January - June 2012

EU Van Rompuy Addresses Cypriot Parliament
29 May 2012 – Wall Street Journal
President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, visited Cyprus yesterday where he gave a speech before the country’s parliament highlighting Europe’s positive steps towards financial stability. While emphasizing that Greece should remain part of the euro zone, Van Rompuy acknowledged the need for Greece to respect its financial obligations and stressed the impact the crisis has had on all member states. In his address, Van Rompuy pointed to the European Financial Stability Facility and the European Stability Mechanism as vital tools to ensure financial stability across the entire eurozone and help support members. Van Rompuy’s visit to Cyprus is well-timed, as the country prepares to take the seat of rotating EU presidency on July 1st and as neighboring Greece works towards upcoming elections to be held June 17th. (Read More)

Turkey Needs Crucial Reforms on Way to EU Membership, Says EP President Schulz
29 May 2012 – Journal of Turkish Weekly
President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, spoke before Turkish parliament on Monday, supporting deeper EU-Turkish cooperation and calling for serious legislative reforms. At the heart of his speech, Schulz declared “It is no secret that Turkey’s EU membership would take a very long time and would be a difficult one.” Affirming the central role of parliament in initiating these changes, Schulz specifically underscored the government’s need to respect and include ethnic and religious minorities in the political process. Despite the criticism, Schulz also recognized Turkey for its positive support of European common foreign policy and its approach towards Syria. (Read More)

UK Law Demanding Tracking, Cookies, and Analytics Notification Takes Hold
29 May 2012 – Daily Tech
A British internet law passed last year becomes active today, requiring all websites that utilize tracking, analytic tools, or cookies to clearly post a disclaimer warning to users. As websites increasingly monitor individual internet activity to provide targeted advertisement, U.S. and EU governments have become worried that personal information, including medical and financial records, may be stolen. The British Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations Act (PECR) comes as a result of the EU e-privacy directive, established in 2009, which first demanded that member states address the issue of internet privacy and security. While noncompliance with the new law may incur fines of up to £500,000 ($780,000), the UK Information Commissioner’s Office states that legal punishment is unlikely as most sites do not cause damage or distress to users. (Read More)

Head of IMF’s Remarks Incite Anger in Greece
29 May 2012 – Wall Street Journal
Tension in Greece continues to rise after IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde made harsh comments regarding the country’s financial trouble last week. In the controversial Guardian interview, Lagarde referred to Greeks as “rampant tax-dodgers” and stated that she has more sympathy for impoverished schoolchildren in Niger than Greek mothers unable to access necessary medical treatment. An immediate response of nearly 15,000 Greeks protested on FaceBook, labeling her comments as insulting and humiliating. Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Greek radical left coalition Syriza, responded to Lagarde’s remarks, saying “The last thing we seek in Greece is her sympathy.” (Read More)

U.S. Helsinki Commission Holds Briefing on Caucasus Region
24 May 2012 – Azeri Report
On May 23rd the U.S. Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, presented a briefing before Congress on the quality of democracy in the Caucasus. Experts from notable research organizations, including the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Freedom House, and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems provided insight on democratic development and respect for human rights in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. While recognizing Georgia’s positive democratic reforms, the Helsinki Commission and expert panelists also highlighted Azerbaijan’s restrictions on free speech and assembly and struggle with electoral fraud. Political and human rights activists are calling for the Helsinki Commission and U.S. government to apply more intense pressure on Azerbaijan to make necessary democratic reforms before presidential elections in 2013. (Read More)

Europe Prepares for Greek Exit
24 May 2012 – Wall Street Journal
As the Greek sovereign debt crisis continues to plague the continent, European officials are devoting more attention to what has become the likely possibility that Greece will break away from the eurozone. After an informal European Union summit Wednesday night, most European leaders agreed on the need to issue eurozone bonds for common debt, though Germany and others demanded Greece make stronger efforts. German Chancellor Angela Merkel firmly defended her position, stating that “We want Greece to remain in the eurozone, but the precondition is that Greece upholds the commitments it has made.” While the summit did not produce any substantial breakthroughs, leaders are continuing to work towards a swift resolution ahead of the planned Commission meeting June 28th. (Read More)

Turkey Assumes OECD Presidency
24 May 2012 – Journal of Turkish Weekly
This week Turkey assumes the rotating presidency of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Ministerial Council. Chairing the council for the first time in 26 years, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan stated that “The biggest challenge ahead is to introduce policies which will serve both national and global interests as well as economic and social demands.” Aiming towards a goal of 4 percent growth with a solid national economy, Turkey hopes to guide the organization and member states towards increased job creation and a reduction in national debts. (Read More)

EU Parliament Calls for Independent Panel In Ukraine
24 May 2012 – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Today the European Parliament in Brussels has demanded that the Ukrainian government allow an independent panel to investigate abuses against jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Imprisoned in October 2011 on what have been considered politically motivated charges of corruption, reports allege that Tymoshenko has been denied necessary medical treatment by Ukrainian authorities. Frequently restricting herself to hunger strikes, the EU Parliament called on Ukraine to demonstrate “impartiality and transparency” in the appeal process of Tymoshenko. The EU’s declaration comes just one month before Ukraine hosts the Euro 2012 soccer championship, which officials are considering boycotting. (Read More)

