Weekly Wrap Up:Putin on his way

The rapidly approaching New Year’s Eve will among many events imply an EU presidency takeover from the European extreme east to the extreme west, when Ireland replaces the Cypriot EU presidency.

At a hand-over event in Brussels on 17 December Cypriot vice minister Andreas Mavroyiannis stated, that their presidency “has achieved tangible and significant results for the Union, through a functional, pragmatic and result oriented approach.” The Irish Deputy Prime Minister especially praised Cyprus for having secured agreement on the Single Supervisory Mechanism at the European Council summit in December.

The Irish Presidency will focus on three things: Stability, jobs and growth.

Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, elaborates: “Stability means how we work together to manage our economies to prevent future crisis and how we can reform Europe’s banking sector.” The 26 millions unemployed citizens across the Union are an Irish top priority: “In almost everything we do together, we need to show across the Union how and where jobs can be created.” And thirdly: “We will pursue growth through sectors that create most jobs. We will encourage growth through measures that boost consumer confidence and we will generate growth through Europe winning more trade outside its’ borders. Real actions – real results,” concludes a confident Enda Kenny on the new website eu2013.ie.

Putin arrival

Vladimir Putin - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2009

Vladimir Putin will be arriving in Brussels on Wednesday for the EU-Russia summit. (Photo by World Economic Forum, on Flickr)

At the end of this week Vladimir Putin is coming to Brussels when the 30th EU-Russia summit will take place in the European Council.

According to the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation “the entire spectrum of bilateral relations” will be discussed, including the state of trade and economic cooperation. The economic ties between Russia and the EU have grown substantially over the last years. Russia is the EU’s third most important trading partner, and the EU is by far the largest market for Russian goods, accounting for roughly half of Russian exports in 2011. The EU is also the main supplier for Russia. Not surprisingly the Eurozone crisis is being felt in Russia as well.

Recently quite a battle on human rights has been going on between EU and Russia. On 7 December 2012, the European Union and the Russian Federation held their sixteenth round of human rights consultations in Brussels. The day before that, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a 66 page long “Report on the Human Rights Situation in the European Union”, citing research mainly by international human rights NGOs.

The report describes “a steady growth of xenophobia, racism, violent nationalism and neo-Nazism, violation of rights of minorities, prisoners, refugees, migrants, and persons with mental illnesses, lack of protection of children, gender inequality, violation of privacy, abuse of power by the police, a number of EU countries harboring CIA black sites, the situation as to the freedom of mass media” in the EU.

On the Human Rights consultation on 7 December the EU answered with a critique of the “deteriorating conditions in which NGO’s operate in Russia, the prospect of new laws affecting the LGBT community and the harassment of human rights defenders and opposition leaders”.

The next EU – Russia human rights consultation is set to March 2013, but it seems too tense an issue to be passed in silence at the upcoming summit.

Optimism in Brussels

 

“This is a good week for the European Union, a week to be remembered,” said a probably very tired Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, at 2 am Friday morning, after a night of discussions. “Monday we were in Oslo. This morning the finance ministers agreed on the Single Supervisory Mechanism for banks and a decision was taken on Greece in the Eurogroup.”

 

The discussions Thursday night focused on two things:

1)   A strengthening of the banking system.

2)   Bringing closer the European economic policies.

 

For the strengthening of the banking system the European finance ministers came a long way Thursday morning, when they agreed on a plan to give supervising power to the European Central Bank in Frankfurt.

Initially the Single Supervisory Mechanism was supposed to embrace the more than 6000 banks in Europe. However a compromise was made, not at least in favour of Germany, and finally the ECB will only have responsibility of the banks with assets of more than €30 billion, or banks representing more than 20 percent of a state’s national output.  Continue reading

No more “Grexit”

A happy Greek Primeminister arriving at the European Council on 13 December 2012.

A happy Greek Prime Minister arriving at the European Council on 13 December 2012. © The European Council.

”Compromise, self-control and moderation” were the words used to describe the needs of the 21st century at the Nobel award ceremony this week. The Greek seems to have learned that. They are now being rewarded for being back on track by the Eurogroup, that Thursday morning approved to release a bailout portion of €49 billion. Continue reading

Weekly Wrap Up:
“Ich bin ein Europäer!”

So the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, North Korea launched a long-range rocket and finally it is summit time once again.

Read all you need to know about the European Union in this weekly digest.

Past Days

It has hardly gone by anyone’s attention, but the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this week. Yes that’s right, because “The union and its forerunners have for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”, as The Norwegian Nobel Committee stated.

“Ich bin ein Europäer”, said President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, proudly paraphrasing the words of Cicero that John F. Kennedy in 1963 conformed into “Ich bin ein Berliner” to underline the American support of West Germany.

Eurosceptics have called the nomination a farce. Panos Skourletis, spokesperson of the Greek party Syriza equally denounced the prize: ”I just cannot understand what the reasoning would be behind it. In many parts of Europe, but especially in Greece, we are experiencing what really is a war situation on a daily basis, albeit a war that has not been formally declared. There is nothing peaceful about it.”

Continue reading