Europe & EU 2017

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The EU countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic,
Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania,
Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain,
Sweden and the UK.
After the 2016 Brexit vote
Official website of the European Union

EU member countries mapStratfor: The EU May Bend to Keep From Breaking
The European Commission is taking a clear-eyed look at Europe’s future. On March 1, the institution presented a report proposing five different visions for what the European Union might look like in 2025. The report will doubtless take center stage at the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday between discussions of such issues as migration, security, defense and the economy. Along with suggesting that member states could integrate at different speeds, the white paper raises the possibility that EU member countries may regain control of some prerogatives currently under Brussels’ authority.
This idea represents a marked departure for EU leaders. Since the bloc’s inception six decades ago, its goal has always been to progressively delegate national policy decisions to supranational authorities. Every institutional reform since the 1950s has furthered this goal, giving Brussels more responsibilities. Though EU officials have said they oppose weakening the supranational institutions, the white paper nonetheless speaks volumes about how things have changed in Europe.
Reactions to the European Commission’s proposals have been mixed. Countries with large economies in the eurozone’s core, including Germany, France and Italy, expressed support for a “multispeed Europe” in which some members can move ahead with deeper integration even if others opt out. Countries in Central and Eastern Europe, on the other hand, warned against the danger of separating the European Union’s core from its periphery. These states will have difficult choices to make going forward. Countries such as Poland and Hungary, for all their criticism, still see the European Union as a vital source of funding and protection. And although they have faulted the European Union and demanded that Brussels return decision-making power to national legislatures, they are troubled by the idea that the EU core could increase integration without them. The possibility that Germany or France could coordinate their policies toward Russia, for instance, without consulting the rest of the bloc is particularly disconcerting for former East bloc countries such as Poland or Romania.
The European Union’s core members have their own concerns about a two-speed Europe, despite their emphatic support for the model. (13 March 2017)

France’s Political Parties Are Banding Together To Stop Le Pen
Amid fears of Le Pen’s anti-European Union and anti-immigrant vision taking hold over the country, French and European politicians began throwing their support behind Macron almost immediately after Sunday’s results were announced. Figures across the political spectrum came together to back Macron, appearing to form a “cordon sanitaire” against the prospect of a Le Pen presidency.
(The Economist) France’s election: A new republic
For the first time since the establishment of the Fifth Republic in 1958, neither of the two major political parties has a candidate in the final round of France’s presidential election. Instead, two outsiders, the internationalist Emmanuel Macron and the far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen, have gone through. As they prepare for a tough two-week campaign, the country could be in for a deep political realignment, writes our France correspondent
Meanwhile in Germany: AfD’s own worst enemy Frauke Petry, the most visible figure in Germany’s populist party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), watched delegates reject her plan to detoxify the party at its conference this weekend. Alexander Gauland emerged as the party’s new master. Under him the AfD will focus on issues such as refugees and Islam. It is not the threat to the mainstream parties that a reformed AfD might have been,  writes our Germany correspondent

23 April

French election results and exit polls live: Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen win first round, according to projections

21 April
Round one of the French presidential elections. Eleven candidates are on the ballot on Sunday. Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen are virtually tied in the polls, with conservative François Fillon and far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon not far behind. Thursday’s terror attack on the Champs-Élysées has ramped up tensions in the capital.

EU leader: UK would be welcomed back if voters overturn Brexit
Exclusive: European parliament president Antonio Tajani says process could easily be reversed if election brings in new British government
(The Guardian) Speaking after a meeting with the prime minister in Downing Street, Antonio Tajani insisted that her triggering of the departure process last month could be reversed easily by the remaining EU members if there was a change of UK government after the general election, and that it would not even require a court case.
“If the UK, after the election, wants to withdraw [article 50], then the procedure is very clear,” he said in an interview. “If the UK wanted to stay, everybody would be in favour. I would be very happy.”

