British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s move to suspend the Parliament until 14 October was met with surprise and derision, and sparked fury amongst Members of Parliament (MPs) including those from his own Conservative Party. The first one to break the Conservative ranks was the Speaker of the House, John Bercow, who called Johnson’s move a “constitutional outrage”. Outgoing Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has been given the mandate by Italian President Sergio Mattarella to try to form a new government after a last minute deal was struck between the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD). The Lega (The League) led by Matteo Salvini, the former coalition partner of M5S, triggered the collapse of the government by pulling out of the coalition hoping to force a snap election in which pundits believed would result in a big win for the Lega. Click on the image to read more.
On Monday (19 Aug), Russian President Vladimir Putin met French President Emmanuel Macron for talks, ahead of the G7 summit taking place in Biarritz this year. Macron urged Russia to respect “freedom of speech” and “the freedom to run in elections”. In an open letter on Monday (19 Aug), UK Prime Minister (PM) Boris Johnson appealed directly to European Council President Donald Tusk to scrap the proposed Irish backstop and consider an alternative arrangement. The plea was soundly rejected by Tusk, who criticised Johnson for lacking “realistic” alternatives. Last week, France initiated informal talks with the European Commission to come up with a solution for the Spanish rescue ship ‘Open Arms’. The call for a coordinated European response was echoed by Spanish deputy prime minister, who also urged the Commission to take legal action against Italy for breaking the law in refusing to allow the disembarkation of Open Arms. Germany’s economy is headed towards a recession after the Bundesbank warned slumps in exports during the second quarter would likely persist into the third quarter. According to Bloomberg, the German government is working on a plan to contain a potential recession, including fiscal stimuli and consumer spending. Click on the image to read more.
Last Thursday (8 Aug), Italian Deputy Prime Minister (PM) and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini announced the collapse of the M5S-League coalition government. Salvini’s League party subsequently tabled a vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister Conte, in a bid to trigger snap elections. UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urged the EU to amend the terms of the withdrawal agreement, stating that they would be responsible for a UK departure on “no-deal terms” if they fail to compromise. Outgoing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker remarked that a no-deal Brexit would ultimately hurt Britain the most. President Donald Trump accused French President Emmanuel Macron of sending “mixed signals” to Iran amid heightening tensions between the US and Iran. The comments came after a report that Macron had invited Iran President Hassan Rouhani to the G7 summit to meet Trump, which France denies. Click on the image to read more.
EU Foreign Policy chief, Federica Mogherini and her delegation visited Vietnam this week to boost bilateral ties and also seek to strengthen EU’s presence in Southeast Asia. The outlook for the 2015 nuclear deal remains bleak as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stated that Iran was ready for the worst in the uphill battle to salvage the deal. Independent investigations revealed that the EU’s border force Frontex had allegedly ignored the ill treatment of refugees by guards stationed at EU external borders. On Monday (5 Aug), European Commission spokesperson Mina Andreeva reiterated the Commission’s willingness to hold talks with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in a bid to avoid a hard Brexit. Click on the image to read more.
Last Thursday (25 July) at his parliamentary debut, Britain’s new Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the EU to reconsider their stance against renegotiating the Brexit deal. His statement that was steadfastly and swiftly rejected by the EU. EURACTIV carried a report released by the European Commission last Thursday (25 July), taking stock of transatlantic relations between the EU and US. In spite of progress in some areas of commitment, the report also highlighted areas of stalemate and tension. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Monday (29 July) that Belgium was in breach of EU law for failing to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before prolonging the operational life of two nuclear reactors. The European Commission referred Spain and Bulgaria to the ECJ of the EU for failing to protect citizens from air pollution. Click on the image to read more.
France, Germany and the United Kingdom (UK) urged Iran to release the British-flagged Stena Impero, after it was seized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in the Strait of Hormuz last Friday (19 July). European privacy investigators expect to conclude an extensive investigation into potential violations of EU data protection laws by Facebook by the end of this year, according to the Irish official leading the probe. Boris Johnson won the Conservative Party leadership race and took over as Prime Minister of the UK on Wednesday (24 July). On Tuesday (23 July), Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen (VDL) made an official visit to Paris to thank French President Emmanual Macron for her nomination. On Monday (22 July), French president Emmanuel Macron said that 14 EU member states have signed up to a “solidarity mechanism” for the allocation of asylum-seekers across the bloc. Click on the image to read more.
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.