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.
On Sunday (24 Sep) Angela Merkel secured a fourth term as Chancellor of Germany, but her election victory was overshadowed by a surge of the far-right, which will see the first far-right party making it into the federal Parliament in German post-war history. The setbacks suffered by Angela Merkel would add some uncertainties to the Franco-German cooperation on the future of Europe. On 26 September, French President Emmanuel Macron gave a wide-ranging speech at the University of Sorbonne laying out his vision to revitalise the European Union. The future of Europe without Britain in the EU is now the subject of intense media attention. The formal Brexit negotiations which began in June this year was reportedly not making enough progress after three rounds of talk. Catalonia’s decision to hold an independence referendum to decide whether it should stay within Spain has spiraled into a political crisis. The European Commission was silent on the political crisis brewing in Spain but was busy setting out its policy plans for migration and asylum, aiming at resettling (on a voluntary basis) 50,000 refugees over the next two years, primarily from Turkey, Jordan, Libya, Egypt, Niger, Sudan, Chad and Ethiopia. Click on the image to read more.
Germany will hold general elections this coming Sunday (24 Sep).Current Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to win a fourth term. Despite last week’s protests in Barcelona in support of the referendum, the Spanish government in Madrid has toughened its stance to stop the independence referendum (scheduled for 1 October) from going ahead. On Brexit, the most eye-catching event was a perceived split within the Theresa May cabinet with foreign secretary Boris Johnson publishing a long treatise setting out his vision of Brexit that are potentially at odds with May’s official position. Turning to EU-China relations, the EU Chamber of Commerce in China published a report this week urging Chinese leadership to honour its public commitments to free trade and globalisation. Click on the image to read more.
On Wednesday European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker gave his State of the Union Address to the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). This week, trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström headed to the European Parliament to discuss anti-dumping reforms. In relation to developments in Asia, German chancellor Angela Merkel offered German participation in any future nuclear talks with North Korea and suggested that the 2015 agreement with Iran could serve as a model for negotiations. The call for Catalonia’s independence referendum has increased political tensions between the Spanish government and Catalonia. Click on the image to read more.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) in a landmark ruling on Wednesday confirmed that EU’s mandatory migration quota scheme is legal, in response to a complaint filed by Hungary and Slovakia. The third round of Brexit negotiations concluded last week, with both the EU and UK expressing frustration at the pace of the negotiations and the size of the divorce bill. Ahead of the German general elections (scheduled for 24 Sep) the rift between Germany and Turkey seemed to be getting deeper this week. Click on the image to read more.
With migration being the second most concerning issue for Europeans (after terrorism), French President Macron hosted a mini-summit in Paris on Monday (28 Aug) to discuss a closer cooperation on migratory issues between the EU and Africa. British Prime Minister Theresa May kicked off her first state visit to Japan this week, with the aim to allay Japanese concerns stemming from Brexit uncertainties. Click on the image to read more.
French President Emmanuel Macron completed his first 100 days in office this Monday. Starting from last week, the British government decided that it would release a series of policy papers outlining Britain’s strategy for Brexit negotiations. As if to show that Brexit negotiations will not hamper the EU’s other negotiations, a report in Euractiv noted that the packed trade agenda in the coming months for the EU trade officials. The relations between Turkey and the EU hit rock bottom this week following the arrest of the German-Turkish writer Doğan Akhanli, an outspoken critic of the Turkish government, by Interpol in Spain due to a Turkish extradition request. Click on the image to read more.
Two months after the formal launch of Brexit negotiations, the British government finally published a series of position papers outlining its visions and plans for the complex Brexit process. An extraordinary meeting at EU ambassadorial level was held on Monday to discuss the current tensions between the US and North Korea. Issues around migration took an unexpected turn as Italy saw a slowdown in migrant arrivals in the past few weeks. Click on the image to read more.