On Wednesday (6 Dec) the European Commission presented its roadmap for reforming the Economic and Monetary Union over the next 18 months. A landmark agreement to overhaul EU’s anti-dumping and anti-subsidy instruments has been reached between the European Commission, the Council and the European Parliament on Tuesday (5 Dec). In another controversial move, the EU adopted a tax haven blacklist of 17 jurisdictions (including South Korea and Macau) and a grey list of 47 jurisdictions this week. There was still insufficient progress towards a Brexit deal despite PM Theresa May’s talks with EU leaders. Click on the image to read more.
The fifth EU-Africa summit took place in Abidjan, Ivory Coast (29-30 Nov). The two-day summit discussed a wide range of topics, from the economy to security, but issues around migration from Africa to Europe dominated the summit. After talks to form a “Jamaica coalition” collapsed, a meeting between the Merkel’s CDU/CSU and the Social Democrats (SPD) together with German President Steinmeier was scheduled for Thursday (30 Nov), in order to commence “exploratory talks” to form a grand coalition. Brexit process saw a major breakthrough this week with Theresa May increasing the size of Brexit divorce bill to over €50 billion. The sixth China-Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) summit was held in Budapest early this week. A flagship project of a high-speed railway link between Belgrade and Budapest was launched at the event. Click on the image to read more.
The collapse of Germany’s coalition talks on Sunday (19 Nov) dominated the news in Europe this week. After four weeks of “exploratory talks” between Chancellor Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU), the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens, Christian Lindner of the FDP, announced its withdrawal from the talks creating uncertainty in Germany, and fears of a leadership vacuum in the EU. There were also speculations as to how the uncertainties in Germany might impact the Brexit negotiations which have been deadlocked over the size of the Brexit bill. In order to break the impasse, the UK is reportedly willing to cough up €40 billion instead of an earlier offer of €20 billion. Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi took on a high profile visit to both Bangladesh and Myanmar before the 13th ASEM Foreign Ministers Meeting calling on both countries to find a solution to the situation in the Rakhine state. Click on the image to read more.
Hailed as a “historic day for European defence”, 23 EU member states signed the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in Brussels early this week as the first step towards defence integration in the EU. The European Commission released its Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) reports for Bulgaria and Romania on Wednesday (15 Nov), concluding that while progress has been made, “there is still more work to be done” to combat organised crime and corruption in these two countries. Concerns over fake news in the EU has led the Commission to announce plans to tackle the issue through public consultations and setting up a High-Level Expert Group to look into how to address the challenges. Brexit negotiations between the EU and UK remained deadlock over the UK’s Brexit bill. The EU and Japan this week reaffirmed their commitment to conclude the ongoing free trade negotiations by year end. Click on the image to read more.
The publication of the so-called Paradise Papers exposed the “underground” world of offshore finance. While the EU’s finance ministers were quick to call for a blacklist of tax havens, some EU members, including notably the UK and Malta, are reluctant because some offshore entities are under their jurisdictions. The Catalan crisis entered a new round, with the European Arrest Warrant issued last week for Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont and four of his colleagues. Responding the a European Parliament vote last month on potential bans on biofuels produced from palm oil, a Malaysian minister penned an op-ed warning the EU not to allow short-term politics to jeopardise the bloc’s strategic interests in Southeast Asia. The European Council President Donald Tusk was invited to attend the upcoming East Asia Summit in Philippines. One Vietnamese scholar argued that the EU presence will not significantly boost the bloc’s role in Asia because the EU is seen as a “strategic dwarf” that cannot speak in one voice. Nevertheless, the EU’s participation in the Summit is important as the two regional blocs celebrate four decades of cooperation. Click on the image to read more.
After the Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont declared independence, the crisis escalated with the central government in Madrid imposing direct rule over Catalonia while calling for a regional snap elections to take place on 21 December. Yet, another twist came up in the UK with respect to Brexit. The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator David Davis admitted for the first time that the withdrawal agreement on balance will probably favour the EU. Questions over the future of the so-called Visegrad group within the EU loom large recently. There are deepening rifts between Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia over such issues as labour movement and the idea of a multi-speed Europe. Turning to the EU’s relations with Southeast Asia. A European Parliament delegation visited Cambodia this week to hold consultation with the kingdom’s government on the arrest of a main opposition leader. Click on the image to read more.
The tensions between the Spanish central government and the Catalonian regional authority continue to deepen. Another issue that will shape the future of the European Union is the discussions going on to form the government in Germany after the September elections. The European Commission issued a “yellow card” on Monday (23 Oct) warning Vietnam for its failure in addressing illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Click on the image to read more.
The general election in Austria seemed to signal the continued shift to the right in European politics. Despite the surge of right-wing parties in Austria, public confidence in the EU and its institutions is on the rise, according to the latest European Parliament poll. Turning to EU’s foreign policy. A few hours after Trump’s statement “to decertify the Iranian deal” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that the US does not have the right to unilaterally cancel the Iran agreement since it was negotiated multilaterally. UK Prime Minister Theresa May headed to Brussels this week in an attempt to unlock Brexit negotiations. An issue that the EU leaders and institutions had stayed relatively silent was over the crisis in Catalonia. The brinkmanship between the Rajoy’s government and the Catalan regional president Puigdemont remained as the latter continued to threaten to declare independence and the former warned that it would suspend Catalan’s autonomy. Click on the image to read more.
Despite the results of a “chaotic” referendum on 1 Oct in favour of independence, Catalonia stepped back from formally declaring independence this week amidst mounting pressure from various sides – from Madrid, Brussels, businesses and those unsupportive of seceding from Spain. Asian papers carried a number of commentaries on the situation, highlighting the dilemmas posed by the referendum on both sides. Separation is never easy as the fifth round of Brexit negotiations continued without any significant political breakthrough. The negotiations focused more on technical issues such as citizen’s rights and the role of European Courts of Justice post-Brexit. This week also saw the German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble attending his last meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Monday. Click on the image to read more.
In defiance of the Spanish government’s rule that the referendum vote in Catalonia is illegal and unconstitutional, 42% of eligible voters turned up to vote. The unfortunate images of Spanish riot police manhandling and beating up Catalonians who tried to vote have led to the sense of a deepening of the crisis in Spain. In another tale of “secession”, both the UK and EU took stock of the progress in their divorce negotiations. According to the EU, after four rounds of negotiations, there is still not sufficient progress on important Brexit issues for the EU to proceed to the next phase of discussions on the future relationship between the EU and UK. While these political events within the EU captured headlines, the EU has been “quietly” flexing its muscle to deal with tech giants on issues ranging from removal of illegal content on the internet, data protection and tax breaks. Click on the image to read more.