Lithuania Looks towards Joining Eurozone
23 May 2012 – EurActiv
Amidst the continuing European financial crisis, the Lithuanian government has hinted at its desire to join the eurozone in the near future. In an interview with EurActiv Germany, the country’s foreign minister, Audronius Ažubalis, declared adoption of the euro a strategic goal which he hopes the country will achieve by 2014. Despite his optimism, Lithuania’s president remains skeptical of whether or not the country will actually be ready to join the eurozone by that time. Attempting to reconcile the two views, Ažubalis stated that “The major goal is to have a healthy economy. As a consequence of our attempts we could adopt the euro after some time. I still believe in the euro.” (Read More)

Hungarian Government Launches U.S. Charm Offensive
23 May 2012 – The Hill
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrived in Washington yesterday along with a small staff for a week-long tour focused on improving his country’s controversial image. Marking his third visit to the U.S. in 18 months, Orban seeks to counter negative perceptions of the ruling right-wing Fidesz party and their conservative reforms to the judiciary and the media. With declining Freedom House ratings on independent media and civil society, U.S. government officials including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton question the credibility of Hungary’s democracy. Orban stated that the Hungarian government is now working with American public relations firms in order to share their point of view directly with members of the State Department, think tanks, and the U.S. media. (Read More)

Yalta Summit Divides Europe, again
2 May 2012 – Euractiv
The summit of Central European Countries Presidents in Yalta on the 11th May is set to be boycotted by certain nations. Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Estonia, Italy and The Czech Republic are all set to boycott the meeting. Ukraine has played down reports that it is because of the Tymoschenko issue, rather these nations have other commitments. Yanukovich’s attendance at the meeting will give those that do attend a chance to address the issue directly. The European Commission’s President and minister for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy would also not attend. This boycott comes ahead of some nations threatening to boycott the Euro 2012 football tournament in June and July. (Read More)

Juncker Backs German Finance Minister for Eurozone Post

1 May 2012 – EU Observer
Eurogroup leader Jean-Claude Juncker has said he fully supports German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble to become his successor at the end of May. Juncker who has been in charge since 2004, believes Schauble possesses all the qualities to lead such a group at these difficult times. Schauble is a close ally of Merkel and is very clear in his argument that southern nations need to be more fiscally disciplined. Some are concerned that his appointment will be too strong a signal that Germany runs the euro. With Schauble moving to head up the Eurogroup, Germany would have to relinquish its chairmanship of the EFSF/ESM, opening positions most likely for Spain and France. (Read More)

What Merkel’s Isolation Means for the Euro Crisis
1 May 2012 – Der Spiegel
Merkel’s euro crisis strategy is unpopular and her allies are dissipating, with Hollande pledging a change in course from the strict austerity measures she supports. Merkel’s terminology has changed dramatically in recent weeks moving from ‘stability and ‘structural reform’ to ‘jobs’ and ‘growth’. Merkel has lost an ally in Dutch PM Rutte, and she is likely to lose her closest ally President Sarkozy this weekend. The differences between Merkel and Hollande are great, which could have devastating consequences for Europe. Despite this there are some austerity successes which should be lauded; Ireland’s deficit has waned immensely because the nation committed to reform unreservedly. Estonia and Germany are two further examples that austerity can triumph. In Spain exports are up, admittedly unemployment is also rocketing; the country is witnessing a growth in trade as nations around it recover. (Read More)

Europeans Protest Austerity at May Day Rallies
1 May, 2012- Reuters
Thousands of workers across southern Europe protested against spending cuts in May Day rallies on Tuesday, before weekend elections in Greece and France where voters are expected to punish leaders for austerity. Unions in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and France are using the traditional marches to express anger over a savings drive across the eurozone, aimed at shoring up public finances but criticized for forcing countries deeper into recession.  (Read More)

Tymoshenko: Europe Anger at ex-Ukraine PM’s Health
26 April 2012 – BBC News
German President Joachim Gauck has turned down a visit to Ukraine amid growing concern at the health of jailed former Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko. EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Lady Ashton has said she is ‘deeply preoccupied’ with the situation. Reports have begun to emerge that guards at Tymoshenko’s detention have assaulted her. Russia has even called upon Ukraine to ‘fully safeguard’ her legal rights and to demonstrate ‘a human approach’. Tymoshenko is currently on a hunger strike and is refusing pleas to stop. Some German politicians have announced that they are willing to boycott the European football championships being held jointly between the Ukraine and Poland.  (Read More)

Schulz: EU Collapse is a 'Realistic Scenario'
26 April 2012- EurActiv
The collapse of the European Union is a "realistic scenario," as member states regain power, and xenophobia and calls to reintroduce border controls are increasing, said the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz. Speaking in front of the College of Commissioners he underscored the need for an even closer cooperation between the Commission and Parliament. That “is an important sign that we are defending the Community method with determination.” His remarks come as the eurozone is shaken by a severe debt crisis and the 27-country bloc is divided by disputes over the Schengen Area and border control. European Council President Herman Van Rompuy echoed Schulz concerns as he warned in Romania that the "winds of populism" were affecting the free movement of persons within Schengen, one of the EU's key achievements.  (Read More)

