Tuesday

21st Feb 2017

Agenda

This WEEK in the European Union

Business will tick over as usual in Brussels but much of the discrete political focus will be on two important elections at the end of the week - in France and in Greece.

Next Sunday (6 May), French voters will head to the polls for the second round of presidential elections. They will decide if they want to entrust the running of the country for the next five years once more to Nicolas Sarkozy or elevate Francois Hollande, the socialist contender, to the post.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Greece will have its first election since the financial crisis began to shake the country (Photo: John D. Carnessiotis, Athens, Greece)

Hollande won the first round and polls suggest he will win the second round too. The economy has been the main topic of the political campaigning. Sarkozy has also indicated he wants to reform the EU's borderless system schengen and make Europe more protectionist. Hollande's main European theme has been renegotiation of the German-pushed fiscal discipline treaty to include more growth-related clauses.

To date the term 'renegotiation' has remained largely open to interpretation, with Hollande suggesting he is willing to compromise. For her part, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, herself facing an important regional election in the country's most populous state later in May, said the budget-balancing treaty is not up for negotiation.

Greek voters will head to the polls on the same day. The debt-ridden country has been run by a technocratic government led ex-European-Central-Bank official Lucas Papademos for the past five months following the resignation of George Papandreou.

It will be the first election in Greece since the start of the crisis, which has seen the country undergo harsh austerity measures in return for two EU-International-Monetary-Fund loans. With unemployment at almost 20 percent and more spending cuts to come, the European Commission has sought assurances from political parties that they will stick to the austerity programme no matter who gets into office.

The conservative New Democracy party and the socialist Pasok party - currently in an uneasy coalition - have dominated the political landscape in Greece for decades. New Democracy leader, Antonis Samaras, is leading in the polls but with a population weary of all the spending cuts and tax raises, fringe parties on the left and the right may do better than in the past. The far-right neo-facist New Dawn party, running on an anti-foreigner and anti-austerity ticket, could break the three percent threshold to make it into parliament.

EU finance ministers will meet in Brussels next week, with Spain's economic situation likely to dominate informal talks.

The country's borrowing costs are reaching bailout territory but the eurozone is unable - politically or economically - to deal with a Spain that goes the same way as Greece, Ireland and Portugal. German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung suggested Thursday that some EU officials are considering letting Spanish banks borrow directly from eurozone aid funds without going through the government first.

However, the idea - stemming from concern that due to recession Spain's banks may be in worse trouble than had been thought - is likely to be strongly opposed by paymaster Germany.

Chinese Vice-Prime-Minister Li Keqiang will be in Brussels on Thursday. He is due to formally kick off a series of high level talks on energy between the EU and China at a meeting with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. The meeting follows Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's visit to Europe in the last week of April, which culminated in a pledge of a 10 billion US dollar credit line of credit to help support projects with central and eastern Europe.

This WEEK in the European Union

Spain's deficit troubles are likely to dominate the Brussels debate this week, as the statistics office is to publish the 2008-2011 figures for all 27 member states on Monday.

This WEEK in the European Union

Wednesday marks the 62nd anniversary since French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman called for a European federation that has led to today’s currently troubled European Union.

Pence, Greece and Brexit This WEEK

The US vice-president becomes the first senior Trump administration official to visit EU institutions. Greece's creditors try to break deadlock in talks, and British Lords will debate Brexit.

MEPs vote on EU-Canada deal This WEEK

MEPs will have a final vote on the EU-Canada trade deal, while Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau will address the European Parliament in Strasbourg this week.

Malta summit on EU future This WEEK

Twenty seven EU leaders, with the UK left out, will meet in Malta on Friday to discuss reforms in reaction to Brexit and Trump.

French police raid Le Pen's party office

Officers raid the National Front headquarters near Paris over allegations that leader Marine Le Pen used fake EU parliament contracts to pay her personal staff.

News in Brief

  1. Dozens drown off Libyan coast
  2. EU ministers approve anti-tax avoidance directive
  3. Poland rejects EU criticism of court changes
  4. German nationalist leader met with Putin allies in Moscow
  5. German housing market overheated, says Bundesbank
  6. France invites three EU leaders for Versailles summit in March
  7. Greece agrees on new bailout reforms
  8. EU commission denies Juncker resignation rumour

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  2. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  3. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  5. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  6. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  7. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year
  8. Centre Maurits CoppietersThe Situation of Refugee Women in Europe
  9. Salzburg Global SeminarToward a Shared Culture of Health: Charting the Patient-Clinician Relationship
  10. European Free AllianceAustria Should Preserve & Promote Bilingual and Multinational Carinthia
  11. Martens CentreShow Your Love for Democracy! Take Part in Our Contest: "If It's Broken, Let's Fix It"
  12. CISPECloud Computing Leaders Establish Data Protection Standards to Protect Customer Data

Latest News

  1. Should Europeans spend more on defence?
  2. Dieselgate: EU disappointed with VW's treatment of customers
  3. French police raid Le Pen's party office
  4. The Armenia-Azerbaijan war: A refugee's story
  5. Greece and creditors break bailout deadlock
  6. Internal EU report exposes Libya turmoil
  7. EU commissioner condemns 'delay' in post-Dieselgate reform
  8. Sweden fights back as foreign leaders make up bad news