25th Oct 2016


This WEEK in the European Union

The leaders of France and Germany will kick off the week with a bilateral meeting on the eurozone crisis with the single currency still facing many of the same problems - only exacerbated - that it did one year ago.

President Nicolas Sarkozy will travel to Berlin for a working lunch with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday (9 January) to prepare for a meeting of EU leaders at the end of month, where a first draft of a new fiscal discipline pact will be discussed.

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  • The crisis has seen Merkel and Sarkozy meet often and with varying degrees of success (Photo: diplomatie.gouv.fr)

The new treaty - an intergovernmental agreement after the UK last month refused to allow full EU treaty change - is supposed to calm markets by forcing its signatories into improved budget discipline.

But its wished-for effectiveness is already being questioned by investors who believe EU politicians are getting distracted by side issues. To compound this view, a fight is already brewing over how the EU institutions could be used in the new treaty.

Merkel and Sarkozy held several meetings over the course of 2011 focussing on dealing with debt crisis but the outcomes tend to underscore the amount of work that still needs to be done to get a comprehensive solution to the eurozone's woes.

Next week will also see the formal kick-off of the Danish EU presidency. The Scandinavian country is hoping to focus on green growth in the EU as well as guide first talks on the EU's next multi-annual budget. But it is set to find its best intentions undermined by the continuing efforts to stem the eurozone crisis.

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt has already indicated that one of her biggest tasks will be making sure no lasting divisions occur between euro and non-euro countries - of which Denmark is one.

The European Commission will de-camp to Copenhagen on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the political programme for the next six months. But Brussels already has a strong ally in Thorning-Schmidt, a stanchly pro-EU former MEP.

The European Parliament meanwhile will be gearing itself up for its mid-term change during its plenary session beginning 16 January where it will elect a new president and 14 vice-presidents. Due to a deal made in 2009 between the two biggest parties, the presidential outcome is already clear - German centre-left MEP Martin Schulz will take over from Jerzy Buzek, a centre-right Polish MEP. However, other candidates will be lobbying to get support anyway.

The powerful economic and monetary affairs committee will discuss further strengthening budgetary surveillance in the eurozone area - although the ink is barely dry on the so-called six-pack of legislation that gives the European Commission unprecedented powers over national budgets.

The commission on Wednesday has the internet economy in its sights. It will publish a discussion paper on how to raise the number of electronic payments in the EU, which remain stubbornly low due to a lack of trust among consumers.

It will also put out an 'action paper' on e-commerce with a Brussels goal being to double the share of the internet economy by 2015.

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