Hungary Concession Opens Way to EU Bailout
25 April 2012 – BBC News
Hungary has announced that it will amend its current law which undermines the independence of the country’s central bank. This concession will allow talks to reopen with the EU about a bailout package of around 20bn euros. Prime Minister Hungary lent heavily to mortgage borrowers in Swiss francs during the last decade because the interest rates in that currency were much lower than Hungary’s forint. But since 2008 Swiss francs have risen 75% in value against the forint, making the loans unrepayable. Orban’s authoritarian attitude has also harmed market confidence in the country. Rumours of Hungary remedying its situation with the EU meant the forint rose against the euro by 4%, and the cost of borrowing for 10 years, has fallen from 9% to 8.1%.  (Read More)

EU Leader Van Rompuy sees ‘populist’ threat to Schengen
25 April 2012 – BBC News
Van Rompuy has warned that ‘winds of populism’ are threatening the EU Schengen Treaty, and he argues that ‘there is no room for stigmatisation of foreigners’ in the EU. However, anti-immigration parties are polling strongly in France and the Netherlands. The EU justice ministers are set to talk of reviewing the Schengen agreement in Luxembourg this week. Germany and France want the power to reimpose border controls for up to 30 days to prevent any major influx of illegal immigrants in times of emergency. Last year the Netherlands blocked an EU deal to let Bulgaria and Romania join Schengen, arguing that those nations needed to tackle organised crime and people trafficking better. (Read More)

Dutch Government Falls in Budget Crisis
23 April 2012 – BBC News
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has tendered his government’s resignation to Queen Beatrix, paving the way for early elections. The government was plunged into crisis when far right Geert Wilders’ Freedom party quit talks at slicing the 16bn euros needed to qualify under new fiscal compact rules. Mr Wilders said he would not accept cuts that would bring the budget deficit in line with EU rules. Although Wilders’ party was not part of the coalition, its support was crucial to propping up the minority government. The Netherlands is projected to see its deficit rise to 4.7%, well above the 3% EU target, with fears that it will lose its AAA credit rating. Socialist leader Emilie Roemer agreed with Mr Wilders in refusing to reduce the deficit so heavily. The collapse of this government in the Netherlands has made many wonder whether the EU fiscal compact is really viable at all? (Read More)

Sarkozy Seeks Key Far-right Votes
23 April 2012 – BBC News
After losing narrowly to Socialist challenger Francois Hollande in the first round of the French Election by 1.5% of the popular vote, President Sarkozy is now aiming to acquire the votes that were given to the far-right National Front party which came in third with 18%, the highest the party has ever won. Sarkozy emphatically stated in reference to Marine Le Pen’s vote share, ‘I have heard you’.  Mr Hollande is on course to winning the second round of the election, returning a socialist president to the Elysee Palace the first time in 17 years. Opinion polls have suggested Sarkozy will acquire between 48% and 60% of Le Pen’s votes. The results of this first round have made many in Brussels and Berlin uneasy, France one of the most core European nations is demonstrating strong eurosceptic attitudes. (Read More)

Ministers Ponder Creation of EU Super-President
20 April 2012 – EU Observer
Following a Val Duchesse meeting, suggestions of merging the roles of the EU Council and European Commission Presidents began emerging. EU sources believe it would create a more democratically legitimate position with double the power.  The Lisbon treaty created the new role of President of the Council, but it is a purely an oversight role with Barroso’s commission defining the agenda and implementing final decisions. It would reduce the role of High Representative to purely day-to-day foreign relations with the Super-President representing the EU at all international summits. The group includes; Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain, which enabled the group to discuss the prospect of ‘Eurobonds’ without Germany and its strong opposition. (Read More)

Reunification Talks Collapse Before Cyprus EU Stint
23 April 2012 – Euractiv
UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon announced that progress in the talks to reunify Cyprus was insufficient to call an international conference. The announcement seems to diminish any hope that the up and coming Cypriot Presidency of the EU will act as catalyst for resolution. Ban Ki-Moon held several phone calls with both sides, but felt there was not enough achieved to qualify for an international conference. The UN wanted a deal to end the four decades of separation before Greek Cypriots took control of the EU. The Greek Cypriots hope that talks will continue during its Presidency, whereas the Turkish Cypriot leader said that it would be ‘meaningless’ since the Greek Cypriot leader would be preoccupied with EU affairs. Turkish media began reporting that if a solution was not reached by the 1st July, that Ankara would push for international recognition of the Northern Cyprus Turkish Republic. Greek Cypriot Defense Minister called this plan a ‘provocation’ warning Turkey that it would be counterproductive. (Read More)

MEPs Back Deal to Give Air Passenger Data to US
19 April 2012 – BBC News
The European Parliament has adopted a controversial bill that will give the United States access to personal information about airline passengers.  The Department of Homeland Security will be able to access data known as Passenger Name Records (PNR); supporters see this as a major step in fighting terrorism, whereas opponents see it as an invasion of privacy which could affect civil rights. The information held will be names, addresses, credit card and phone numbers, but it could also include, ethnic origin, meal choices, health, political views and sex life. It is not only EU airlines but also any carrier that stores data in the EU that operates flights to/from the US. Airlines currently collect such data, but now it will be transferred to US authorities. Many opponents have asked whether the EU would react differently if China and Russia asked for such information. The US ambassador to the EU hailed the vote as a joint EU-US ‘commitment to the security of the travelling public’.  (Read More)

