The EUROPP team take a look at the week in Brussels blogging
The EU centre
In the run up to the European Parliament elections in May 2014, right-wing populist parties in Europe are working together more than ever before, say Sarah L. de Lange, Matthijs Rooduijn and Joost van Spanje on Policy Network. This coordination, they argue, is even more significant than their rise in popularity, and it may lead to a big transformation in the European far right. They point to the fact that a number of far right parties have expressed their intention to form a new political group in the Parliament, the European Alliance for Freedom (which notably UKIP has not indicated it would join).
Net neutrality is on the agenda in Brussels, report Jonáš Jančařík and Ana Mingo Jaramillo at European Public Affairs, as part of the European Commission’s proposal to create a single market for telecommunications, including the internet. There is broad support for the principle across the Member States, and this could be the first time net neutrality is protected in law. Nevertheless, some advocates note that potential loopholes could remain, and the EU may be under increased pressure to uphold net neutrality, following a recent US court decision which put a dent in the principle.
Meanwhile, Marek Belka at Project Syndicate discusses the necessary measures which will have to be undertaken before Poland can join the Eurozone. Like the other 2004 accession states, Poland is obliged to adopt the euro as part of its EU accession agreement, but deciding when to join the single currency is a matter of intense debate.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be visiting London at the end of the month, write Open Europe. They note that while the visit might be seen as the latest attempt by David Cameron to get Germany on board with his proposed EU treaty changes, Germany also wants its own treaty changes, which would incorporate elements from the Fiscal Compact on national spending into the EU treaties.
Elsewhere, Marcu Niculescu writes in openDemocracy that Romania makes an interesting case for the power of social media and local activism in shaping politics. It is one of the few countries in Europe which has not shown an increase in support for far right parties. Despite experiencing similar economic problems to the rest of Europe, he says, the Romanian public has turned to social media and supported centrist politics to increase government accountability in the wake of scandals and corruption.
Emanuele Guicciardi at European Public Affairs takes a look at Italy’s plans for its presidency of the Council of the European Union, which will run from July to December 2014. He writes that Italy will follow the priorities of previous presidencies in focusing on the economy, job creation and migration. It will also work on EU institutional reform and, in a likely first for an EU Member State, will link its presidency to the Milan Expo 2015. Italy will hold several Council meetings in Milan and more generally use the publicity of its presidency to boost interest in the Expo.
The European neighbourhood
Another useful guide to the political turmoil in Ukraine has been put together, this time by Valery Kalnysh in openDemocracy Russia. She provides a clear explanation of the various groups involved and their origins, focusing on the government, the communists and affiliates, the opposition and the people.
European defence is in a very poor state, argues Judy Dempsey at Strategic Europe. As was evident at the Munich Security Conference last week, European nations continue to be plagued by a lack of substantial cooperation and duplication of resources when it comes to defence, despite recent efforts in pooling and sharing. She suggests that EU states are not spending enough on defence, while US contributions remain strong, and that this weakness may damage Europe’s long-term defence capabilities.
Nina L. Khrushcheva at Project Syndicate considers the impact of the 2014 Winter Olympics on Russia. She writes that the preparations for the Olympics have highlighted some of the challenges facing modern Russia, such as its limited civil rights, lack of democratic legitimacy, absence of effective political plurality and the government’s anti-homosexual policies. She also questions the political and economic costs of the games for Russia and its people.
Meanwhile Dimitar Bechev at the ECFR Blog writes that Turkey could be facing some notable economic problems in the short term. Like other emerging economies, Turkey has been hit by the decision to begin tapering quantitative easing programmes in the United States. This is an acute problem for Turkey as it is dependent on capital inflows and has a high current account deficit. He suggests that an economic downturn could have obvious political implications, which may be in evidence in the local elections at the end of March.
Simon Usherwood writes on efforts to promote the EU to citizens in the UK, including the #whyiamIN hashtag on Twitter which has been used to co-ordinate a campaign for Britain to retain its EU membership.
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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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