On Tuesday (15 July), the European Parliament elected Ursula von der Leyen for President of the Commission by a slim margin. She delivered a speech which garnered the necessary votes and support from three mainstream parties: EPP, S&D, and RE. On Monday (15 July), the EU agreed to enact sanctions in response to Turkey’s oil and gas drilling off the coast of Cyprus. As part of the sanctions package, EU foreign ministers decided to reduce the pre-accession assistance to Turkey for 2020 by €145.8 million, halt high-level bilateral talks, suspend negotiations for the EU-Turkey aviation agreement and review the European Investment Bank’s lending activities to Turkey. Click on the image to read more.
On Sunday (7 July) snap elections in Greece, the far-left Syriza party was ousted by the centre-right New Democracy party. The party won almost 40% of the vote, gaining 158 seats out of 300 in parliament. German conservative Ursula von der Leyen from the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) emerged from last week’s emergency EU summit as the compromise candidate to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as Commission president. She needs the backing of at least 375 MEPs in the current 748-member chamber at next Tuesday’s plenary vote in Strasbourg. On Tuesday (9 July), Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini attended the closure of the Mineo centre in Sicily, which was once the largest migrant centre in Europe. The decision to close Mineo was announced last month, following the decline of asylum seekers from 2,526 a year ago to 152. Diplomatic relations between the US and UK hit an obstacle as leaks from private diplomatic cables revealed that the UK’s ambassador to the US, Kim Darroch, called the US administration “dysfunctional” and “inept”, invoking a backlash from Donald Trump. This, as well as the Brexit issue were subjects of contention in the Tory leadership race during the one-to-one face-off debates between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt. Click on the image to read more.
On Tuesday (2 July), the Council announced the names of four nominees for top positions in the EU. The historic deal that the EU struck with the Mercosur bloc of countries, namely Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay last week has drawn fierce opposition from climate activists and farmers’ associations in Europe. Under a compromise struck at the last minute, heads of state from 19 of the 20 countries backed the Paris Agreement while the US secured a carve-out under an ‘agree to disagree’ framework — the same solution as in previous G20s after Trump was elected. On Tuesday (2 July), an Italian judge ruled that Sea-Watch 3 captain Carola Rackete was free to go. The ruling came three days after the German was arrested for docking in the southern Island of Lampedusa with 40 migrants aboard the rescue ship, after spending two weeks at sea. The recent Young Europeans Forum gave a glimpse into the concerns young Europeans had in an increasingly diverse and seemingly fragmented Europe. Young Europeans debated on ways to increase social cohesion and manage cultural diversity. Click on the image to read more.
Finland takes over the rotating presidency of the EU from 1 July and has chosen to focus on issues of social, economic and ecological sustainability with the slogan “Sustainable Future, Sustainable Europe”. The EU signed an accord with Vietnam on Sunday, removing virtually all customs duties on trade. In another region, the EU and the South American bloc of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay finally ended the world’s longest-running trade negotiations on a successful note. Council President Donald Tusk said on Friday that the EU was “closer” to finding a compromise over the bloc’s top jobs but that an immediate breakthrough should not be expected ahead of the crunch Brussels summit on Sunday. Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson and current foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt are the two remaining candidates in the Tory leadership race to become the next Prime Minister of the UK. In foreign affairs, the EU is faced with the tasks of de-escalating tensions between the US and Iran and urging Russia to abide by the Inter-mediate range Nuclear (INF) treaty. Click on the image to read more.
The European Council meeting on 19-20 June ended with no agreement on the top jobs. EU leaders would meet again on 30 June to decide on the “full package” that will reflect the diversity of the EU. Climate action was also one of the key priorities in the Summit agenda. Ahead of the EU summit, the Commission published an appraisal that show national efforts to meet the bloc’s joint commitments for the 2030 energy and climate targets are insufficient. Following the EU Council Summit, the EU will attend the G20 Summit next week, where world leaders will discuss strengthening the global economy amidst trade tensions between China and the US. EU has stuck to the script of multilateralism when dealing with US and China individually as well as in negotiating the tension between the two. Former Romanian Prime Minister Dacian Cioloș is on track to lead a new centrist-liberal Renew Europe group in the European Parliament after winning the endorsement of its joint venture partners. French President Emmanuel Macron, in particular, is determined to use the new group to push for a more integrated EU, especially on financial and economic issues. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has played down a declaration issued by Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency that it would breach uranium stockpile limits set out in the 2015 nuclear deal. Click on the image to read more.