EU ‘to Suspend Most Burma Sanctions’
19 April 2012 – BBC News
European diplomats are reported to have reached a preliminary agreement to suspend most European Union sanctions against Burma. The final decision will be held on Monday at a meeting of EU foreign ministers. The agreement is likely to remove a ‘big chunk’ of the current sanctions, only the arms embargo would remain in place. Investment and aid will be pushed into key parts of the economy including mining and logging sectors, with exports from these sectors being allowed into the EU. This follows moves by the UK, US and Australia to ease their sanctions; the US has begun targeted lifting of investment and financial aid. Japan is set to increase its lending to the country with the Burmese president set to visit Japan this weekend.  (Read More)

Swiss Re-impose Immigration Limits on some EU States
18 April 2012 – BBC News
The Swiss government has brought back the immigration quotas on workers from central and eastern EU nations. Until last year Switzerland had a quota of 2,000 residency permits per year for ‘A8’ nations, aka the nations which joined the EU in 2004. The Swiss government has claimed that they have trebled the number of permits granted since the quota lapsed.  Baroness Ashton, in a very strongly worded letter, that she believed the Swiss were in breach of the EU-Swiss free movement agreement, saying that the agreement does not allow the Swiss to treat citizens from different EU nations any differently. The right wing Swiss People’s Party wants to amend Switzerland’s constitution to set immigration quotas in place so they cannot be repealed, and they have achieved the signatures to force the government to hold a referendum. (Read More)

Turkey Calls on EU to Issue Visa-Free Travel
15 April 2012 – New Europe Online
Turkey’s EU Minister and Chief negotiator Egemen Bagis has called on the EU and the member states to lift visa procedures for its citizens. Turkey believes it is necessary if the EU wishes its ECJ rulings to have an effect on its nationals. Bagis has sent letters to commissioners and members of the European Parliament, including NGO’s, think tanks and European media. Turkey is disappointed that the EU has not progressed any further with Turkey’s will join the Schengen agreement, despite it reaching all the required criteria. The matter is likely to be brought up on the 26th April when EU and Turkish ministers meet again. (Read More)

MEPs Battle it Out Over Controversial Agreement to Transfer Air Passenger Data to the US
16 April 2012 – European Parliament
On the 19th April MEPs will decide the fate of the controversial EU-US agreement on the use and transfer of Passenger Name Record data to the US Department of Homeland Security. Although the accumulation of the data is meant to fight terrorism, many fear it could affect people’s civil rights. The British have strongly supported such an agreement and have listed countless terrorist events that were solved using PNR data. Dutch liberals strongly oppose bill arguing that the use of PNR data has not been limited to terrorism and transnational crime, but that data can be used for a wide range of other vague and unspecified purposes. The liberals are concerned it invades privacy too much and that without such an agreement little will be lost, data and information on terrorism and crime will continue to flow. (Read More)

Release of Dissidents in Belarus Brings EU Praise
16 April 2012 – BBC News
Baroness Ashton has welcomed the early release of two dissidents in Belarus, but she added that Minsk should go further and release ‘all other remaining political prisoners’. Andrei Sannikov who ran against the President in 2010 and his aide Dmitry Bondarenko jointly celebrated their release. Belarus is currently under EU and US sanctions. Another former presidential candidate, Nikolai Stakevich is among a dozen dissidents still in jail though. Ashton announced that this move and the further release of other opposition activists would lead to better EU-Belarussian relations. Mr Bondarenko said after his release that he would continue his political activity so ‘Belarus becomes a free European country’. (Read More)

News of the World Phone-Hacking cases Launched in US
12 April 2012 – BBC News
The phone-hacking scandal which engulfed British media in 2011, looks set to come across the pond. British Lawyer Mark Lewis has announced that there have been three victims in the US. Lewis claims that these people were either in America at the time, travelling or are a resident there. In the UK there have been more than 4,000 victims currently identified, with fear that the number in the US could also soar. (Read More)

Belgian Far-Right Anti-Immigrant Website
10 April 2012 – EU Observer
The Flemish far right party in Belgium, The Vlaams Belang, has launched a website inciting people to denounce migrants suspected of criminal activity, such as working on the black or abusing social security benefits. The website aims to collect tip-offs from anonymous citizens and pass them on to the police. The Belgian site mimics a similar website set up by the Dutch far right in the Netherlands in February. The only difference between the two is that the Dutch site targeted set regional immigrants, whereas the Belgian site is all immigrants. The Belgian Government has stated that the website is ‘illegal’ and being dealt with. (Read More)

Estonia’s Opposition Party Loses Four Lawmakers as Eight Defect
9 April 2012 – Bloomberg – Ott Umelas
Eight members of Estonia’s opposition Center Party, including four lawmakers, left the party citing its lack of democracy and disagreements with the leadership over “isolationist” policies. Tumult within the party will help the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, which saw its support in opinion polls slide last month to the lowest level since elections were held a year ago. Center was the Baltic nation’s only party opposing parliamentary ratification of Europe’s temporary rescue fund last September and of the second bailout package for Greece in February, saying Estonia’s lower living standards didn’t justify help for wealthier European countries. (Read More)

