The EUROPP team take a look at the week in Brussels blogging

The EU centre and the crisis

Angela Merkel visited the UK this week, with the issue of EU reform forming part of her discussions with British Prime Minister David Cameron. Open Europe reports on her speech to both Houses of Parliament in London, labelling it a ‘statesmanlike speech’, which focused on improving the European internal market. She stated that Germany wants the UK to remain in the EU, but that any reforms should be gradual and part of a long-term process involving the other 27 member states.

Angela Merkel and David Cameron on 27 February 2014, Credit: The Prime Minister's Office (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Angela Merkel and David Cameron on 27 February 2014, Credit: The Prime Minister’s Office (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Meanwhile, the European Parliament held a vote on Thursday over whether to add citizens of several countries, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Peru and Colombia, to the short-list of states entitled to visa free travel in the Schengen zone. Geoffrey Bindman at Open Democracy argues that the UAE’s human rights record should have prevented it from consideration for a visa waiver. The vote nevertheless went in favour of the proposal, by a margin of 523-41.

Elsewhere, Jonas Schoenefeld at Ideas on Europe breaks down the politics of creating the Directorate-General (DG) for Climate Action in the European Commission in 2010. He explains that the new DG, which split off from DG Environment, came about as the result of internal commission politics, the need to fill roles for 27 (now 28) commissioners, and the desire for the EU to play a more significant role in leading the international climate change debate.

Across Europe

Alexandre Afonso at the PSA Blog discusses the consequences of the successful referendum in Switzerland proposing to introduce immigration quotas. As immigration within the EU is a significant issue for Member States, he argues that the way in which the EU deals with Switzerland could play a decisive role in how EU states deal with each other’s concerns. He also suggests that Switzerland is not as independent from the EU as many think, challenging the idea that states such as the UK could prosper easily with little interference from the EU if they decided to withdraw from it.

At European Public Affairs, Markus Hell explains the impact of the Scottish independence referendum on regions across Europe, particularly those with independence aspirations. The clearest counterpart is Catalonia but, despite the similarities between the two, he argues, there are many differences in their national contexts. Catalonia will likely continue its independence efforts regardless of what happens in Scotland, and indeed each European regionalist movement is unique.

Meanwhile David Barnard-Wills at the Manchester Policy Blogs asks whether European citizens’ concerns over surveillance reflect broader issues related to citizen trust in government and security agencies. He argues that Europe’s policymakers should take the views of citizens far more seriously when developing surveillance practices.

The European neighbourhood

On Ukraine, the European Council on Foreign Relations has an overview on how the EU should ‘help the country to help itself’. The key policy recommended is to enlist Russia as a stakeholder in economic settlement for Ukraine. With respect to this point, James Rogers and Luis Simón at European Geostrategy take a different line, questioning whether it is realistic for the EU and Russia to work together effectively in the country, and arguing that, if anything, the EU working with Russia will simply legitimise the country’s ‘expansionist agenda’.

Elsewhere, Judy Dempsey writes at Strategic Europe that Poland’s long-term regional strategy to increase its power and influence is starting to pay off. She notes that Poland was one of the three EU mediators, along with France and Germany, which brokered the transition deal with Ukraine and Russia. She argues that Poland’s ultimate aspiration is to see a democratic and open Eastern Europe, in order to secure its own security and prosperity.

And finally…

Has social media increased political participation? Perhaps not, writes Katharine A. M. Wright at Politics @ Surrey, but it has changed the way many people get their news and information. She also argues that although the gender balance of readers online is more even than in print media, women still face challenges in being equally influential in social media.

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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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