Four top EU jobs are up for grabs – the presidencies of the Commission, Council and Parliament, as well as the high representative for foreign affairs. Besides the race for the top positions, post-election EU is preparing a strategic agenda for the next five years. Another issue that has cropped up in the EU’s present agenda is the enlargement towards the Balkans. Besides the enlargement issue, Brexit continues to loom in the background as the race to replace Theresa May heats up. The EU Commission has moved closer to invoking disciplinary procedures against Italy for non-compliance with EU fiscal rules by failing to cut its public debt. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has yet to reveal his plans for coalition agreements to secure his reelection as Prime Minister. Click on the image to read more.
With the Trump administration, transatlantic relations continue to “diverge”. US secretary of transportation, Elaine Chao, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended The Global Entrepreneurship Summit held at the Hague from 3-5 June. Far-right Euroskeptic populist parties are scrambling for alliances after their recent gains in the 2019 European Parliament elections. Although they are united in opposing migration, Euroskeptic parties have significantly different views on issues of public debt, environmental protection, economic and social policy. The European Commission, in a draft memo, has identified a new strategy for capital markets union, Fintech, financial stability, sustainable economy and Brexit as key priorities for the next financial services Commissioner. Centre-left Social Democrats won the majority of the seats in Parliament at the Danish general elections on Wednesday (5 June), securing 26 percent of the vote while the Liberal Party won 23 percent. Click on the image to read more.
EU leaders convened an informal summit after the European elections on Tuesday (28 May) to discuss the distribution of EU top jobs. Donald Tusk is tasked by the EU 28 to consult the member states and the European Parliament about these top positions. The various pan-European groups are now scrambling to form pivotal alliances in this more fragmented parliament. Traditional groups EPP and S&D have lost their hold on the majority and must look to new coalition partners such as the Greens and ALDE. After the crushing defeat by the Brexit Party and Liberal Democrats, both the Tory and Labour parties are facing an uncertain political future. Some Conservative members are already considering Brexit options other than a hardline no-deal, which could trigger a general election in which the Tories would lose power. The recent European elections have not only shaken up the European Parliament, it might also impact upcoming national elections. Snap elections will be held in Greece after poor showing of the ruling Tsipras party in the European elections. Click on the image to read more.
The 2019 EU Parliament elections saw traditional parties such as the EPP and S&D emerging as the biggest groups in the election, in spite of considerable losses. Populist parties made significant gains in their individual countries, with parties in Italy, France and the UK emerging as the frontrunner of the elections. May was forced to step down after a strong backlash to her attempt to present for the fourth time the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to House of Commons. Her “new Brexit deal” included concessions to the Labour demands on remaining in EU custom union and a promise to put a second referendum to vote in Parliament. On Wednesday (15 May), the Trump administration signed an executive order banning the purchase of equipment from Huawei citing national security concerns. This move to blacklist the Chinese telecom giant by the US has placed a huge roadblock for the company to do business with US counterparts, such as Google, which has suspended business with Huawei. Click on the image to read more.
On Tuesday (14 May), a Downing Street official announced that British Prime Minister Theresa May will bring her Brexit deal back to Parliament by June 3. The announcement came after weeks of cross-party talks between the government and Labour Party failed to produce any tangible outcome so far. With less than two weeks left to the EU elections, Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique en Marche (LREM) party published its European election programme in Berlin titled ‘Renaissance’. It seeks to form a Liberal coalition with eight other European parties. Transatlantic ties between the US and the EU appear to be deteriorating over Iran’s nuclear deal escalation, as well as EU-US bilateral trade discussions, and the EU push to achieve strategic autonomy. US re-imposition of sanctions on Iran has impacted the country’s economy negatively. Click on the image to read more.