(Quartz) For the first time in the country’s modern political history, candidates from both its mainstream parties are bracing to be knocked out of the presidential election, of which the first of two voting rounds is on Sunday.
The two front-runners are from outside the mainstream: far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who has lured disenchanted voters from both left and right with her protectionist mantra, and Emmanuel Macron, a pro-market centrist who melts the hearts of urban progressives.
But a close challenger for third place brings the country’s extreme views full circle. In recent weeks, far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a tech-savvy admirer of Mao Zedong and Hugo Chávez, has shot up in the polls. His tirades against free trade and clubby elites are eerily similar to those of his far-right rival. Bankers, Mélenchon said at a campaign rally (paywall), are “parasites” on society who “produce nothing.” In an interview, Le Pen called for a return to “real economies, not Wall Street economies, but rather factories and farmers.”
Both candidates are pro-worker and anti-EU and favor chummier ties with Russia. The only major difference between them boils down to xenophobia. Le Pen, whose fear-mongering implicates French Muslims in the rise of ISIL, wants a blanket ban on immigration, while Mélenchon, born and raised in Morocco, preaches compassion for refugees (link in French), but better control over those who have yet to arrive.
The merging of their ideals speaks to the unraveling of left and right categories everywhere, as voters contend with the forces of globalization in everyday life. In France, the burning question is how to root its cherished culture in a destabilized world. The answer it comes to will transcend borders, setting a course for Europe, global markets, and modern politics for years to come.—Roya Wolverson

French Presidential Candidate Macron Takes Page From American Political Playbook
“What we’ve seen in all the political studies, going door-to-door, having an exchange face-to-face, it raises the chance of persuading someone to vote by eight-to-ten times,” says Lex Paulson, an American who worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign. Paulson now teaches political science in Paris and is an unpaid adviser to Macron.
Paulson says he’s hearing the same frustrations from French voters that he heard when he worked for Obama.
“I feel the stakes are exactly the same here, and even more urgent now that America has gone the direction it has gone,” Paulson says. “I think this is the most important campaign in the world right now.”

17 April
Influential German MP calls for end of EU talks with Turkey
(CNN)Germany should “formally suspend” talks on EU membership with Turkey, the chair of the German Parliament’s foreign affairs committee said Monday, warning of a slide towards authoritarianism.
“My view is that we should formally suspend negotiation talks with Turkey as long as Erdogan is establishing and conducting authoritarian power,” German Member of Parliament Norbert Röttgen, a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
“We must not give up on Turkey. Erdogan is not Turkey. But we have to make clear that now it is Erdogan’s rule which is being established more and more in Turkey.”
President Erdogan on Monday evening told a rally in Ankara that some in Europe were “threatening” to freeze talks — “but,” he told the crowd, “let me tell you that this is not that important for us anyway.”
Macron urges French to get rid of old generation as race tightens
Presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron urged French voters on Monday to turn the page on the last 20 years and bring a new generation to power, as he stepped up attacks against resurgent far-left and conservative rivals six days before voting day.

11 April
EU-Turkey Relations Reaching a Crossroads
(Carnegie Europe) The referendum campaign provoked a diplomatic crisis between Ankara and the European Union.
Accusations of “Nazi practices” or “fascism” in Europe, uttered by the Turkish president, have deeply affected EU-Turkey relations, which were already tense.

10 April
Newsweek reports that “in Brussels on Thursday, the European Union dealt Russia another setback when the economic bloc approved a measure granting Ukrainians visa-free travel, a move that Russia and its proxies have long opposed. The European Parliament voted 521 to 75 in favor of the measure, which is likely to go into effect by June. In a televised national address on Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the vote “a symbol of Ukraine’s belonging to a common European civilization.”

4 April
Brexit and Trump encouraged Eastern Europe populism: report
Hungary and Poland slide down the rankings, but Kosovo is praised.
( The U.K.’s decision to leave the EU and Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. increased fears of instability and emboldened populists in Europe, according to a report out Tuesday by a human rights group.
The U.S. based NGO Freedom House’s annual Nations in Transit report found there had been one of the biggest democratic declines across the 29 countries that it monitors in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans since it began publishing in 1995.
“Brexit and the new administration in the U.S. have emboldened anti-democratic populists in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans,” said Nate Schenkkan, project director of Nations in Transit. “A critical mass of leaders in the region openly reject the idea of liberal democracy. Populism increasingly is combining with crude ethnic nationalism in a way that threatens peace in Europe.”

