The leaders of the 27 EU member states are meeting for a two-day summit in Brussels today to discuss ways to stem the debt crisis. The talks in Brussels are expected to focus on banking supervision, stricter fiscal oversight and direct recapitalisation of banks from rescue funds. Before the summit, Germany has been urging EU states to consider pooling more economic sovereignty. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has proposed a full fiscal union – control at European level of tax and spending. Yesterday, French President Francois Hollande said an end to the eurozone crisis was “very close” and he wanted a deal agreed on the first stage of a banking union.
Talks of a banking union are not well received by Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas, however. Yesterday Necas threatened to block plans for a supervisory system for European banks. “If the banking union proposal goes ahead in its current form, we will without any doubt oppose it with our veto,” he said.
While leaders meet in Brussels, the Greek coalition government is holding crucial negotiations in Athens with its troika of creditors – the EU, ECB and IMF – to secure the release of loans needed to avoid bankruptcy. Meanwhile, the Greek are demonstrating in the streets against the deepening recession and the severe austerity measures that the country is undergoing. One in four Greeks are officially unemployed, but according to unions the real number is even higher. Today’s general strike is expected to paralyse train and ferry traffic, disrupt flights and shut down public services. It is the fourth such strike in Greece this year.
The Nobel Committee announced on Friday that it had awarded the peace prize to the European Union for bringing more than half a century of peace to a continent ripped apart by World War II. European Parliament President Martin Schulz, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU President Herman Van Rompuy will jointly collect the EU’s Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on December 10. The decision to grant EU the peace prize has been met with both praise and ridicule.
Russia expressed concern yesterday over new EU sanctions against Iran, which it claimed will work against talks on Tehran’s contested nuclear programme. “We are very concerned by the European Union’s adoption on October 15 of a new series of unilateral sanctions against Iran”, the foreign ministry said. The EU sanctions “undermine the resumption of negotiations with Iran, which in our opinion have registered progress,” the ministry said, describing the measures as “unacceptable”. The six powers of the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany have been holding recent negotiations with Iran in a bid to halt its uranium enrichment work, but Western officials say that Iran is stonewalling in the negotiations. On Monday EU foreign ministers agreed new financial and trade sanctions against Iran.