the Twitter community.