EM Germany Weekly Round-Up | week ending 5/12/2014
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.
The week’s highlights in print, at EM Germany and on Twitter
29/11-5/12/2014 – Former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk took up his post as European Council President on Monday. He is the first ‘Eastern European’ to head up one of the three top jobs in Brussels. Spiegelmagazine hopes that Tusk can help to positively influence the EU’s relationship with Russia, given his Eastern European perspective and his political style, which is one of compromise rather than confrontation. Donald Tusk gave up his post in Poland for Brussels, whereas Germany predominantly puts B-list politicians there. Spiegel suspects that this is due to political roles and institutions at EU level not being regarded as influential enough by politicians in Germany compared to the role of national heads of government. The Tagesschau emphasised that Tusk is a confident European, quoting directly from his inaugural speech: “of course Europe is not perfect. There has never been a better alternative, however. We must not let go of our dreams for a better future, but they will never be fulfilled, if we give up on Europe.”
Tusk taking up his new post concludes the changes at the top of the EU institutions. The EU’s full capacity to act is now in place, commented EM Germany’s board during its last meeting of 2014 on December 5th. There was consensus over Juncker’s investment package – besides investment, structural reforms are of equal importance, particularly in crisis-hit countries, the board agreed. They added, “that this must run parallel to the investment package, otherwise they can throw all the money they want at it.” EM Germany board members Linn Selle and Tobias Köck already warned in a statement last week that the interests of Europe’s young people must also be considered in the process.
Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) is calling for a “Europeanisation of forces” in a position paper, as presented by parliamentary spokesman for defence policy Rainer Arnold, according to Handelsblatt. The paper calls for the Bundeswehr to cooperate more closely with armies from other EU states in equipment projects and defence. In addition, the creation of a European military academy, the development of a European police and more joint manoeuvres are deemed necessary. Setting the course for a European Defence Union was also one of the demands at EM Germany’s General Assembly earlier this year.
The media commented heavily on the Swiss national referendum on the “Ecopop Initiative”. According to EurActiv.de, the Swiss voted with a clear majority against further restrictions on immigration. All 26 Cantons rejected the draft, which provided for a fixed immigration quota in the Swiss constitution an even a plan to distribute condoms in Africa, in order to stem the continent’s strong population growth. In the end, 74.1 per cent rejected the initiative, after a poll leading up to the referendum only projected 60 per cent (Die Welt). The Züricher Tages Anzeiger wrote accordingly that the ‘No’ vote had been surprisingly clear. The Süddeutsche Zeitung commented that direct democracy is always good for a surprise.
On Saturday, the French Conservative party UMP once again elected France’s former President Nicolas Sarkozy as their party leader. Even if he has not officially announced it yet, it is safe to assume that he will run as a candidate in the French presidential election in 2017. Given the political difficulties of current President François Hollande’s Socialist Party and the rising popularity of the Front National headed up by Maine Le Pen, some newspapers suspect that the final race for the presidency will be run between Sarkozy and Le Pen. Some say that Sarkozy is the “new political alternative” that stands a chance against a strengthened Front National. The Financial Times views it more critically: Sarkozy has already failed once and is therefore the wrong candidate for 2017. The fact that Sarkozy merely won 64.5% of UMP members‘ votes last Saturday, after still receiving 85% of the vote in 2004, is remarked upon by the Frankfurter Rundschau. La Croix newspaper also writes that “he must not only convince the French all over again, but first and foremost his own party.” Marine Le Pen meanwhile was re-elected with 100 per cent of her party members‘ votes, regrets the centre-left French newspaper Libération.
A European weekend in Rome with the hashtag #EMIFA14: on 28-29 November members of EM Germany’s umbrella organisation, European Movement International (EMI), met for EMI’s Federal Assembly to decide the course of 2015 and to elect a new board. EM Germany Secretary General Bernd Hüttemann (@huettemann) was elected as EMI’s Vice-President, while Jo Leinen (MEP) was confirmed as EMI’s President.