Tuesday

31st Mar 2020

Agenda

Greece, Finland, and TTIP this WEEK

  • Juha Sipila polling to become next Finnish prime minister (Photo: stopherjones)

The focus will once again be on the Greek debt crisis this week, with eyes on whether even an inch of progress will be made towards resolving the stalemate between Greece and its lenders ahead of a meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Friday (24 April).

One week before that Eurogroup meeting in Riga, chances of a deal look all but faded, increasing concerns that Greece may default on its debts in May.

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  • Greece, again, tops the Eurogroup's agenda (Photo: asterix611)

With Greece on Friday's Eurogroup agenda once more, some may perhaps remember a 2013 quote from then EU commissioner Olli Rehn from Finland: "I love Greece but I’m very much looking forward to a Eurogroup press conference where Greece is not going to be discussed".

According to several media reports, one of Greece's toughest critics in the past years, Finland, may soon receive a taste of its own medicine.

Finns will elect a new parliament on Sunday (19 April) and decide who they think can help turn their dwindling economy around.

The latest poll by state broadcaster Yle predicts the oppositional Centre party will win, which makes it likely that its leader Juha Sipila will become prime minister in a coalition government.

Sipila recently warned that Finland could become the next Greece, and see itself forced to execute the same bitter austerity measures Finnish politicians like Olli Rehn have urged Greece to take.

Rehn, who oversaw the EU's austerity policy as commissioner until 1 July 2014 and became an MEP since, hopes to return to Finland. He's on the ballot for the Centre party, and might be asked to take up a cabinet post.

He told the Irish Times on Tuesday that austerity policies in Finland should take the Irish model.

“We have studied the Irish experience very closely and we need a similar internal devaluation to restore our competitiveness and public finances”, he said.

Investment fund

One other way to kick-start the economy of the EU's countries is being debated on Monday (20 April) in the European Parliament in Brussels.

A joint meeting by the EP's budget and economic affairs committee will debate the commission's proposal for an investment fund.

The growth fund, which will consist of a €16 billion guarantee from the EU's budget, and €5 billion from the EU's investment bank, is expected to persuade private investors to hop aboard and arrive at €315 billion. The fund has been presented as the flagship measure of the EU commission to help revive the bloc's economy

If the committees approve the parliament's amended version of the plan, parliament representatives will begin to thrash out a deal with the national governments on Wednesday (22 April).

However, before Monday's vote, MEPs will first need to settle a power struggle amongst themselves about which committee has exclusive competence over parts of the plan.

Bringing Brussels to life

This week will also see the launch of Politico Europe.

The European offspring of the successful American news website, which will incorporate the then-to-cease-publishing European Voice, will start publishing articles on Tuesday.

Politico.eu promises to “bring to life the personalities and behind-the-scenes stories of Brussels”.

The initiative has at any rate managed to bring to life a great amount of buzz in the EU capital, with politicians, bureaucrats and lobbyists alike musing what it will change about EU journalism.

The Politico journalists will celebrate their first week on Thursday with an event for which they have managed to persuade some big names to speak, including EU council president Donald Tusk, EP president Martin Schulz, and Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg.

TTIP

In another attempt to marry US and European interests and culture, the ninth round of talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will take place from Monday to Friday in New York.

The TTIP file has been marred with controversy - a global protest is scheduled for Saturday (18 April) - as some argue its proponents need to step up their communication efforts to defend the planned treaty.

On Monday, the EU's trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom will take a first step at this as she is set to present a report outlining the benefits TTIP will bring to small and medium-sized enterprises.

Trade talks are also under way between the EU and Cuba. On Thursday, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini will receive Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla to discuss the progress of a trade and political deal.

After Mogherini's last visit to Cuba, in March, she announced the parties decided "to speed up the rhythm of our negotiations" and hope for a deal "by the end of this year".

Also next week, diplomatic talks on Iran's nuclear talks are set to resume between Iran, the EU, and other world powers on Wednesday and Thursday, in Vienna.

Migrant deaths

Over the weekend, another topic tragically forced itself on the EU agenda.

EU foreign affairs ministers will discuss the rising number of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean on Monday at 3pm local time in Luxembourg.

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