Chris Gilson and Stuart A Brown take a look at the week in Brussels blogging.
The EU centre
Open Europe asks whether France and Germany still believe in Europe. Recent opinion polls suggest that attitudes towards the EU and the euro are hardening in both countries as a result of the on-going crisis. But is this hardening against trend? EU Logos at Blogactiv.eu has a survey of surveys about Europe, finding that despite the crisis public opinion about Europe is improving across Europe. As of September, 40 per cent have a favourable opinion of Europe, against 31 per cent last November.
Marek Siwec MEP, blogging at Blogactiv.eu says that every discussion at the recent conference in Yalta concerns the Eurozone crisis and the EU’s future, and that Europe came under criticism from representatives from Asia and others from outside the continent. Meanwhile, The European Citizen looks at The European Commissioner for Justice, Viviane Reding’s new Justice Scorecard, to tackle concerns over justice and the rule of law in countries like Romania and Hungary.
Au café de l’Europe takes an in depth look at President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso’s ‘state of the union’ speech last week, saying that he was careful in the way that he used the phrase “a federation of nation-states” for fear of offending opponents and supporters of deeper integration. According to French and EU blog, writing at Blogactiv.eu, nationalist political parties like the BNP in the UK will soon be set to lose funding from the European Parliament, unless they observe the EU’s values: “namely respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities”.
Europe mon beau souci looks at recent proposals to impose 40% quotas for women on boards of large countries, and the UK’s efforts to block these proposals, saying that while she is not a supporter of affirmative action, the proposals are needed. Meanwhile the FT’s Brussels blog says that opposition is growing, with Denmark’s addition making 11 countries that are against the proposals.
EU Foreign policy and the European neighbourhood
The main story this week is the Future of Europe Group’s report drawn up by 11 EU countries with the aim of making the EU a bigger global player (Charlemagne calls the whole exercise ‘SimEurope’). Most have focused on its recommendations for a common EU defence policy and the idea of majority decisions in Common Foreign Policy and Security matters. Eva en Europa says that it is especially of interest given the negotiations this week for British defence company BAE to merge with the Franco-German EADS. In their analysis of the report, Open Europe say that many of the economic and fiscal proposals have already been made, and while some are conspicuous, many have little real chance of going ahead.
Blogactiv.eu looks at the likely impact of the ‘Arab Spring’ on long-term peace in the Mediterranean. The article argues that European diplomacy should be focused on promoting freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and freedom to change religion in countries such as Egypt. Moreover, Europeans must not shirk from criticising other religions when they conflict with European values.
Meanwhile the Fride blog argues that the EU’s response to the Arab Spring has highlighted its ‘global lack of self-confidence’. The article notes that developments in Mediterranean countries such as Tunisia and Egypt took place on the EU’s doorstep; yet the EU limited its response largely to funding initiatives and diplomatic requests. If it changes strategy, the EU: “has the possibility of getting rid of its inferiority complex and of rising as a major player in the Arab world. Indeed, the “Arab spring” is also an opportunity for a “European spring” to rise on strategic matters. Were the EU set to help the Arab world stabilize, it would considerably boost the emergence of both regions as strategic players.” They also warn of the potential for the Arab Spring to lead to greater violence without strong diplomatic action from the west.
On a different topic, with a similar conclusion, the Fride blog says that as trouble is brewing between China and Japan over a territorial dispute, the EU has been largely unresponsive on the issue.
The Euro Crisis
Revolting Europe reports that French feminists have joined the campaign against the Fiscal Compact whose austerity measures would “would threaten women’s rights and exacerbate gender inequalities”. Dimitris Rapidis at Blogactiv.eu makes the point that Greece’s current violation of the Eurozone’s debt rules is very similar to Germany’s situation in 1996 when it exceeded debt thresholds.
Place du Luxembourg looks at proposals for a European banking union, saying that while Germany would like a slow approach to ensure credibility, the French and the periphery countries would like things to move more quickly to support smaller banks. Later, Open Europe looks at German counter-proposals to address its concerns over the planned role of the Governing Council of the European Central Bank (ECB) that would see it having control over monetary policy and banking supervision.
Lost in EUrope says that if Spain wants the ECB to start buying its bonds, then it should expect new, harsh austerity conditions. No wonder Prime Minister Rajoy appears to be hesitating before taking advantage of the ECB’s new programme. Open Europe says that Spain is trying to make bailouts look like something else, by using the €100 billion bank bailout agreed earlier this year to buy Spanish bonds.
The European Student Think Tank has a slightly different take on the crisis, arguing that one of the fundamental problems facing Europe is the hostile atmosphere felt by small businesses and start-up companies. Policies aimed at ‘unleashing entrepreneurs’ should be a vital part of any solution to aid struggling European economies.
The OFCE blog asks why environmental policies are often viewed as being at odds with solutions to resolve the economic crisis. The article shows that many of the issues associated with climate change converge with economic issues and that environmental solutions cannot be postponed without doing irreversible damage to the planet.
Beyond the Transition is worried about Poland given its current economic slowdown, while Bankwatch at Blogactiv.eu is concerned that corruption in that country’s second biggest state-owned energy company, ENEA, may threaten the involvement of the European Investment Bank.
This week, Commissioner Georgieva visited Moldova for the first time in 15 years, and writes that it seems that the country has a clear sense of direction now towards European integration.
Meanwhile, the EU Journalism Fellowship blog at Blogactiv.eu reports that Bulgaria is blocking Scotland’s plans for a minimum price on alcohol.
As Croatia prepares for its accession to the EU, the country’s government is currently carrying out a series of economic reforms. Ina Vukic writes on current plans to nationalise struggling businesses and sell them to foreign investors. The article argues that Croatian entrepreneurs are likely to be the big losers from the policy. Elsewhere in Croatia, Croatia, the war, and the future is deeply concerned that Croatia’s Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic told the German magazine, Der Speigel this week that he was born in the now non-existent Yugoslavia, rather than Croatia., saying that “ it’s an abomination of the democracy and freedom Croatians fought for”.
Sandrine Bélier, MEP for France’s Green Party, has an overview of last weekend’s environmental conference in Paris. French President François Hollande provided an outline of his environmental views, but it remains to be seen whether the statements are translated into concrete action.
Open Europe says that the cost overruns (which now number in the hundreds of millions of euros) in the construction of the ECB’s new headquarters in Frankfurt are doing little to inspire confidence in the institution.
“European identity is a sandwich” – the conclusion from the recent ‘Does Europe lack cohesion?’ debate organised as part of the Europe@Debate series. As Europe & Me writes, the metaphor is intended to represent the potential for different layers of European identities (local, regional, national and supranational). Very much a debate to get your teeth into.
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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