19th Mar 2018


This WEEK in the European Union

  • Lehman Brothers - the collapse of the investment bank in 2008 heralded the start of the crisis (Photo: sachab)

The European Commission will on Wednesday (6 June) unveil its proposal for a "banking union" designed to restore confidence in the euro.

The package is expected to include EU-level banking supervision, a eurozone-level fund for handling failed banks and a eurozone-level deposit guarantee fund.

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Greek and Spanish deposit-holders are moving hundreds of billions of euros from local banks to safe havens in case Greece returns to the drachma or Spain asks for a bail-out, with perilous implications for the single currency.

European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi endorsed the banking union in remarks to MEPs in Brussels this week.

He said national goverments have a bad track on rescues: "They underestimate the problem and then come out with a second or third or fourth assessment ... That's the worst possible way of doing things. Everybody ends up doing the right thing but at a high cost."

For his part, the new French finance minister, Pierre Moscovici, will meet EU officials in Brussels on Monday as Socialist Paris tries to take control of the crisis agenda from pro-austerity Berlin.

Apart from the euro-crisis, the other big news will be an EU-Russia summit in St Petersburg on Monday.

Iran nuclear talks and the conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan are mostly handled at bilateral or at UN-level.

In EU-level business, Brussels' Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso will be looking to see what Russian leader Vladimir Putin aims to do with talks on an EU-Russia strategic treaty and with the "Partnership for Modernisation" - an EU plan to swap high-end technology for political reform.

Putin will be looking to see what the EU, his main gas and oil client, is doing to avert financial disaster. He will also explore prospects of EU visa-free travel and of softening an EU energy law designed to weaken Gazprom, his energy champion, in Europe.

The last time he met Barroso - in October 2011 - they had a public disagreement on Gazprom. But Putin's new government, which includes more liberals than old-fashioned hardmen, indicates the Partnership for Modernisation is still alive.

One thing unlikely to be mentioned is Sergei Magnitsky - a whistleblower Russian lawyer murdered in 2009.

EU diplomats see Magnitsky as an irritant. But national MPs around Europe have called for action and Italian MPs will next week vote on measures to ban Magnitsky's killers from entering the EU.

Meanwhile, EU justice ministers will on Thursday debate a commission proposal on "common rules on the temporary reintroduction of border control at internal [EU] borders in exceptional circumstances."

Ministers will also discuss migration flows and the pressure they put on member states, in particular Greece.

Also on Thursday, MEPs in the economic affairs committee will vote on new rules to make mortgage lending less risky and to curb the dominance of the big-three credit rating agencies.

EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom will on Monday also lay out her strategy on organised crime at the meeting of a newly-created parliament anti-mafia committee.

Spain may speed up EU 'banking union'

The US has joined ranks with EU officials exploring ways to pump eurozone money directly into Spain's troubled banks, with creation of a "banking union" now considered a matter of eurozone survival.

Brexit and trade will top This WEEK

A crucial EU summit will decide whether to give a green light to the Brexit transition period, while the EU is also fighting to get exemptions from the new US steel and aluminium tariffs.

'Selmayrgate' moves to the EU Parliament This WEEK

As a global trade war looms over the new US steel tariffs, the EU's attention will shift to Strasbourg - where MEPs are expected to debate the Martin Selmayr appointment, trade, Brexit, journalism and the budget.

Italy and migration will top This WEEK

Italy will have voted for a government, Germany's social democrats will have voted to confirm a government (or not): the dynamics in European politics may change, while Brussels will focus on Brexit again.

Evacuated women from Libya arrive newly-pregnant

Niger has temporarily stopped all evacuations from Libya detention centres under an EU funded programme because so few are being resettled to Europe. Many of those that have been evacuated are pregnant, with some asking for HIV testing.

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