2 April
A Le Pen win in the French election would place a ‘sword of Damocles’ above the eurozone
Emmanuel Macron(Business Insider u.k.) The French election is the major upcoming political risk in Europe. The markets are concerned about a possible Marine Le Pen victory as one of her key campaign promises is to hold a referendum on France exiting the euro currency bloc. The departure of one of the Eurozone’s leading countries would most likely lead to the breakdown of the Eurozone. The instability created by Brexit as well as anti EU rhetoric from Trump and others exacerbates the probability of a Frexit. … the first round debate last week was dominated by Emmanuel Macron, so the market now expects Le Pen and Macron to win the first round the 23rd of April, and Macron to win the second round which is happening the 7th of May. On the back of this, the market has been reducing their risk hedges. In most polls Macron leads Le Pen by 20% in the second round, which seems like a big gap to close one month before the elections. However, the ramifications of a Le Pen victory are so significant that it is worth taking it seriously.
[Emmanuel Macron’s Unlikely Rise To Becoming France’s Presidential Front-Runner –If Macron is elected, he’ll be the country’s first leader not to come from an establishment party.]

28 March
Dominique Moisi: France’s Extraordinary Election
[Macron] advances his mission through a combination of youthful energy, self-confidence, political cunning, technocratic competence, and a sense of moderation.
(Project Syndicate) Sixty years after the signing of the Treaty of Rome, France is poised to hold an election that could make or break the European Union. A victory for the pro-EU independent centrist Emmanuel Macron could be a positive turning point, with France rejecting populism and deepening its connections with Germany. If, however, French voters hand the presidency to the far-right National Front’s Marine Le Pen – who was, tellingly, just warmly received by Vladimir Putin in Moscow – the long European project will be finished.
… the old French proverb, “never two without three,” may seem to indicate that, after those two votes, a Le Pen victory is all but inevitable. Then again, maybe France will be the third electoral loss for extreme-right candidates, after those in Austria and the Netherlands, providing definitive proof that the populist tide can be resisted.

25 March
European leaders sign Rome Declaration as centerpiece of 60th anniversary celebrations
(Politico Eu.) …somehow — whether inspired by the weight of the moment, the ghosts of their predecessors or the warm Roman spring — the 27 heads of government and state, pulled it off. For a day, at least, they put their squabbles aside to celebrate the unlikely success of an idea born out of catastrophe.
After a year in which the EU has had to stomach the Brexit vote, bitter fights over refugees and the resurgence of far-right populism, failure was not an option. Yet for a club riven by division over matters large and small, keeping up appearances was no small order.
Gathered in the hall of Horatii and the Curiatii, the opulent marbled chamber where the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957, the continent’s leaders reasserted the EU’s founding principles, while vowing to carry the region’s integration forward. One by one …  put their signature to an 800-word document dubbed the Rome Declaration.
How the EU lost its way
Brussels was never meant to have so much power.
By Giulio Tremonti and Theodore Roosevelt Malloch
(Politico Eu.) On the bright spring day of March 25, 1957, at the Palazzo de Conservatori, on Capitoline Hill in Rome, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany signed a treaty that signaled the birth of a new institution, a customs union that would become known as the common market.
Today, every liberal democracy — from the United States to New Zealand — has cause to celebrate the achievements of the Treaty of Rome. By lowering barriers to trade and encouraging peaceful development, it set the stage for an era of expanding prosperity.
The political reasoning that inspired the treaty was a combination of two principles: sovereignty and subsidiarity. The treaty was signed by countries that only made concessions on their sovereignty when absolutely necessary. These were measured, deliberate and slight additions to national entities, not attempts to delegate competencies to supranational institutions.
With this in mind, the European Common Market was designed not to overreach into nations’ sovereignty. Brussels, the first of what should have been a rotating venue for EC institutions, was conceived as a minimal force for coordination and was never supposed to become the permanent capital of a new, let alone enlarged, European Union.

15 March
Dutch Liberals Projected to Defeat Wilders’s Party in Election
Euro climbs to highest in more than a month on result
Freedom Party, Christian Democrats, D66 tied for second place
(Bloomberg) Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Liberals easily beat the anti-Islam Freedom Party of Geert Wilders in Wednesday’s election, as voters responded to Rutte’s plea to send a signal and halt the spread of populism in Europe.

