3rd Mar 2024


Tsipras visit and US trade dominate This WEEK

  • Tsipras will meet EU commission boss Juncker this week (Photo: European Left)

Alexis Tsipras is to dominate headlines in Brussels again this week, as the new Greek prime minister visits the EU capital for the first time since his Syriza party’s election in January.

European Commission officials have not yet finalised a date when Tsipras will meet commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, as part of Tsipras' first European tour, but have confirmed that it will take place.

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Tsipras will also travel to Paris to meet French president Francois Hollande this week.

His Syriza coalition was swept to power on the back of an election manifesto which promised to re-negotiate Greece’s bailout programme, including the cancellation of around half of Greece's debt burden, which stands at a huge 175 percent of economic output.

However, although several ministers have indicated a willingness to extend the maturities of repayment and cut interest rates attached to loans, most have refused to countenance the write-off of another tranche of Greek debt.

Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs the Eurogroup of finance ministers, rejected Syriza's idea of convening a European conference on debt following talks with Greek counterpart Yanis Varoufakis on Friday (29 January).

"This conference already exists and it's called the Eurogroup", he said.

"Taking unilateral steps and ignoring previous arrangements is not the way forward," he added.

German chancellor Angela Merkel has also flatly rejected the prospect of any further haircuts on Greece’s debts.

For his part, Juncker has largely kept his counsel since the dramatic election result in Greece.

“We respect the popular vote in Greece, but Greece must also respect others, public opinion and parliamentarians from the rest of Europe,” the commission chief told French daily Le Figaro, last week.

In another notable visit, the commission’s economic affairs commissioner Pierre Moscovici will travel to Berlin for talks with German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, a staunch critic of Moscovici during his pre-commission tenure as France’s finance minister.

However, the agenda itself of the commission is dominated by the eighth round of trade talks on the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) with the US, which will run all week in Brussels.

At their December EU summit, leaders gave negotiators a deadline of the end of 2015 to conclude talks on the pact, which the commission estimates could be worth €100 billion extra to the EU’s economic output.

But the commission will also be keen to stem the rising tide of public scepticism about an EU-US trade deal, fuelled in large part by confusion over the potential application of investor protection rules known as Investor State Dispute Settlement.

In the European Parliament, meanwhile, MEPs will hold two days of meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday with their counterparts from national parliaments to discuss the EU’s economic governance framework, which gives the European Commission the ability to intervene in national budgetary policy.

The EU’s own budgetary structures and social and employment issues will also be on the agenda for deputies.

Former Italian prime minister Mario Monti will address the parliament’s budget committee on Thursday.

His working group - which is examining ways to fund the EU budget through so-called “own resources”, such as the long-awaited financial transactions tax, rather than through national treasuries - will report to MEPs.

On Friday, the monthly US Vice-president Joe Biden will also come to the EU capital.

His visit coincides with the TTIP talks, but also with ongoing EU talks on Russia sanctions.

Fighting in east Ukraine continued to escalate over the weekend, while fresh peace talks in Minsk failed to reach an accord.

EU officials are currently drawing up extra names to put on a Russia blacklist, as well as exploring further economic measures.

The new names are to be added by 9 February at the latest.

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