Pensioner Suicide Shocks Greece
5 April 2012 – EU Observer
A pensioner committed suicide in the centre of Athens Wednesday (4 April) giving a public face to the hardship endured by many Greeks as the country slashes spending to satisfy international creditors.  The pensioner's apparent struggle to pay medical bill comes as Papademos' government has made massive spending cuts in the face of demands by the EU partners and IMF, which have agreed to give the country two loans: €110bn in 2010 and €130bn earlier this year. (Read More)

Europe’s Central Bank Looks in Vain for Growth
8 April 2012 – Daily Herald
Europe is searching for something to get growth going again and pull the eurozone’s heavily indebted countries out of their troubles.  Unemployment and manufacturing indicators suggest the 17 countries that use the euro are headed for an official recession. Adding to these worrying signs is the realization that many of the traditional tools to give growth a shove are off the table.  The ECB is restrained from cutting interest rates by the eurozone’s stubbornly high inflation rate, which has been pushed up by oil prices and some taxes to 2.6 percent. The solution to the debt crisis, eurozone officials, the ECB and economists all say, is structural reforms to make indebted countries more business-friendly, but these will take years to implement. (Read More)

Defining Turkish Leadership
5 April 2012-German Marshall Fund (blog) - Emiliano Alessandri
In a surprise twist, Turkey has proved more adept than some its trans-Atlantic partners at transitioning from advocating for the status quo in the Middle East and North Africa to arguing forcefully for change. Certainly, its reluctance to utilize its strong military to quell unrest in neighboring Syria is a sign of Turkey’s growing maturity towards promoting regional stability as well as serving as a model of peaceful, secular democracy in a largely Islamic society. Of course, that model is still under construction although few other countries have a more or less “finished” democracy. Europe and the U.S. would do well to recognize that and still engage with Ankara on the Middle East and North African issues that it seeks greater influence on. (Read More)

Germany Tells Bosnia: Take EU, NATO Plunge

3 April 2012- The Local
Germany and Britain urged Bosnia on Tuesday to take key steps towards EU and NATO membership, as the country marks 20 years since the start of a war that left it deeply divided along ethnic lines. Since the end of the 1992-1995 war Bosnia has been split into two entities – the Muslim-Croat Federation and the Serbs' Republika Srpska - linked by weak central institutions.  German Foreign Minister Westerwelle and British counterpart Hague said Bosnia could seek to obtain EU candidate status this year – if it continued with the necessary reforms.   The implementation of Brussels-sought reforms has been slowing down since 2006 due to political infighting. (Read More)

Europe Entering Age of ‘Aid Austerity’
4 April 2012 – EU Observer
As nations begin deficit reduction and impose harsher austerity measures the first thing which many nations cut is their aid to developing nations. The OECD released figures today that showed Greece had cut its foreign aid by 39.3% in 2011, Spain 32.78%, Austria 14.3% and Belgium 13.3%. Only three of the 15 richer EU member states that are part of the OECD’s development assistance committee increased their donations, Germany, Sweden and Italy. Italy is on record for a massive 33% rise, but this is mainly due to debt forgiveness and increased refugees. In contrast six eastern, and poorer, EU members increased their foreign aid in 2011. Many development agencies accuse nations of cutting aid faster than their economies are shrinking.  This sets the EU on course to miss its target of 0.7% of gross national income by 2015, a path which the EU missed the 0.51% target in 2010. (Read More)

Roma Face Persecution in Europe, Says Amnesty
3 April 2012 – BBC News
Amnesty International has criticized the EU for doing very little to tackle discrimination and persecution of Roma gypsies on the continent. It is estimated that 12 million Roma, Travellers and Gypsies live in Europe. Many of them are facing ill-treatment, violence, exclusion and poverty based on the origin and nature of life. The report acknowledges those nations who have drawn up particular assimilation policies with regards to the Roma. However, regardless of policy Amnesty does not believe it is translating into action. 70% of Roma children in Slovakia are in care, 97% of Roma groups in Kosovo are unemployed, Roma in Bulgaria face poverty that is four times higher than the rest of Bulgaria and in Ireland male Travellers have a life expectancy 15 years lower than average. Amnesty called on the EU to address the issue before it got any worse. (Read More)

Eurozone Unemployment Reaches Near 15-year High
3 April 2012- EurActiv
Unemployment in the eurozone reached its highest level in almost 15 years in February, with more than 17 million people out of work, and economists said they expected job office queues to grow even longer later this year.  Joblessness in the 17-nation currency zone rose to 10.8% - in line with a Reuters poll of economists - and 0.1 points worse than in January, Eurostat said on Monday.  February's level - last hit in June 1997 - marked the 10th straight monthly rise and contrasts sharply with the United States where the economy has been adding jobs since late last year.  The divide between the eurozone's wealthy north and depressed south was clear on the unemployment front. Years of runaway lending, outdated labour laws and uncompetitive industry in the south have sucked the region into a painful slump.  (Read More)