14 March
Dani Rodrik: How Much Europe Can Europe Tolerate?
(Project Syndicate) This month the European Union will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its founding treaty, the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community. There certainly is much to celebrate. After centuries of war, upheaval, and mass killings, Europe is peaceful and democratic. The EU has brought 11 former Soviet-bloc countries into its fold, successfully guiding their post-communist transitions. And, in an age of inequality, EU member countries exhibit the lowest income gaps anywhere in the world.
But these are past achievements. Today, the Union is mired in a deep existential crisis, and its future is very much in doubt. The symptoms are everywhere: Brexit, crushing levels of youth unemployment in Greece and Spain, debt and stagnation in Italy, the rise of populist movements, and a backlash against immigrants and the euro. They all point to the need for a major overhaul of Europe’s institutions.

13 March
Hungary Plays the E.U.
(NYT editorial) With calculated timing, Hungary’s new plan for refugees was approved the day after it got the green light from the union for a Russian-built nuclear plant. Clearly, Mr. Orban is playing the European Union for a patsy. At what point will the union have the courage to take action against his policies?

10 March
The Economist: Poland and the EU: The other President Donald
Awarding Donald Tusk a second term as president of the European Council looked like a formality. But at yesterday’s EU summit Mr Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, found his home country accusing him of treason and forcing a vote. It lost 27-1. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the ruling party, is playing to his conservative base by smearing Mr Tusk. But his obsession with punishing his enemy leaves Poland isolated in Europe
(WaPost) Former Polish prime minister Donald Tusk was elected to a second term as president of the European Council, the body that coordinates with leaders of European Union countries. Tusk will now play an important role in negotiations with Britain as it attempts to leave the continental bloc; Tusk will also champion European unity at a time of general crisis.
His compatriots in Warsaw, though, are furious. Tusk, a center-right politician and traditional liberal, is at odds with his home nation’s right-wing government. Leading Polish politicians sought to rally support against him, arguing he was a stooge of Berlin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but ended up alone as other central European allies chose to line up behind Tusk.
EU officials talk counter-terrorism with Silicon Valley. They want help from US tech giants in fighting terrorist propaganda online and will meet with leaders at Google, Facebook, and Twitter, among others. The California confabs will come at an awkward time, after WikiLeaks apparently revealed ways the CIA hacks smartphones and other devices.

6 March
“Our country is sick.”
(Reuters) That’s what former French prime minister Alain Juppé said on Monday, after deciding “once and for all” not to run in France’s presidential election, disappointing many in his conservative party. Their existing candidate, Francois Fillon, is mired in a scandal over hundreds of thousands of euros of public money he paid his wife to be his parliamentary assistant. Once the frontrunner, opinion polls show Fillon losing the election.

3 March
(WaPost Today’s World View) In Europe, leading far-right politicians, including French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, have publicly stood up for Russia in the face of E.U. censure. In some cases, far-right European parties maintain direct ties to the Kremlin.Meanwhile, Le Pen’s critics in the French political establishment have for weeks been pointing to alleged acts of Russian meddling in the French elections, including reports of hacking targeting Le Pen’s main opponents. “This kind of interference in French democratic life is unacceptable,” said Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault last month. “The French will not accept anyone dictating their [electoral] choices.”
According to German officials, Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has long been warning about apparent Russian interference in European elections, is now Europe’s “main target of fake news articles” — an online disinformation campaign some E.U. officials are connecting to Moscow.
Instead, the far-right’s common rallying cries are the supposed threat of Islam and the potential death of Western culture. Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician whose far-right party will likely claim a significant chunk of parliamentary seats in elections this month, believes “Islam and freedom are not compatible” and that Islam is a “totalitarian ideology,” not a faith. That intolerant view is seemingly shared by some senior Trump advisers.

