EM Germany Weekly Round-Up | week ending 31/10/2014
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.
EM Germany weekly round-up – the week’s highlights in print, at EM Germany and on Twitter
25/10-31/10/2014 – At the weekend newspapers again focussed on the outcome of the European Council meeting, in particular on the agreed climate protection goals. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) talked of a reasonable compromise. It is a myth, they say, that the EU can inspire other states in the international community to increase their commitment to climate protection. In contrast, the Frankfurter Rundschau (FR) regrets that the EU has let itself be slowed down, especially by industry and Eastern European states. The contentious debate on European climate policy was also a topic of EM Germany’s European Council Debriefing on 27 October.
At the start of the week the papers commented on the results of European Central Bank’s bank stress tests. According to the results, most of the large banks in the Eurozone would survive a new financial crisis, thirteen out of 130 banks failed in the end. Especially the dreadful results from Italian banks were examined (Handelsblatt, FAZ). There was relief in Germany that German banks were well-prepared (FAZ, Die Welt, FR). The “largest audit in Europe’s financial history” (Sueddeutsche Zeitung) was praised as being an important measure. It is said to be the first attempt to make the figures from European banks comparable. Even so, commentators in the newspapers remained sceptical. “Test passed, stress remains”, wrote the Handelsblatt on Monday. The SZ also acknowledged that the stress test is only the first step towards redressing the flaws in a complex and non-transparent banking system.
An international conference on the Syrian refugee crisis took place in Berlin on Tuesday. During the closing comments in Berlin, participants of the conference promised support and financial help to those States that are particularly affected by the dramatic refugee situation. The TAZcriticised Germany and other EU countries’ aid until now as having been “insufficient, considering the scale of the humanitarian catastrophe, yet almost cynically selective”. Lebanon is threatened with collapse while the EU has reportedly only taken in one per cent of Syrian refugees. FAZ also points out the critical situation in Syria’s neighbouring countries. Support is not just urgently required for humanitarian reasons, but also in order to not further endanger the stability of other countries.
The European Commission decided on the admissibility of member state budgets this week. Five states – Italy, France, Austria, Slovenia and Malta- were warned beforehand, that their budget did not conform to EU rules. Two big EU member states, France and Italy, at the start of the week declared themselves prepared to make further cuts to their budgets(Handelsblatt, FAZ). In the end, the European Commission approved the budget plans, even though the states’ amendments as was previously the case deviate from the criteria in the stability and growth pact (FAZ, SZ). The outgoing currency Commissioner, Jyrki Kataien, indicated that the final decision about the budgets of France and Italy will have to be made by the new Commission in November (FAZ). While FAZ criticised the Commission’s indecision, SZ talked of a “smart restraint” to avoid further political escalation. The fight over budget contributions between Great Britain and the European Commission was also commented upon. Most recently, the latter showed London the “cold shoulder” (FAZ) and explained that there is no chance that the additional payment can be deferred. The papers shared the concern that the demand for more money could play into the hands of British eurosceptics (SZ, FR).
The clear victory of pro-Western parties in Ukraine’s parliamentary elections was regarded as positive. In the South and Southeast of the country, however, the election turnout was very low (FAZ, FR). On Tuesday,SZ commented on “Brussels having to walk on eggshells”. Indeed, politicians were pleased over the clear signal to the EU and European values. At the same time, one should not raise false hopes of EU membership.
NATO’s new Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, also evaluated the current situation in Ukraine. The German newspapers above all emphasised that Stoltenberg is seeking a constructive policy towards Russia that is less characterised by mistrust (SZ, FAZ). The FR called him a “candid relationship broker”. The Russian fighter jet manoeuvres in European airspace resulted in renewed tensions between NATO and Russia. Newspapers commented that the West must not let itself be provoked by these manoeuvres (FAZ, Die Welt). According to FAZ, interceptions by NATO aircraft is an important message of vigilance and resolve.
Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, is planning to introduce an internet tax. The papers reported on the plans and the large protests against the government in Hungary caused by these plans (Die Welt, Handelsblatt, FAZ). Die Welt wrote that Orbán, whose Fidesz party until now enjoyed a lot of support from the country’s population, is losing its feeling for the mood of the nation. On Friday, it finally became apparent that Orbán would for the time being withdraw his proposal.
Wirtschaftswoche reported on the growing number of Germans who hold important posts in the EU institutions. Furthermore, the German language is said to be again gaining significance, since the future EU Council President Donald Tusk, for example, speaks better German than English. Many, who fear German dominance in Europe, regard this development as worrying.
At EM Germany TTIP was back on the agenda this week. On Friday, Bernd Lange, rapporteur for TTIP in the European Parliament, reported on the opportunities and risks of the free trade agreement and fielded many questions from the public during the debate. In particular, concerns regarding transparency of the talks and the controversial international arbitration courts were discussed.
A week ago, our Secretary General, Bernd Hüttemann, learned how the German Federal Youth Council (DBJR) is democratically strengthening and aligning its 6 million young members to Europe.