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

The EU centre and the crisis 

The New Federalist has a discussion with Bruno Selun, the secretary of the European Parliament intergroup on LGBT rights. Made up of 153 MEPs from 22 member states, the group seeks to reinforce and safeguard the human rights of LGBT people, and provides information and organises meetings and seminars on the topic for the European Parliament.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Credit: Dirk Vorderstraße (Creative Commons BY)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Credit: Dirk Vorderstraße (Creative Commons BY)

Last year, many of the countries stricken by the eurozone crisis breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced that the European Stability Mechanism would be used to directly bail out struggling banks, saving national treasuries. The FT’s Brussels blog reports that this may now no longer be the case, and national governments may still be required to provide some of the funding. Meanwhile, Open Europe looks at the dispute between the UK and the eurozone over where transactions in euros should be cleared; trillions of euros worth of financial transactions clear via the City of London, and any move for this to be changed to be within the eurozone would greatly threaten the City.

Wednesday sees Cyprus’ President Nicos Anastasiades write a ‘fiery’ letter to the eurogroup calling on them to overhaul that country’s bailout plan, according to Open Europe. Meanwhile, A Fistful of Euros has a rather forensic analysis of the IMF’s recent review of how it handled Greece’s bailout.

On Thursday, the Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union announced that a deal had been struck with the European Parliament’s negotiator for the EU’s budget for the next seven years. However, Open Europe says it may not be deal after all, as some MEPs report that the negotiations were actually broken off without an agreement being reached.

As part of a series entitled, “Who’s afraid of the Working Time Directive?”, The European Citizen looks at the impact of the directive on the NHS as well as the views of UK medical professionals. The FT’s Brussels blog looks at what has become of EU Commissioner Viviane Reding’s efforts to get the EU to adopt a 40 percent quota for women on corporate boards. They say that after a meeting of 27 employment ministers from the member states, the proposal is likely to be blocked by a group of ten northern and eastern countries, making it appear to be largely dead in the water.

Across Europe

On Saturday, Romanian MEP Monica Macovei writes of her shock at comments from her Democratic Liberal Party (PDL) leader, Vasile Blaga, whilst on a visit to China. Blaga had said that the PDL and China’s Communist Party “shared the same values”.

Wishing on Europe at Blogactiv.eu gives an update on the Italian political scene, looking at the current difficulties between the coalition partners of the Partito Democratico and Popolo della Libertà. Later in the week, Open Europe looks at comments from former Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, that Italy should ignore the EU’s deficit limit of 3% of GDP. This contradicts the words of his coalition partner, the current Prime Minister, Enrico Letta, who has agreed to keep spending within these limits.

For most, the Internet is by no means new. Yet, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated this week that it was a “Neuland” (or new territory). Jon Worth disagrees with her framing of the Internet as external, saying that a connected citizenry is now very much the norm. Germany goes to the polls in September, in what may prove to be Europe’s most important elections in 2013. Open Europe has a preview of the contents of the draft manifesto from Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU – highlights include support for economic reforms and budget restraint, and opposition to debt pooling via eurobonds.

Last week saw the sudden closure of the Greek national broadcaster, ERT. Au cafe de l’Europe looks at the closure, says that even if the broadcaster was corrupt and inefficient, as many had claimed, its closure is still an attack on a fundamental outlet of freedom of information and communication. Later in the week, Dimitris Rapidis, at Blogactiv.eu looks at how the closure is being couched as a ‘reform’ by the Greek President Antonis Samaras. As the week progresses, Lost in EUrope reports on a Greek court decision that the station must be put back on the air – for now. By the end of the week, Open Europe says that the closure has caused a row within the country’s coalition government, with the possibility of the Democratic Left party leaving the government, which would leave it with a majority of only three.

This week the Verfassungsblog reported on the Hungarian government’s new national security law, which enables the government to spy on those in public office and fire them if they do something the government disapproves of. They say that this law is Hungary’s version of ‘1984’.

EU Foreign policy and the European neighbourhood

Writing at Blogactiv.eu, Europe of Human Rights looks at the recent debate in the European Parliament over the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. This is in the context of ongoing negotiations on an Association Agreement between the EU, and the country, and shows how the EU must balance economic considerations with those related to human rights.

Credit: Digitale Gesellschaft (Creative Commons BY SA)

Credit: Digitale Gesellschaft (Creative Commons BY SA)

This week sees US President Barack Obama visit Germany. The GMF blog says that given recent revelations over the PRISM surveillance system, Germans’ attitudes towards Obama are much less emotional than they were when he was running for President in 2008. After Obama’s speech in Berlin on Wednesday, Charlemagne says that he seemed mindful of Germans’ concerns about privacy, and that he affirmed the ‘good and old friendship’ between America and Germany.

Lost in EUrope reports that the 27 EU member states have given the green light for free trade negotiations with the USA, though the French desire for a cultural exception to any agreement may well become a topic of conversation again soon. Grahnlaw says that giving any EU country a veto in such matters is like giving it a weapon of mass destruction, in this case, one that is directed against jobs and growth across Europe. French Politics reports on a spat between EU Commission President Manuel Barroso, who declared that France’s cultural exception is ‘reactionary’, and the European Commissioner for domestic markets, Michel Barnier has vehemently disagreed. In any case, given the level of details involved, Jon Worth warns us not to over-hype such a deal.

As protests in Turkey continue, the country’s EU Minister, Egemen Bağış, announced that any protesters who remains in or entered Taksim Square would be considered to be terrorists. Lost in EUrope says that, with this statement, Bağış has likely cut himself off from any possible future EU accession negotiations. According to Erkan’s Field Diary, Monday sees a new form of protest in Taksim Square – the standing man.

New Eastern Europe looks at the recent history of the Russian protest movement against an increasingly corrupt government, saying that it falls somewhere between the movements of the Arab Spring and the American Occupy movement.

The European Council on Foreign Relations looks at moves by the EU to place labels on products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank. They say that Israel’s  trade agreement with the EU does not cover the settlement, meaning that such labels are necessary.

Ideas

Nada es Gratis ponders whether or not it is always best to keep inflation stable. Meanwhile, Open Europe looks at whether or not the euro has become a safe haven for investors, given the likelihood that the USA and Japan will change their monetary policies. An appreciating euro would harm the chances for a an export led recovery for Europe.

Graph of the week 

The OFCE blog looks at how the competitiveness of the eurozone’s countries has evolved since 2000:

And finally… 

What has President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy been up to this week? This week he spoke at the G8 summit in Lough Erne, in Northern Ireland, and met with the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev.

Jon Worth looks at the challenges facing the introduction of direct train services from London to European destinations such as Frankfurt and Geneva. In short – don’t hold your breath.

This week the FT’s Brussels blog tries to break new ground with a Twitter interview, with the outgoing US Ambassador to the EU, William Kennard.

Writing for y(EU) looks at how many heads of state have addressed the European Parliament since 2004. Their conclusion? “35 presidents, one vice–president, one king, one queen, one emir and one grand duke”.

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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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