1 March
What the European Commission president was really saying when he outlined his visions of the future of Europe
(Politico) Outlining the five options to the European Parliament Wednesday, Juncker acknowledged the existential struggle the EU is facing due to crises over Brexit, migration and the eurozone. He said it was not a “definitive view” from the Commission but a way to “make clear what Europe can and cannot do.”
And while Juncker tried to stay neutral, there were times when it was clear which his preferred option is
Commission outlines 5 scenarios for future of EU in white paper
(Politico) The European Commission has outlined five scenarios for the future of the European Union in a white paper obtained by POLITICO ahead of its publication on Wednesday.
The scenarios are entitled “carrying on,” “nothing but the single market,” “those who want more do more,” “doing less more efficiently,” and “doing much more together.”
The paper is an attempt by the Commission, led by President Jean-Claude Juncker, to shape a major debate about the EU’s future following Britain’s shock decision to leave. The document is also intended to influence a declaration by the 27 countries remaining in the EU at the bloc’s 60th anniversary summit on March 25 in Rome.
The paper starts with a somber tone, acknowledging the existential struggle the EU is facing due to crises over Brexit, migration and the eurozone. “Europe’s challenges show no sign of abating,” the paper says. It also notes the difficult balancing act facing the EU, as “many Europeans consider the Union as either too distant or too interfering.”
While generally neutral in its language, the Commission at times makes its preferred option clear. For example, on eurozone governance, the Commission aligns itself with the most federal option by saying it will issue a paper based on the 2015 Five Presidents’ Report, which called for a eurozone finance minister and stricter controls over the budgets of the 19 countries that use the single currency.

Geert Wilders falls behind Mark Rutte in Dutch election race
(Politico) Far-right party has lost the lead for first time in months.
If an election was held now, the PVV would win 15.7 percent of the vote, around half a percent less than Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD).

27 February
(Quartz) Emmanuel Macron narrowed the gap in the French presidential race. Opinion polls said the independent candidate would would win in the second round of voting, defeating current front-runner Marine Le Pen of the far right Front National. A surprise alliance with veteran centrist François Bayrou, announced last week, has boosted Macron’s campaign
Germany’s rightwing AfD party struggles to cope with internal crisis
Alternative für Deutschland’s support has slumped since a leading politician called for Germany to stop atoning for its Nazi past
21 February
Europe’s Critical Elections
By Guy Verhofstadt, former Belgian prime minister
(Project Syndicate) Following the United Kingdom’s Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s election as US president, the question facing Europe is straightforward: Will populist and nationalist forces exert the same influence in core countries of the EU?
Europeans recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Maastricht Treaty, which marked a seminal moment in the history of European integration. As we have learned in the intervening years, the EU’s powers are insufficient to address all of the challenges that now confront Europe. Germany must help to rectify this situation by offering a vision for a more confident and ambitious Europe – one that can overcome internal divisions, see to its own security, and sustainably manage migration.If new movements emerge to counter the forces of nationalism and populism, this would not be a far-fetched scenario. And while former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, Wilders, Le Pen, and their peers continue to pose as plucky anti-establishment underdogs, this conceit is wearing thin, owing to their own success – and, in UKIP’s case, to financial scandals. … new pro-European centrist movements have already sprung up across Europe, from Nowoczesna (Modern) in Poland to Ciudadanos (Citizens) in Spain. These parties do not peddle lies, and they do not owe their success to Russian-sponsored propaganda bots or social-media trolls.
15 February
The bellwether state
(WaPost) If you want to understand political trends sweeping Europe, look to the Netherlands. Its students began protesting in 1966, foreshadowing young left-wing agita across the continent. It’s 1994 election brought center-left “third-way” politics into style three years before Tony Blair was elected in the U.K.
And this year, the country may once again be a bellwether for things to come. On March 15, the Dutch will go to the polls to choose their new parliament. The campaign, which begins today, pits a populist anti-Islam party against more traditional politicians; the hot-button issues are integration, refugees and what role immigrants, particularly Muslims, should play in Dutch society. It’s practically a dress rehearsal of elections to come later this year in France and Germany
About 15 percent of Netherlands residents are from outside the E.U. A majority of voters are worried about immigrants from outside the bloc, and 57 percent disapprove of how their government is handling things. (It’s no wonder that 40 percent of Dutch citizens of Turkish, Moroccan, Surinamese or Antillean descent don’t feel “at home” in the country.)
Right now, the candidate with the most popular platform is Geert Wilders, head of the far-right Freedom Party
Wilders wants a Brexit-style withdrawal from the E.U. and a ban on immigrants from Muslim countries. In December, he was found guilty of “insulting and inciting discrimination against Moroccans.” Other candidates have also upped their anti-immigration rhetoric. In an open letter, current Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the economically conservative People’s Party wrote that people should “act normal or leave.”
It’s still unclear how things will turn out. More than 70 percent of Dutch voters say they’re undecided, and there are 14 parties to choose from. And while Wilders is leading in the polls with 20 percent, most other parties have said they won’t form a coalition with him. That would likely leave him locked out of power even if his party wins a plurality.
But if the Freedom Party does come in first, populism expert Cas Mudde told the Economist, “the media will represent him and his European collaborators as ‘the choice of the people’.” And if that happens, it can only mean good things for France’s Marine Le Pen, Germany’s Frauke Petry and populists across Europe. — Amanda Erickson

