23rd Mar 2023


This WEEK in the European Union

  • Merkel split the meeting in two to consult with the Bundestag under new constitutional court rules (Photo: Images_of_Money)

Billed by the G20 last week as the summit to save the euro, EU leaders will in Brussels on Sunday (23 October) try to bridge divisions between Germany and France on how to stop Greece and Italy from bringing down the single currency.

Germany at the last minute split the meeting in two - a debate on Sunday and a follow-up event to make decisions on Wednesday.

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The move forced EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy to cancel an EU-China summit mid-week. He called China's Wen Jiabao on the phone and the pair "confirmed their readiness to find a new date soon."

The main sticking point is how to reform the EU's bail-out fund, the EFSF, to ensure it is big enough to rescue Italy if needed. France wants to turn it into a type of bank able to tap the unlimited resources of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. But Germany wants to use its existing €440 billion kitty as collateral to borrow €1 trillion or more from international markets.

EU sources indicate Berlin and Paris are converging on the other big questions.

Private lenders are likely to be asked to write off up to 40 percent of Greek debt. EU countries are looking to pump an extra €80 billion into Greece-exposed banks. Greece will likely receive the sixth tranche of its EU-IMF bail-out. And eurozone countries are likely to agree a leap forward in terms of joint economic governance, a move which may require an EU Treaty change down the line.

If the EU Treaty is to be amended it will cause a headache for UK leader David Cameron.

Cameron will on Monday in London see his MPs vote on whether to hold a referendum on leaving the EU. He has threatened to sack MPs from government posts who vote Yes and the vote is non-binding.

But he earlier promised his party he will in future hold referendums if the EU Treaty is altered.

For its part, the European Parliament will in Strasbourg on Monday debate the future of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy and on Wednesday vote on its position on upcoming talks on the 2012 EU budget.

Thursday will also see MEPs vote on whether to automatically block Internet access to child pornography websites in a decision with broader implications for free speech.

MEPs will the same day pick the 2011 winner of their human rights award, the Sakharov Prize. The candidates are Belarusian dissident Dzmitry Bandarenka, a Colombian peasant farmers' group and Arab Spring activists, one each from Egypt, Libya and Tunisia and two from Syria.

The Sunday before the Sakharov award, Tunisia will become the first country to hold post-Arab Spring democratic elections, with MEP observers in place.

The 10-million-strong country is to see 11,000 candidates from 110 parties contest 218 seats.

The self-immolation of a 26-year-old market trader on 17 December 2010 triggered the downfall of dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and copycat protests in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen in arguably the most important events in contemporary history since the fall of Communism.

Nine months later, Ben Ali is sitting pretty in exile in Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, the cost of freedom has been a 50 percent drop in income from tourism, zero economic growth this year and 700,000 people - 16 percent of the workforce - out of a job.

EU to hold second summit next week

European leaders are to have a second summit on the eurozone crisis, most likely on Wednesday, amid Franco-German discord on a series of key issues to do with solving the single currency's problems.

EU commission willing to meet 'Indignados' in Brussels

The European Commission is willing to meet with representatives of the 'indignado' anti-austerity movement, a contingent of whom have marched from Madrid to Brussels protesting a European Union they say places the interests of big business ahead of ordinary people.

EU reacts to Arab spring with small-scale funding increase

In a major policy review in the wake of the Arab spring, EU institutions have pledged €250 million a year in new money for the bloc's 16 neighbouring countries, including six post-Soviet states in eastern Europe.

This WEEK in the European Union

With EU institutions on reduced activities amid the traditional end-of-October break next week, all eyes and most of the action will be focussed on the G20 meeting in Cannes.

This WEEK in the European Union

The European Commission will this week set out new legislative proposals on credit ratings agencies, seen by many in Brussels as a thorn in the side of the eurozone crisis.

EU summit zooms in on global roles This WEEK

Competitiveness is expected be on the top of the agenda of EU leaders after the EU Commission last week rolled out a series of proposals to boost the bloc's capacity in green tech.

Polish abortion rights activist vows to appeal case

Polish abortion rights activists Justyna Wydrzyńska was last week sentenced for giving abortion pills to a 12-week pregnant woman. She will appeal. But with a court stacked by politically-appointed judges, her chances of overturning it are slim.

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