MEPs Urge Negotiations for Serbia, Recognition for Kosovo

1 April 2012 – New Europe
The European Parliament once again implored the five EU nations which still do not recognize Kosovo, to do so soon in order to enable accession talks with Serbia to continue as soon as possible. It was signaled on the 1st march that Serbia qualified as an EU candidate member, with the European Council calling on the EU to start accession negotiations without delay as long as Serbia continued its democratic and legal reforms. The parliament stressed the importance of continued dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, and that candidacy status does not mean the path to accession is automatic. It also reiterated its plea to Serbia to not hold local elections in the north of Kosovo. This was also applied to Kosovo, asking them to tackle its corruption and organized crime in order to improve relations. (Read More)

EU Countries Explore Alternatives to Financial Tax
31 March 2012 – EU Observer
At the meeting of Finance ministers in Copenhagen on Friday Germany proposed an alternative to the financial transactions tax (FTT) which the country had publicly acknowledged was a practically untenable goal. The new German proposal roused interest from Sweden who had previously opposed the FTT. Ideas such as an activity tax or something similar to British stamp duty were proposed as potential alternatives. Danish Economic Minister Vestager, who was heading the meeting, said there was a need for new ideas as ‘the positions of [EU] countries have not changed’. The EU had proposed a levy of 0.1% on stock and bonds, with a 0.01% on derivatives, but Sweden and Britain vehemently opposed such a tax believing companies would flee the union. Germany suggests a stamp duty which would become stauncher over time, and with the UK already having a stamp duty it is unlikely to be as strongly opposed by London, although for the time being the UK has signaled no enthusiasm for such ideas, yet Sweden has.  (Read More)

‘We Need to Invest in a European Identity’
30 March 2012 – EU Observer
The European Parliament has signaled a desire to cultivate a ‘European Identity’ so that the union between member states can endure. Klaus Welle, secretary general of the European Parliament, argues,‘We need to understand history as European History and not just as compilation of national histories’. Welle, pointed to Germany and its relatively recent history, with the nation only being one entity since 1871, after being amalgamated by several European nations. He also pointed the national museums in each country, alongside national curriculum, all of which embed a national history in the mindset of its citizens. The EU has taken steps recently to foster such cohesion.  However, Welle’s suggestions raise questions about the ability of the EU parliament to stretch into education, a remit which is has no real power. The ‘European Identity’ topic is a touchy subject for MEP’s, with declining voter turnout and evermore citizens displaying their dissatisfaction of how removed they are from Brussels.  (Read More)

Eurozone Unemployment Rate Rises in February
2 April 2012 – BBC News
Unemployment across countries that use the euro rose again in February to 10.8%, up from 10.7% in January, and the highest in the history of the single currency. Spain still maintains the highest rate of 23.6% unemployment, followed by Portugal 15% and France 10%. This was exacerbated by a second report which announced that manufacturing in Europe shrank again in February, for the eight month in a row. France experienced the lowest level of manufacturing it has had in the last three years. The number of economists predicting that the euro area is in recession continues to grow. If by the end of the first quarter in 2012 the Eurozone has contracted again, it would signify a recession, with the rest of the year not looking any better. The increased debt firewall is hoped to reassure businesses in Europe and outside, an issue which troubled many in the past.  (Read More)

Swiss Arrest Warrants fuel Tax Row with Germany
2 April 2012 – BBC News
Warrants for three tax officials in Germany were issued by the Swiss government. The warrants accuse the three of industrial espionage obtaining the secret details of accounts at Credit Suisse. The German and Swiss authorities had arranged a deal which would allow Switzerland to tax German deposits at the equal tax rate of Germany from next year. However, following the warrants opposition politicians in the Bundestag have said they would block such a deal as a result. In 2010 the opposition party paid a whistleblower two and half million euros for a CD which contained the names of the people evading tax in Swiss banks; this resulted in branches of Credit Suisse being raided by German officials in Germany. Switzerland has determined the selling of such information constitutes industrial espionage. Many fear that Switzerland will not understand the pressure that nations are under to reclaim taxes and close out tax loopholes. The North Rhine-Westphalia SPD Finance Minister, which is the German Opposition party, said they would buy such CD’s again. (Read More)

Is the EU taking its over-fishing habits to West African Waters?
2 April 2012 – The Guardian
The Mauritania waters are becoming increasingly crowded. However, within 50 miles of this area, there are at least 20 of the largest EU fishing vessels along with Chinese, Russian and Icelandic trawlers, with some pirate ships. This coast has some of the world’s most abundant fishing grounds and yet it is barely monitored or policed. Local fishermen have no chance of competing with the regional and western juggernauts which infest the water. 25% of EU fishing now comes from waters off the coast of developing countries. Fishing trawlers argue they patrol deeper waters and catch fish the locals are not able to. Greenpeace have lambasted such trawling calling it unsustainable and detrimental to Africa’s ability to develop its own fishery industry. (Read More)

Schulz: 1 Million EU Signatures Could Spur Finance Tax
28 March 2012 – EU Observer
The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz has suggested that the parliament could use the new powers which it obtains at the end of the week, to discuss the financial tax, an initiative widely supported in Parliament but also by EU citizens. Currently the commission is limited about suggesting the issue at EU finance minister summits because there is strong opposition, especially from London, which relegates the issue from discussion. However, ‘The Citizens’ Initiative’ requires 1 million signatures from at least 7 countries in order to put an issue before the European Parliament. Once in parliament the issue can be discussed rather than dismissed. Although it is still unlikely to implemented across Europe, it is seen as a possibility in the Eurozone, as it omits London. (Read More)

