Chris Gilson takes a look at the week in Brussels blogging. 

The EU centre and the crisis

The weekend sees French President Francois Hollande declare the eurozone crisis to now be over. Lost in EUrope is worried about the statement, saying that it is wishful thinking given the economic realities in France and elsewhere. Meanwhile, Craig Willy has a summary of recent ‘remarkable’ comments by the Vice-President of the European Central Bank (ECB), Vítor Constâncio on the causes of the eurocrisis. What is so remarkable about the speech? His denunciation of austerity policies, and his critiques of European financial integration. The New Federalist wonders if austerity is in fact, on the way out. Meanwhile, Lost in Europe says that France’s economy is set to grow by a mere 0.1 per cent, while the Netherlands will see a fall in GDP if 0.6 to 0.8 per cent.

Credit: Nicolas Raymond (Creative Commons BY)

Credit: Nicolas Raymond (Creative Commons BY)

This week also sees the German Constitutional Court hold a hearing on the ECB’s bond buying, open market transactions programme. Open Europe stresses the importance of this hearing, saying that it shows the tensions at the heart of the eurozone, and has put greater scrutiny on the ECB. Lost in EUrope sees it as a struggle between Germany’s Bundesbank and the ECB for dominance of monetary policy in Europe.

Charles Grant at the Centre for European Reform looks at how national parliaments might be able to make the European Parliament more legitimate, proposing a greater role for MPs in scrutinising the EU as well as a Brussels based national forum for parliamentarians. Jon Worth disagrees with these sentiments, arguing that national parliaments tend not to care about EU matters unless they are major ones, such as country bailouts.

Real Time Brussels updates on the latest from the ‘Dalligate’ scandal, saying that now that former EU Commissioner John Dalli has been cleared by Maltese police of corruption over alleged tobacco bribes, the heat is on Giovanni Kessler, the head of the EU’s anti-Fraud office, over the original probe into the affair.

Several commentators wrote on the topic of European integration this week. Otmar Issing at Europe’s World argues that moves towards a further political union in the EU would be misguided, as they would reduce competition between states and regions, which would in turn undermine the potential for economic growth. The European Student Think Tank looks at the potential for ‘cracks’ to develop in the Northern bloc of the EU, citing declining Austrian support for Germany’s austerity policies and problems with the Dutch economy. Move looks at the growing divisions between Germany and France over EU integration, writing that the two countries’ differing economic models are leading to a clash of ideologies over what is best for the continent.

Across Europe

French President Francois Hollande Credit: francediplomatie (Creative Commons BY NC SA)

French President Francois Hollande Credit: francediplomatie (Creative Commons BY NC SA)

On Wednesday the Greek national broadcaster, ERT, is shut down without warning. Open Europe says that this ‘brutal’ closure reflects a new phase in the unsuccessful rescue of Greece. Coulisses de Bruxelles comments that the EU has had nothing to do with the channel’s closure, and that it was shut down by the Greek government after allegations of corruptions and organizational dysfunction. Dimitris Rapidis at wonders why two parties in Greece’s coalition government, who were against closing the broadcaster, have not protested.

Revolting Europe covers a weekend march by French feminists in Paris, to protest against austerity measures, which are disproportionately affecting women. Some have suggested that France should copy the economic reforms instituted by Germany in the early 2000s. The OFCE blog has a close look at these reforms and their relevance for France, finding that they were accomplished in a favourable economic environment and an accommodative fiscal policy – neither of which apply now. French Politics covers potentially ‘explosive’ proposals to change retirement conditions from President Hollande, such as increasing contribution periods and raising the retirement age to 63.

The New Federalist has an overview of the current state of Iceland’s potential EU accession, after elections in April. They write that the EU is no longer as attractive to Iceland as it once might have been. On Thursday, Kiels Prat in Europe reports that Iceland has put its accession negotiations on hold, and argues that the European Commission is being too easy on the country, saying that it should now be prevented from re-entering negotiations for several years.

New Eastern Europe looks at the first year record of the Transnistrian President, Yevgeny Shevchuk (Transnistria is a breakaway state within Moldova), who has faced widespread corruption in government as well as the influence of Russian interests in the region.

Open Europe covers a speech by UK Prime Minister David Cameron which touches on Europe, saying that while he is supportive of the UK’s continued membership of the single market, he now needs to get on with the reforms that they feel are needed.

Nada es Gratis looks at how the Spanish credit drought has caused many businesses to collapse and contributed to between 18 and 35% of lost jobs between 2006 and 2010.

EU Foreign policy and the European neighbourhood

Turkey’s street protests continued this week. On Saturday, Au Cafe de l’Europe wondered if we are now moving towards a Turkish Spring, and highlights the relative silence of the EU and European Commission thus far. Similarly, Lost in EUrope says that EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton’s comments on Turkey’s protests have avoided mentioning the Turkish President and ruling party. Erkan’s Field Diary has a useful infographic covering the extent of the protests.

The weekend sees revelations over the use of secret surveillance by the USA’s National Security Agency’s PRISM system. On Monday, Lost in EUrope says that the European Commission feels that the data protection ramifications are for the member states, not it.

The FRIDE blog reminds us that the Pussy Riot human rights case in Russia is still ongoing, with two of its band members still imprisoned, and that the EU should keep this in mind in its negotiations with Russia. Coulisses de Bruxelles also has a reminder that the EU has been in a trade war with Russia for the past ten months over cars, agricultural, wood, and paper products.

The EU and the USA are working towards talks over a potential free trade agreement. Even before these talks have begun, according to the FT’s Brussels blog, France has insisted on the preservation of subsidies for French film and music, which may cause some concern for US negotiators. Europe mon beau souci is not surprised that this cultural exception is being discussed, and looks at how the EU already accommodates and protects existing unique products, especially food, in Europe. Lost in EUrope is concerned at the German Consumer Minister Aigner’s desire to allow US hormone treated beef imports under the deal, saying that it sacrifices a key EU protection, without gaining anything from the US.

And finally…

What has President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy been up to this week? This week he spoke at the Gender Equality for Europe Conference in Brussels, and met with the Australian Governor General Quentin Bryce.

Martinned looks at the ongoing problems that plague the new high-speed Brussels to Amsterdam train service.

Jon Worth takes stock of Danish Ministries on twitter.

Real Time Brussels imagines how Angela Merkel’s invitations to a youth unemployment summit in Berlin in July might play out on Facebook.


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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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