Cleo Paskal: France dives back into the South Pacific
Paris is refocusing attention on its island territories, the new strategic front line between Asia and the Americas
(Chatham House) After a relatively quiet period, Paris is re-energizing its maritime empire, particularly in the Pacific. In the past year alone, there have been huge military sales, paradigm-shifting diplomatic initiatives, and unusual visits by French political leaders to far-flung islands. The first question is why? The second question is: what does that mean in the context of China’s growing role as a Pacific maritime power?
France has impressive global reach. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, every qualifying island can claim up to a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). France has islands all over the world that qualify, including the Pacific territories of New Caledonia, French Polynesia, and Wallis and Futuna.
The full tally of islands means France has the second largest EEZ in the world, around 11 million square kilometres, second only to the slightly larger EEZ of the United States. There are dots of France all over the globe, many in critical locations convenient for effective monitoring and strategic positioning.

14 February
Christopher Smart: The Financial Education of the Eurozone
(Project Syndicate) In 2017, Europe’s leaders will confront an array of severe tests, including tumultuous elections featuring populist insurgencies, complex negotiations over Britain’s departure from the European Union, and a new American president who thinks that the transatlantic alliance is “obsolete.”
But, despite these challenges, EU leaders will also have an opportunity to strengthen their battered union and reinforce its institutions. In particular, they should focus on restoring the banking sector’s credibility, by providing it with more capital and better oversight. Even if they make progress on nothing else, achieving this goal could turn 2017 into a very good year after all.
11 February
(Quartz weekend round-up) The European Union is being attacked on multiple fronts. This year, its resilience will be tested by the UK’s willingness to leave without a new trade deal; the combative stance (paywall) of US president Donald Trump’s advisors; and multiple elections featuring increasingly popular far-right parties.
French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, for example, has vowed to pull France out of the euro and hold a referendum on EU membership if she wins the election in May. Should France vote to leave, the global economy could face deeply destabilizing political and economic ramifications—not least because Le Pen has said she would redenominate €1.7 trillion ($1.8 trillion) of public debt into a new national currency, resulting in a massive sovereign default.
Meanwhile, a stalemate between Greece’s European creditors and the IMF over the next tranche of bailout aid is making investors nervous. In Italy, the new government is wrestling with a weak banking system as anti-euro parties grow in popularity.
But the EU won’t go down easily. In an effort to alter the reputation of the European Commission—often seen as a group of all-powerful, unaccountable technocrats controlling millions of lives undemocratically—Brussels is now trying to hand decision-making back to national governments. The effort by the Commission’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker, aims to save the EU from being used as a scapegoat for unpopular political decisions across the region.
There are also signs that Europe’s economy is finally enjoying a sustained recovery after two crises in the past decade. Last year, the euro-area economy grew faster than the US, and unemployment fell back into the single digits.
That said, national economic data won’t be enough to deter the rise of right-wing populism. The fight is in the hands of politicians—and they could still win it.
In Germany, European enthusiast Martin Schulz could pick up the torch from Angela Merkel after elections in September. France’s next leader is most likely to be the centrist Emmanuel Macron. And a Greek deal might be hashed out before €7 billion in debt repayments begin to come due this year—reducing the recurring chance that Greece could be forced out of the EU, and potentially boosting confidence in the body’s integration-first philosophy.
This year could take the EU to the brink of disaster, but it’s been there before. The challenge now is convincing people it’s worth bringing it back.

10 February
Le Pen: French Jews Will Have to Give Up Israeli Citizenship
(Haaretz) Leading contender in French election tells interviewer she won’t allow dual citizenships with non-European countries. Asked specifically about Jews and Israel, she said: ‘Israel isn’t an EU member.’
Le Pen said that the ban will also apply to citizens of the U.S. and North African countries, but that dual citizens of the EU and of Russia, which she said is part of she termed the “Europe of nations,” will be exempted.

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