Chris Gilson and Stuart A Brown take a look at the week in Brussels blogging.

The EU centre and the crisis

Lost in EUrope says that the ratings agency Fitch has finally downgraded Italy for its recent electoral choice, by downgrading the country’s credit rating to three steps above junk. Meanwhile, Wishing on Europe at Blogactiv.eu has a look at what might happen next for Italy when its parliament next meets, saying that Partito Democratico leader Bersani may well call for a technocratic government to change Italy’s electoral law in expectation of fresh elections in the autumn. Open Europe looks at splits within Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star Movement over Italy staying in the euro.

The Digger looks at where EU civil servants come from, by analysing job applications. He finds that Italy and Spain are both massively over-represented in terms of job-applicants, compared to their populations. Coulisses des Bruxelles is worried about proposals to increase the number of seats in the European Parliament for larger member states, and decrease the number for smaller ones. More Europe welcomes proposals from the European Commission that European political parties nominate candidates for the position of President of the Commission in the lead up to European Parliament elections in 2014. Charlemagne says that this move may help to increase the EU’s democratic legitimacy, at a time when Europeans’ trust in the EU is falling.

Credit: cgc76 (Creative Commons BY NC ND)

Credit: cgc76 (Creative Commons BY NC ND)

To the surprise of few, on Wednesday the European Parliament voted to reject the EU’s budget framework for 2014-2020, according to Lost in EUrope. Open Europe says that the budget itself has not been rejected, but the European Parliament is now likely to spend the next few months negotiating with government ministers over budget details. Meanwhile, the FT’s Brussels blog says that the European Parliament met this week to determine what the legal definition of absinthe is.

EU Logos at Blogactiv.eu looks at hostility from Germany and the Netherlands towards Romania and Bulgaria’s joining of the Schengen area by year’s end. They are worried about a large influx of migrants from the two countries. Meanwhile, Open Europe wonders if the Netherlands is building towards a referendum on any transfer of new powers to the European level, now that a Dutch citizen’s campaign has gathered the required 40,000 signatures to force a debate on the subject in the country’s parliament.

Across Europe

A Fistful of Euros takes an in-depth look at the ‘hollowing out’ of Portugal’s economy, as many emigrate as a result of the crisis. Meanwhile Revolting Europe covers recent protests by Spanish university lecturers against ‘economic strangulation’Open Europe also wonders if Spain has used ‘accounting tricks’ to reduce its apparent deficit for 2012 by delaying tax refunds to January.

Croatia, the war, and the future looks at a dispute between Croatia and Slovenia over €270 million apparently owed by a now defunct Slovenian bank to Croatia. They say that the dispute threatens to overshadow Croatia’s accession to the EU later this year. This week also saw the Hungarian parliament vote to amend the country’s constitution to essentially neutralise that country’s constitutional court, according to Verfassungsblog. They offer ten possible actions that the EU and other member states could take to sanction the move.

French Politics looks at some of President François Hollande’s intended modest constitutional reforms, including the elimination of the Cour de Justice de la République, and banning ministers from holding local or regional executive functions. Open Europe reports that, in the lead up to elections later this year, the German SPD has now come out in favour of debt mutualisation in the Eurozone. Meanwhile, Rhein on Energy and Climate at Blogactiv.eu is concerned that Germany may well balance its budget in 2014. He says that the country should run deficits of 2-3 per cent in the coming years in order to function as an engine for growth in Europe.

Finally, the New Federalist has a good overview of the results of elections in Malta this week.

EU Foreign policy and the European neighbourhood

The European Council on Foreign Relations looks at what Europe’s role in the Asia-Pacific region might be in the coming years, saying that it is in the area of trade and investment that the EU has a chance to make a real impact.

Lost in EUrope write on suggestions this week by UK Prime Minister David Cameron that the UK would be willing to take an independent line of intervention in Syria, despite the wishes of other EU member states. Later in the week, the FT’s Brussels blog says that the UK and France are taking a similar line against other EU members to lift sanctions against Syria. They claim that sanctions are helping the Assad regime more than the rebels. On a different topic, the New Federalist calls for an EU-wide strategy for cyber defence, which would unite the various disparate strategies currently used across Europe.

Ideas

Chris Dillow at Stumbling and Mumbling writes on ‘supply side socialism’. He argues that a small policy stimulus is unlikely to kick start struggling economies and might call for something more radical. Meanwhile Hans Vestberg at Project Syndicate assesses the prospects for ‘networked development’ to solve some of the problems facing Europe and the world in the 21st century.

Graph of the week

The OFCE blog looks at poverty rates by employment status in Germany and France:

And finally…

What has President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy been up to this week? This week he addressed the meeting of the European Council, and spoke at the Tripartite summit on Growth and Employment in Brussels.

Waltzing Matilda celebrates the EU Commission’s twitter account reaching 100,000 followers this week.

The now several weeks old dispute between the economist Paul Krugman and EU Commissioner Olli Rehn over austerity in Europe continues, now with the added feature of Monty Python references.

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Note:  This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of EUROPP – European Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics.

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