EU Lawmakers Approve EU-US Passenger Data Deal
27 March 2012 – Reuters
The EU took a unique step on Tuesday in approving the right of the US government to obtain data on passengers flying to the United States from Europe, a move which seemed unlikely years ago.  The US has been trying to obtain such data for more than five years with the EU consistently resisting the scale of information the US wanted with concerns over invasion of privacy. This deal now means that airlines flying to the US cannot land unless the US government has access to passenger data which includes names, addresses, credit card details and seat numbers. Although, the law has not been fully voted on in Parliament it looks likely to approve it. Opposition to the agreement softened in recent months when it was found that the US government were accessing this information already through individual airline IT mainframes. This new deal forces the US to mask out passengers names and details after six months, only kept for five years at which point it will move to a dormant database for a further ten years. (Read More)

Vigilance Call After French Jews Hit by New Attacks
28 March 2012 - BBC News
Fear of further anti-Semitism arising in France was worsened with the attack of a 12 year old school boy in Paris, where the motivation was his religion. This comes on top of evidence that the Jewish school, the scene of the terrorist shootings on the 19th March, has received hate mail which calls for ‘the murder of Jews or drawing a tenuous link with Israel-Palestinian conflict’ with some of the mail being signed by ‘real French people’.  Jean-Paul Amoyele, Head of the Ozar Hatorah network of Jewish Schools in France called on students to be vigilant, fearing further attacks may occur. This is not the only anti-Semitic attack reported in France following the recent shootings; incidents in Paris, Dijon, Nice and Toulouse have all been widely reported as anti-Semitic in motive. (Read More)

Italy’s Monti blames Germany, France for Eurozone Crisis
28 March 2012 – France24
Mario Monti heaped blame on Germany and France on Wednesday, claiming that they set a bad example early on in the economic bloc’s history by flouting fiscal rules and exceeding deficit limits. Monti was speaking to reporters in Tokyo, on a visit which is meant to reassure Japan that Italy is ‘open for business’. Monti said that in 2003 meetings of finance ministers decided not punish to Germany and France for exceeding the 3% deficit target and that this was a mistake. Monti said ‘if the father and mother of the eurozone are violating the rules, you could not expect … (countries such as) Greece to be compliant’. With finance ministers set to meet in Copenhagen on Friday this statement is likely to make the Italian and German financial visions even more divergent. (Read More)

EU Parliament Primed to Vote on Controversial ACTA Bill
27 March 2012- V3
The European Parliament's international trade committee will today vote on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), deciding whether to refer it to the European Court of Justice (ECoJ). The ACTA vote is set to take place at 2pm BST.  ACTA was intended to harmonize copyright rules across all participating countries, but it has resulted in a series of demonstrations, including ones in Poland. The central complaint common to most groups is the suggestion that ACTA will grant companies the ability to censor the internet.  If the MEP’s on the committee decides against a similar referral, MEPs will be able to vote on the controversial proposals as early as this summer.  But if the committee opts to make that referral, MEPs will not get to vote until after the ECoJ reaches a decision - potentially delaying the vote by at least 18 months.  (Read More)

Federalists Call for 2013 European Primaries
27 March 2012- EurActiv
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, co-chair of the Green/EFA group and one of the front men of the federalist Spinelli Group, called for primaries to be held one year ahead of the 2014 European elections to choose candidates for the next European Commission president.  An alliance of Liberals, Socialists, Greens and Communists should organize a primary in 2013 to choose a candidate to succeed to José Manuel Barroso, he said yesterday (26 March).  Cohn-Bendit called the alliance a "pact for social and ecological democratization of Europe".  Cohn-Bendit said that if the alliance would have the majority in the 2014 election, leaders of EU countries could still propose candidates, but the only candidate who could pass in Parliament would be the one chosen through primaries.  The next year should create "a democratic space" in Europe, said Cohn-Bendit, who spoke at a Spinelli event at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. (Read More)

Monti Signals Spanish Euro Risk as EU to Bolster Firewall
26 March 2012 – Bloomberg
Italian Prime Minister has expressed his concern about Spain’s inability to grapple with its finance ahead of a meeting later this week which will prepare a deal to strengthen the eurozone’s financial firewall. On the 30 March in Copenhagen officials will meet to raise the bailout ceiling. Monti was supportive of Spain’s loosening of work regulations, which Italy has emulated with its overhaul of labor laws, but Monti criticized Spain’s lack of focus on its national debt.  The meeting in Copenhagen is set to make the use of the European Financial Stability Facitility and European Stability Mechanism, easier and more flexible, allowing for a stronger fund. (Read More)

Monti Signals Spanish Euro Risk as EU to Bolster Firewall
26 March 2012 – Bloomberg
Italian Prime Minister has expressed his concern about Spain’s inability to grapple with its finance ahead of a meeting later this week which will prepare a deal to strengthen the eurozone’s financial firewall. On the 30 March in Copenhagen officials will meet to raise the bailout ceiling. Monti was supportive of Spain’s loosening of work regulations, which Italy has emulated with its overhaul of labor laws, but Monti criticized Spain’s lack of focus on its national debt.  The meeting in Copenhagen is set to make the use of the European Financial Stability Facitility and European Stability Mechanism, easier and more flexible, allowing for a stronger fund. (Read More)

