Here’s the Weekly Wrap Up from Beyondbrussels.
Last week was characterized by at least two noticeable European events: The unresolved EU budget negotiations and Catalonia’s regional election.
The EU summit on 22 and 23 November passed by bloodlessly in Brussels, where the 27 EU leaders first and foremost agreed on not being able to agree on their next seven-year budget – at least for now.
President of the European council, Herman Van Rompuy, stated in a press release shortly after the end of the meeting:
“We will need some more time to finalize this solution. This is the budget for the rest of the decade. And the next seven years will be crucial, to put Europe back on the path of recovery and growth. So we must get it right.”
According to several political commentators this seems to have been a rather wise decision. The economist concludes that no deal also means no-drama: German chancellor Angela Merkel has smoothly avoided further disagreements with Britain, the country that has pushed the hardest for EU budget cuts and that simultaneously is flirting with the possibility of leaving the Union.
“We cannot say that we’ve got a deal, but we have stopped a deal that was unacceptable,” declared David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister in the aftermath of the meeting.
Separatists won Sunday’s elections in Catalonia, the north-eastern region of Spain. “Catalan voters on Sunday handed 87 seats, almost two-thirds of the local parliament, to four different parties that want a referendum on secession”, writes Reuters.
But the party of Catalonian president Artur Mas (CiU) went back with 20%: “A political suicide”, concludes Enric Hernández, director of Periódico de Catalunya.
Contrary to the situation in Scotland, where a referendum on independence from the UK will take place in 2014, a Catalan referendum on breaking away from Spain risks triggering a constitutional crisis and the central government has vowed to block it.
The result of the election is a catch-22 for Mas. He must now put together a coalition, but according to Hernandez, he has already lost:
“Mas is facing a difficult dilemma: Choose a headlong flight with the ERC (nationalist, left) towards sovereignty and government of the region – and lose the funding from Madrid; or ask for the support of the (socialist) PSC or PP (Popular Party, in power in Madrid) – and forget his independence bid.”
After a marathon meeting in Brussels “The Greek programme got back on track, when the Eurogroup on 26 November 2012 gave political approval to the next disbursement of financial aid to Greece” states The Council of the European Union.
Greece is about to enter its’ sixth straight year of recession. The country’s debt burden, which was around 115 percent per cent in 2007, has now reached the EU record of nearly 190 percent.
The eurozone finance ministers have now agreed on changes in Greece’s bailout deal – an agreement that will likely cut the country’s debt mountain to 124 percent of GDP by 2020 and around 110 percent by 2022. The Eurogroup calls the deal the result of a “positive assessment”, while Greek voices welcomes it with moderate enthusiasm:
“One thing is certain, the Europeans could have been more gallant with Greece. However, “it’s better than nothing”, as the saying goes.“
You can read a fresh analysis on the deal from Beyondbrussels.com here.
The new deal is expected to be formally adopted by the Eurogroup of 17 finance ministers on December 13, and will depend on national parliaments agreeing to the package. The German parliament will decide already Thursday 29 November.
There is a growing European support for recognition of Palestinian statehood in the UN. Tuesday France revealed that they will be voting “yes” to the Palestinian bid on 29 and 30 November in New York.
The bid probably will go through, with or without the undecided Europeans, since a majority of the other UN-members already recognise Palestine on a bi-lateral basis. However Palestine’s EU ambassador, Leila Shahid, has told EUobserver, that European support does matter, as it would have important symbolic value:
“It will not change anything on the ground, but symbolically and in terms of the legal framework, in terms of the symbolic recognition of the capital and the borders and the right of the refugees, it is very important.”