After months of closed-door negotiations, the EU has formally approved the free trade agreement (FTA) directive proposed by the Commission to negotiate with Australia and New Zealand. Next, the much anticipated EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into full force on Friday (25 May). The GDPR seeks to give citizens greater control over their personal data as well as strengthen individual privacy rights. In light of the GDPR and the recent data scandal involving Facebook’s mismanagement of customer information, the “apology tour” by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to Europe could not have been more timely. Finally, the coalition between Five Star Movement and The League in Italy has named a political novice to be the country’s next prime minister. Click on the image to read more.
Ongoing talks between Iran and the EU continue as the Union struggles to salvage the landmark nuclear deal since the US’ withdrawal. US plans on re-imposing sanctions on Tehran have sparked outrage from its European partners, with European Council President Donald Tusk condemning the Trump administration for its “capricious assertiveness”. The EU also finds itself having to contend with the domestic politics of some of its Member States. In Italy, the possible coalition government of The League and Five Star Movement has raised alarm bells for the Union. Spain’s problem with Catalan has led to Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy skipping the EU informal summit with the Western Balkan states. The summit held in Bulgaria seemed to fall short of the Balkan countries’ aspirations of joining the Union. Click on the image to read more.
The announcement of US’ withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal, while not entirely unexpected, brings further complications for Europe and its relations with Iran. Despite relentless attempts, the US’ European allies have failed to prevent Trump from abandoning the deal. While EU leaders are united in their commitment to the Iranian deal, differences remained in the EU with regards to the migrant/refugee issue. The EU continues to struggle to manage its external borders and integrate asylum seekers successfully. Underlying political cracks in the British Cabinet have come to the forefront in light of ongoing Brexit negotiations. Clashes between Theresa May’s softer-Brexit position and Boris Johnson’s hardline stance on UK withdrawal from the EU continue to stall negotiations regarding post-Brexit arrangements. Click on the image to read more.
Brexit negotiations continued to be plagued by the divisions within UK on its post-Brexit relationship with the EU. While some in the British Cabinet advocate for the development of a customs union between the UK and the EU, others favour a more hard-lined approach, demanding a clean break with the EU, while David Davis, Brexit minister said he is open to an Associate agreement with the EU similar to that of Ukraine’s. As the difficult Brexit negotiations proceed, the European Commission released its first post-Brexit multi-annual budget for the EU. The financial framework for 2021-2027 marks the first long-term budget after Brexit, and hence it is crucial for the Commission to ensure that EU’s objectives continue to be met despite the shortfall in the UK’s national contributions. Click on the image to read more.
French President Emmanuel Macron was received in full state honours in Washington this week during his three-day visit and he seemed to have establish himself as the European leader capable of dealing with an unpredictable US “ruled” by Trump, despite no positive outcome about Macron’s policy agenda.
The Commission is strengthening their ethics-first approach with plans put in place but businesses hope for a balance between regulations and competitive advantage.
Apple and the Irish government signed an agreement to recover over €13 billion in tax breaks given to Apple with the European Commission ruling that the tax break grant had been “illegal” whilst Apple is currently embroiled in an acquisition case with Brussels, of British music startup Shazam. Click on the image to read more
The European Commission is working to push forth and hasten the conclusion of its comprehensive trade agreements with Japan and Singapore, which appears to be a pattern for future global trade as markets seek to buffer themselves in the midst of uncertainty.
With Brexit impending, internal alliances which involves the UK are likely to be redrawn. Amidst parliamentary going-ons, UK Independence Party (UKIP), the driving force behind Brexit, chose Gerard Batten as the new leader last Saturday.
Recent reports state that EU is hoping to “revive stalled peace talks in Syria”. However there is still some pessimism with the current situation because “international support…seems dismally fractured”.
Giacomo Filibeck, deputy secretary-general of the Party of European Socialists (PES) barred from entering the Philippines on Sunday (15 April) for criticizing Duterte. Click on the image to read more
Tuesday (10 April) marked the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement which ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland. With the UK leaving the EU in 2019, the Agreement and the broader issue of peace and stability in Northern Ireland came to the fore again. Michael Barnier, EU’s chief negotiator warned that warned that, if the UK insists to leave the Single Market for the purpose of “regain[ing] full independence on trade matters”, Brexit will “[cause] problems in Ireland.”
On Sunday (8 April), Hungarians went to vote and the conservative Fidesz Party, an advocate of the “illiberal state” won a landslide victory of 48.9% of votes, as well as a constitutional majority of 134 seats. This was up by 4% from previous election, and an additional one seat in the parliament. It has been said that nationalistic Orbán had ran his campaign on blooming xenophobia and nationalism, has ‘made his name in the EU selling his “illiberal state” as an alternative to the mainstream. He enjoys broad support from the V4 countries. His re-election brings about some concern within the EU.
The Nord Stream 2 (NS2), a joint venture, in which Russia-owned Gazprom holds 51%, and E.ON, Shell, OMV and BASF / Wintershall – 10% each; Engie – 9%, is a project consisting of a 1,200km pipeline with a capacity of delivering 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany.Whilst previously dismissing claims that the project has political implications, German Chancellor Merkel for the first time, has admitted to the “strategic” and “political” value of the NS2. Clearly this is no zero-sum game – Ukraine stands to lose out on a hefty $3 billion a year if the project does not come to fruition.
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The European Defence Agency is taking measures to bolster security and defence, through enhancing and facilitating the mobility of military within and beyond the EU. This plan if indeed implemented would see a more integrated military with a high level of inter-operability hitherto unseen.
French president Macron announced that he will be investing heavily – a sum of €1.5 billion – into the AI sector in France in an attempt to foster start-ups and the technological ecosystem. In an interview he acknowledged the huge risks as well as huge opportunities and said that it is important for France to be at the forefront of the AI sector in order to be able to define the rules shaping AI development.
The Belgian federal government has approved a new energy pact that will see the country phasing out nuclear power from between 2022 and 2025. However it has been said that more needs to be done for EU to bring down CO2 emissions including combating deforestation.
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In a response to the Salisbury attack, several European countries, the US and allied countries like Australia expelled some 100 Russia diplomats and representatives this week. While Europe plays tough with Russia, it recently strikes a conciliatory note with respect to trade relations with the US. The bloc’s relations with Turkey shown no signs of improvement after the summit on Monday. The meeting underscored the differences on many key issues and, according to European Council President Donald Tusk, ended with “no solutions”. German police arrested former Catalonia president Carles Puigdemont last Sunday after Spain’s Supreme Court issued a warrant. Click on the image to read more.
The EU and the UK have arrived at an agreement this Monday on the transition period that will come to an end by December 2020. Having secured a fourth term as Chancellor of Germany with the CDU/CSU-SPD coalition government, Merkel turned her attention to the future of the EU. The fractious relations between UK and Russia appear to be exacerbated recently instead of abating, with Britain pushing for a tougher stance against Russia. Click on the image to read more.