Efficacy of EU’s CAP reform questioned
26 March 2012 – EurActiv
The reforms to the CAP policy in order to make it more environmentally friendly could have an adverse effect on farmers. Criticism being leveled at such reforms are concerned farmers will be drowned in paperwork and would lack the oversight to make any significant progress. The EU currently spends €5.5billion on incentives to promote conservation, but this is likely to rise considerably if it is amalgamated with the CAP policy. The EU maintains that the proposed incentives are ‘simple and efficient’, yet some national representatives have testified that it could drive small farmers out of business and put off any new young farmers wishing to go into the sector. Moreover, there is concern that such reforms are too generic and not country specific which will unfairly harm some nations. (Read More)

Spain Could Hold Presidency of Eurozone Rescue Fund
25 March 2012 – AFP
It appears that following a reshuffle of top posts in Europe that Spain stands in good contention to head up Europe’s permanent rescue fund the ESM, according to a European official. Whereas it had be assumed the current head of the EFSF, German Klaus Regling would take over the ESM as of July, it seems Germany are pushing for its Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble to become the next head of the Eurogroup, which would likely prevent another German from attaining a top position such as head of the ESM, leaving it open for the Spanish. Spain has its eyes on two positions, a seat of the ECB panel or Head of the ESM and Luxembourg currently holds the Head of the Eurogroup but like Spain is vying for the seat on the ECB panel. (Read More)

France: Slovenia got Belarus Firm off the Hook
23 March 2012 – EU Observer
The French Foreign Minister lambasted Slovenia accusing it of getting the Belarusian Company Elite off the sanctions imposed by the EU. Elite has a €100 million contract with the Slovenian firm Riko Group to build a luxury hotel in Minsk. Elite-Riko caused a bigger noise in February when Slovenia threatened to veto a wide reaching sanction list, which eventually excluded Chizh. Slovenia claims that the only problem they had with the original sanctions was that it targeted Chizh solely whereas now it has two lead figures; they also deny speaking to Riko’s CEO in the past two weeks. Other diplomats have denied that Slovenia ever asked to have Elite removed from the sanctions list. However, one anonymous diplomat stated that the precedent to exempt Elite, allowed Latvia to get two companies off the register also. (Read More)

Asylum Seekers Flock to EU Safe Haven
26 March 2012 – EU Observer
Over 300,000 Asylum applications were registered in Europe, an increase of over 40,000 from 2010. Most asylum seekers registered their applications in France, Germany and Italy with most seekers coming from Afghanistan and Russia. Fewer than 10,000 actually registered in Greece, however its borders are considered to be one of the largest gateways for asylum Seekers. Larger nations such as Germany are pressing Athens to secure its natural border with Turkey. The border with Turkey is mostly patrolled by Greek authorities with assistance from Frontex, the EU’s border agency. It is estimated that around 6,000 people crossed the Greek-Turkish border every month last summer. Greece currently lacks the man power to police such an overwhelming number, with the EU aiming to introduce a new common asylum system towards the end of the year, this policy hopes to disperse asylum seekers equally across members. (Read More)

‘Mission Impossible’ for Spain’s PM Another €40 billion in Cuts
25 March 2012 – The Guardian
Spain’s PM Mariano Rajoy is forced to announce this week a further €40 billion worth of cuts on Friday, following a general strike on Thursday. Other European nations are starting to point the finger at Spain as being the biggest threat to Eurozone stability. EU leaders have forced Rajoy to aim higher with his deficit cutting aims, asking him to cut the target of 5.8% to 5.3% of GDP. A win in Andalucia’s regional election would give Rajoy unprecedented power over regional governments who have been unable to reduce their deficits. Spanish economists have called it ‘Mission Impossible’, stating that with unemployment at 24% any further cuts could be devastating. (Read More)

Spain: Rajoy’s Party Falls Short in Andalucia Win
26 March 2012 – BBC News
Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy had hoped for a resounding win on Sunday in Andalucia to give him more control over regional governments. However, although his party won 50 out of the 109 seats, the Socialists who he wished to displace are likely to form a coalition with the United Left, giving them the majority. Rajoy had won the national election in November with 11/17 of the autonomous regions supporting him, it was thought Andalucia would follow suit. Andalucia holds six million voters and was a key test of Rajoy’s support in a region with the highest unemployment rate of 31%. (Read More)

Huge Defeat for German Free Democrats in Saarland
25 March 2012 – BBC News
The junior partners in Germany’s coalition government have suffered one of their worst ever defeats in the polls in the tiny Western Saarland region, achieving less than 2%. However, the coalition remains strong due to Merkel’s party coming out as the strong winners. It may mean that come 2013 Merkel may need to find new coalition partners; the party has lost all its five seats in state legislatures and faces further annihilation in two more in May. In 2009, the party promised tax cuts as part of its campaign pledge and has failed to do so ever since. Merkel’s party and the opposition are likely to unite in the state to form a grand coalition. (Read More)

Previous page: July - December 2011
Next page: July - December 2012