On Tuesday (13 Nov), German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered her last speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg and spoke on the future of Europe. Speaking on migration, Merkel called for strengthening of European institutions in border protection (Frontex) and a common asylum procedure. Amidst divisions over migration, budget rules, and challenges resulting from corruption, across Europe, various high-ranking centre-left and left-wing politicians have urged progressive forces to form a pro-EU narrative and unite against those that reject the EU project.The European Commission is still in a standoff with Italy over the latter’s 2019 budget. On Tuesday (13 Nov), a Brexit deal was announced with a draft withdrawal text 585 pages long and a much shorter “political declaration” that outlines the future of EU-UK relation. Under this agreement, the transition period, which is set at December 2020, has the potential to be extended indefinitely. Click on the image to read more.
On Monday (5 November), Chinese president Xi Jinping launched China’s first International Import Expo (CIIE). In his opening speech, he promised heads of state and business leaders that China’s economy would continue opening up and the country would increase imports. On Thursday, (1 November), Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš expressed his intention to leave the United Nations Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. His declaration follows the recent Austrian withdrawal, citing similar concerns about blurring the line between legal and illegal migration. The monopoly of the two major European political groups, the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D), might be coming to an end paving the way for new alliances with political groups such as the centrist Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). French President Emmanuel Macron has made a pitch for an alliance between his party, En Marche, and ALDE to get more seats in the European Parliament. As negotiators in UK and EU struggle to find a resolution to the Irish border issue in Brexit talks, the British people would like to see a compromise to reach an agreement on a deal. According to online polls, the British public is set against “no deal” and would prefer to remain in the EU than leave without a divorce agreement. Click on the image to read more.
On Monday, 29 October, Angela Merkel announced that she will step down from her chairmanship of her party, Christian Democratic Union (CDU), in the wake of state elections in Hesse, launching speculations about whether she will finish her term as chancellor till 2021. Migration continues to be a difficult issue. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced to the media on Wednesday, 31st October, that his country will be withdrawing from a non-binding United Nations pact on migration. Down South, Italy has expressed defiance against the European Commission’s rejection of its 2019 draft budget proposal. Amidst difficult Brexit negotiations with Brussels, the UK Chancellor Philip Hammond presented his budget in the House of Commons on Monday (29 Oct). Click on the image to read more.
The 12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit took place in Brussels on 18-19 October. Coming at a time of rising trade tensions between the US and China, Trump’s unilateralism and the overall stress on the rules-based global order, it was not surprising that Asian and European leaders would use this summit to reaffirm their support for multilateralism and international cooperation. With the trade confrontation with the US in the background, the biennial ASEM Summit was widely celebrated among Chinese newspapers and scholars as an opportunity to push back against Trump and his policies. The EU High Representative Federica Mogherini was quick to dismiss the idea that the ASEM summit was an anti-Trump meeting. However, several European papers clearly made the point that the leaders should use the ASEM summit to send a strong signal to Trump that Asia and Europe are against protectionism and will continue to keep their economies open and support the rule-based global trading regime. Singapore and EU-Vietnam trade agreements were hailed as examples of positive approach to trade to create win-win solutions. Several European countries also took the opportunity to stress that Europe’s desire to build a united front with Asia could be tempered by grave concerns about human rights issues in several Asian countries.To read the special News and Views on the 12th ASEM summit, please click on the image.
The 12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit kicks off on Thursday (18 Oct) with the theme: “Global Partners for Global Challenges”. Poland and Czech Republic have expressed their opposition to strengthening Europe’s external borders; they fear that enlarging the role of Frontex will reduce state sovereignty. The EU Special Summit on Brexit arranged on 17 October (Wed) in the hope to break the impasse in the Brexit negotiations did not provide any breakthrough.
EU trade commissioner, Cecilia Maelstrom, announced on Friday (5 October) that Cambodia and Myanmar are at risk of being withdrawn from the tariff-free trade agreement with the EU called, Everything But Arms (EBA), for their human rights violations. In a sharp turn of events from the acrimonious Salzburg Summit last month, the EU briefed national diplomats in Brussels last week that a divorce deal was “very close” and the EU is offering the UK a “Canada+++” deal. Last week, on 3rd October, the Trump administration withdrew from another two international agreements: the 1955 Treaty of Amity between the United States and Iran, and the “optional protocol” under the 1961 Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations. Click on the image to read more.
At the European Parliament on Monday (24 Sep), European Central Bank president Mario Draghi warned that the EU’s positive growth in the last five years may be threatened by the US-China trade wars. To stabilize economic relations, the EU and the US are exploring the possibility of a limited trade agreement. En route to the UN General Assembly in New York, British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Tuesday (25 Sep) that no-deal Brexit would be preferable to the EU proposals that would risk breaking up the UK. The British government has been dispatching “technical notices” in recent months to illustrate what a no-deal Brexit would mean for citizens and business alike and advise on how they can prepare for such a scenario. At the Salzburg summit, the leaders of the EU remain divided over how to handle the migration crisis. Despite encouraging remarks from Federica Mogherini about the success of the EU-Africa deal in reducing migration flow in the Mediterranean, there is still no consensus on whether or not to continue rescue mission Operation Sophia and the issue of reallocation of refugees and burden sharing. Click on the image to read more.
The EU on Wednesday (19 Sep) launched its vision on how to better connect Europe and Asia The vision aimed at bringing “the European way” to increase transport, energy, digital and human connectivity with Asia, on the basis of a rules-based, multilateral approach. The EU heads of state and government are meeting in Salzburg on Thursday and Friday (20-21 September) to discuss issues such as Brexit, internal security and migration. The EU and the UK is said to have come to a shared understanding of how to reach a Brexit deal, which is to be decided in a soon-to-be-arranged November summit. Poland was suspended from EU judicial organization as the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ) declared that The Polish Judicial Council (KRS) is no longer seen to be independent from political influence. Click on the image to read more.
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker gave an annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament on 12 September, focusing on issues that continued to divide the EU – migration and the issue of sovereignty. On 12 September, the European Parliament also passed a motion based on the Sargentini report (448 for, 197 against, 48 abstentions) which declared that Hungary is at risk of “breaching the EU’s core values”. Over the weekend, former British foreign secretary Boris Johnson, in the latest of a series of criticisms against the government’s Brexit approach, likened Prime Minister Theresa May’s Chequers Plan to a “suicide vest” which would make Britain a “vassal state”. Click on the image to read more.
In Federica Mogherini’s opening address to the annual EU Ambassadors conference on Monday (3 Sep) , she reiterated the need to “strengthen a global network of partnerships for multilateralism” and asked for solidarity amidst several divisive internal issues and external pressure. Echoing these challenges, budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger described the EU as facing “mortal danger”, from inside and out. On Brexit, ever since the introduction of the Chequers Plan by the British government in early July, Prime Minister Theresa May has been under siege from all fronts. While she vowed “no compromise” over her “precise and pragmatic” plan, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier insisted that he was “strongly opposed” to it for the reason that any plans for a “common rulebook” for goods but not services were not in the EU’s interests. On 5 Sep, Member of European Parliament and leader of the European People’s Party (EPP) group, Manfred Weber declared his intention to “run” for European Commission presidency as his party’s ‘lead candidate’ next year. Both Angela Merkel and Viktor Orban have shown their support for his candidacy. Click on the image to read more.