Chris Gilson takes a look at the week in Brussels blogging.
The EU centre and the crisis
On Monday, the Portuguese Finance Minister, Vitor Gaspar, resigned, to the surprise of many – though Open Europe says that the recent signals showing his resignation was imminent had been fairly plain. Lost in EUrope says that the resignation is part of the eurozone’s ‘new fever’. The FT’s Brussels blog looks at what the country’s options are if, when its current bailout runs out next year, it is unable to go back to the bond market for finance. Options include new credit lines form the European Stability Mechanism, a less onerous ‘precautionary conditioned credit line’, and spreading out the existing bailout. Nada es Gratis says that Portugal’s troubles show the precarity of the eurozone’s markets, and that there has still been no move to break the ‘evil knot’ between banks and sovereigns.
Thursday sees the President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi confirm that interest rates will remain low for the time being. Lost in EUrope says that, while this has calmed the financial markets for now, it really means nothing other than that there is no end in sight for the eurocrisis. Meanwhile, Debating Europe asks, Is tax evasion making Europe’s crisis worse?
Recent days have seen concern that Greece’s bailout may soon run out. Looking further into this possibility, The Prodigal Greek finds that Greece’s creditors, national central banks have not yet rolled over some of their holdings of that country’s debt. Meanwhile, Protesilaos Stavrou, writing at Blogactiv.eu, looks at the reprofiling of Cyprus’ sovereign debt (exchanging bonds so that they have a longer period), saying while the government has benefited from this move, the economy will not, as there will be greater stresses on banks and capital structures.
Monday, 1 July sees the accession of Croatia into the European Union to become its 28th member state. New Eastern Europe says that despite its challenges, accession reminds us of the validity of the initial European project, and that integration has sped up development in the country. Lost in EUrope is more pessimistic saying that neither Brussels nor Zagreb are prepared for the accession. Bankwatch at Blogactiv.eu wonders if the new investment monies now available for the country from the EU will simply disappear into a black hole. In a more local view, Croatia, the war, and the future, says that the Croatian government should be ashamed at the lack of mention of the father of independent Croatia, Franjo Tudman. Later in the week, Rhein on Energy and Climate at Blogactiv.eu says that joining the euro should not be one of Croatia’s priorities, as the country must first sort out its structural weaknesses.
Con Acento Hispano at Blogactive.eu reviews last week’s European Council summit – the last before the summer break. He says that it was a meeting of ‘little steps forward’, with agreements on the EU’s budget (including support for SMEs), a fund for youth unemployment, some move towards reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy, and moves towards banking union.
Monday sees Lithuania take over the six monthly Presidency of the Council of the European Union from Ireland. Debating Europe looks over Ireland’s presidency and asks if it was a success. Meanwhile, Décrypter la communication européenne looks at the reasons behind the rotating presidency, especially in light of the (relatively) new position of President of the European Council. They argue that it allows countries to make others aware of their policy priorities for six months, as well as the ability put forward their own cultural programme.
Charlemagne looks into the recent arrest of Monsignor Nunzio Scarano (known as “Monsignor Cinquecento” for the €500 notes he often carried), a senior priest responsible for the management of the Vatican’s assets. He stands accused of tax avoidance and bribery, and his arrest is only days after Pope Francis began an investigation into the Vatican’s bank, the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR). Looking at the recent consideration of European Central Bank policy by the German Constitutional Court, Revolting Europe wonders why Italy’s economic policy should be dictated to it by the Brussels bureaucracy. They argue for a similar court to make such rulings in Italy.
Croatia, the war, and the future reports on a walkout in the Croatian parliament by the opposition Croatian Democratic Union party last week over a vote on cooperation with the EU on criminal matters. Their concern is that the law includes the provision that the European arrest warrant will not be applicable to crimes committed before August 2002.
Reuniting Europe at Blogactiv.eu summarises the current political situation in Bulgaria, in the wake of elections in May. He writes that given the recent political machinations between the opposition party, GERB, and the coalition of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, fresh elections seem increasingly likely. AriRusila at Blogactiv.eu looks at the ongoing conflict between Moldova and its breakaway region, Transnistria, saying that it now involves Romania and Russia as well. Adrian Dobre, at Blogactiv.eu, says that, as a pillar of local economic stability, Romania should take advantage of these regional difficulties and encourage more inward investment.
French Politics looks at France’s ‘restive left’, writing that several groups of left-wing deputies have banded together to call for tax reform to address social injustice. He says that it is good to see such an initiative from the French legislature in the face of the government’s policies that have been generally aimed towards welfare retrenchment. This week also sees the firing of French Environment Minister, Delphine Batho, over her criticisms of her department, according to French Politics. He says that it shows that French President Francois Hollande does not believe that ‘green growth’ is the way out of the current economic crisis.
Against the backdrop of constitutional controversies in Hungary, EU hemicycle, at Blogactiv.eu, looks at how long the country is likely to remain a ‘pariah’ of the EU. He argues that the country needs greater cooperation with international organisations like the EU to help it to undertake needed reforms. On Thursday, the European Citizen reports that the European Parliament has passed a resolution calling on Hungary to reform its constitution to bring it in line with the EU’s norms and values. They say that while the resolution is not binding, it does show that the Parliament may be moving towards suspending Hungary’s voting rights under Article 7 of the Treaty on the EU. Coulisses de Bruxelles comments that the standoff between the EU and Hungary (especially its Prime Minister Viktor Orban) is far from over, as ,in reality, the EU can do little to compel the country to reform.
EU Foreign policy and the European neighbourhood
The weekend sees fresh revelations that the USA’s National Security Agency has bugged EU representations in Washington and elsewhere, according to Lost in EUrope. Later, they say that the EU’s top leaders have been silent over the affair. Coulisses de Bruxelles reminds us that this is not the first time that the USA has been caught spying on its EU allies. One Europe says that if the allegations are true, then the EU should reevaluate its close relationship with the US, and that it is time to seek alliances with other countries and blocs. Open Europe says that Germany in particular is so outraged by the claims of spying because it brings forth memories of its previous ‘Big Brother state’ under the Nazis and East Germany. The FT’s Brussels blog says that the snooping allegations have actually reinforced the role of the EU on the international stage – they are important enough for the USA to spy on. FinancialGuy, writing at Blogactiv.eu says that the allegations are an opportunity for the EU’s to show its ‘soft power’ in the face of the US’ bully-like tactics.
Europe’s World says that, despite its woes, Greece still has an important geopolitical position, if it focuses on “enlarging its footprint in the energy map, managing migratory flows and deepening its strategic relationship with Israel, without abandoning its traditional ties with the Arab world”.
What has President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy been up to this week? This week he spoke on Croatia’s accession to the EU, visited Serbia, gave an interview on EU enlargement, and spoke at the Berlin conference on youth unemployment.
The GMF blog looks at paid family leave policies after having children in Denmark, in comparison with the US, saying that the generous terms (52 weeks leave in total), is likely to be the reason why there are a higher proportion of Danish women in the workforce.
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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