Sunday

17th Feb 2019

Agenda

UK election, WWII, digital markets on EU agenda this WEEK

  • The UK election on Thursday 7 May will be very close between David Cameron's conservatives and Ed Miliband's Labour, with Nick Clegg's Liberal-Democrats expected to be kingmakers. (Photo: UK Parliament)

All eyes will be on Britain this week, where a general election on Thursday (7 May) could have far reaching consequences for the EU.

The conservatives, led by outgoing prime minister David Cameron, and Ed Miliband’s Labour party are neck-and-neck in polls, with either side expected to need coalition partners to reach a majority in parliament if it wins.

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Both the Tories and Labour are given a 33-35 percent share of the vote, with around 270 seats each, by the latest opinion surveys. The eurosceptic Ukip are on 14 percent, the Liberal-Democrats on 8 percent, and the Greens on 5 percent.

In Scotland, the nationalist SNP is on 45 and 50 percent and could win 45 of the region’s 59 seats in what would constitute a political upheaval, just eight months after the SNP lost the independence referendum.

While both Cameron and Miliband ruled out a coalition with the SNP, the Liberal-Democrats could be the kingmaker despite an expected loss of about 20 seats.

Ukip looks set to win between two and four seats, less than it had hoped, but more than ever before .

A hung parliament cannot be ruled out and another election could be organised in the autumn if a minority government cannot pass its budget.

If the Tories win another term, Cameron has said he will ask for EU treaty change on several issues, including free circulation of people, and will organise a referendum on British EU membership by 2017.

This would raise fears of a "Brexit" - Britain leaving the EU.

Lats week, European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said he did "exclude major treaty changes as far as the freedom of movement is concerned - but other points can be mentioned".

If the Scottish nationalists do as well as expected, it could also raise the prospect of a new referendum on Scotland’s independence and of a UK break-up.

Digital single market

In Brussels, EU commissioners Andrus Ansip and Guenter Oettinger will unveil on Wednesday (6 May) the commission’s proposal for a digital single market.

The aim of the proposal is to improve citizens and business’ access to digital goods and services and to foster growth and jobs in the digital sector.

The commission is expected to harmonise e-commerce rules, end geo-blocking of websites, propose a copyright framework to facilitate access to content in all of the EU and to simplify the VAT system.

The commission is also expected to propose an assessment of online platforms practices regarding the transparency of search engines or advertisement.

Measures to fight illegal content and protect personal data should be included in the proposal, as well as an overhaul of EU telecom rules.

Economic forecast

On Tuesday (5 May) the commission also publishes its Spring economic forecast.

The EU executive will say how it sees the economic situation in the 28 member states, the candidate countries, and the EU's major trading partners for the years 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Attention will be paid to France, the only country under the threat of EU sanctions over its budget deficit. There will also be interest in Spain, where a general election will be held later this year, and in Greece, where concerns over a default remain strong.

TTIP

The EU-US free trade agreement (TTIP) will also be high on the agenda.

Trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom is in Washington on Monday to meet US trade representative Michael From an and the trade secretary Penny Pritzker.

On Tuesday, Malmstrom will be back in Brussels for a debate with the European Parliament's international trade committee on the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS).

The mechanism, which allows private companies to sue government in private tribunals instead of the public judicial system, is one of the most controversial parts of the the planned free-trade pact.

Last month, six parliament committees voted resolutions opposing ISDS. The parliament’s position on TTIP will be voted next summer based on a report by the international trade committee.

ISDS will aslo be discussed by the member states trade ministers on Thursday (7 May) at a Foreign Affairs Council.

WWII commemorations

The end of the week will be marked by ceremonies to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

The most-looked at ceremony will be the military parade organised by Russia in Moscow on 9 May. No EU leaders will attend the parade, except, maybe, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras, who said he would accept Russian president Vladimir Putin’s invitation.

While some EU leaders will be in Moscow on 9 May to attend other ceremonies, German chancellor Angela Merkel will arrive the day after, on 10 May, to participate in events honoring dead soldiers.

Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine and its diplomacy in the region will be on everyone’s mind, with Putin to give a speech on foreign policy on 6 May.

On 9 May, the EU will also celebrate its annual Europe Day - the anniversary of 1950 "Schuman declaration" that launched the European project.

Opinion

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