Thursday

21st Feb 2019

Agenda

Greece and Merkel's fate top This WEEK

  • Horst Seehofer and Angela Merkel: a split over Germany's migration policy now runs through the Berlin government (Photo: Bundesregierung/Bergmann)

The seemingly never-ending series of Eurogroup meetings dedicated to saving debt-ridden Greece will see their final act next week, marking an end to the crisis-management after the financial crisis shook the single currency.

On Thursday (21 June) eurozone finance ministers will gather in Luxembourg for a decisive end to eight years of the Greek bailouts.

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After the Greek parliament agreed to the latest round of reform measures, Athens's creditors are expected to close the fourth review of its programme and unblock the last disbursement of the bailout that officially ends on 20 August.

Eurozone finance ministers and the creditors will also try to agree on a set of debt relief measures and a mechanism to monitor Greece's economy.

The question of debt relief has put the EU at loggerheads with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which did not participate in the third bailout program, arguing for measures to make Greece's debt manageable.

Specific steps are expected to be agreed by the ministers next week, opening the way for the IMF to conclude that the Greek debt is sustainable.

Bavarian trouble

German chancellor Angela Merkel had only just put together a governing coalition in March after – by German standards – an unusually long period of negotiations, but the cabinet is already being shaken by a migration dispute with her interior minister, Horst Seehofer.

The row has escalated as Seehofer, from the Bavarian sister party (CSU) to Merkel's Christian Democrats, was planning to unveil his "masterplan" that called for Germany to return asylum seekers who have already registered in another EU country before arriving in Germany.

Merkel warned against the unilateral move, calling for the issue to be dealt with under a Europe-wide policy under discussion at the EU summit at the end of June.

But Bavarian authorities could start turning back migrants on Monday (18 June) raising the possibility of a political split between CDU and CSU that have stuck together since 1949.

CSU leaders are worried that at the Bavarian elections in October, the anti-immigrant Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) could surge.

In the meantime, on Tuesday (19 June) the group leaders and the president of the European Parliament will travel to Vienna to talk to premier Sebastian Kurz about the upcoming Austrian EU presidency.

Kurz has supported Seehofer's tougher stance on migration and said Italy, Austria, and Germany now form an "axis of the willing" on stricter immigration policy.

Still on migration, on Monday (18 June) the European Asylum Support Office, an agency tasked with helping member states implement the EU's asylum system, will launch a report on the situations of asylum.

Guest list

On Monday (18 June), EU Commission vice president Frans Timmermans will travel to Warsaw for another round of talks with a call for Poland's Law and Justice-run government to amend their judicial reforms that put the independence of judiciary at risk, according to the EU executive.

Timmermans said last week that amendments presented by the government so far are not enough to alleviate the concerns.

Timmermans has stepped up efforts to bring the Polish government into line as several Polish Supreme Court judges are expected to be fired on 3 July as a result of the reforms.

Meanwhile in the European Parliament MEPs in the legal affairs committee on Wednesday (20 June) will vote on reforming the EU's copyright rules to make sure that artists' copyrighted works are protected when they are accessed online and – in a snub to Google – that press publishers are paid when users access their texts online.

On Monday EU agriculture ministers will have their first chance to discuss the commission's proposal for how to reform the common agriculture policy, slated to be cut in the next long-term EU budget.

Analysis

Orban, the 'anti-Merkel', emboldens European right

Hungary's premier Viktor Orban has inspired 'illiberalism' across central Europe and far-right politicians in the West. His expected re-election this Sunday will further reinforce his standing as a symbol for being tough on Europe's political mainstream.

Debt relief talks mar Greek bailout exit

While the Greek government has committed to fulfill the last creditors' requirements in the coming month, Europeans and the International Monetary Fund are still far from an agreement on measures to reduce the country's debt in the future.

Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK

Brexit talks will continue in Brussels, as UK PM Theresa May's government is trying to find a way out of the political impasse at home. Murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's fiancee will speak at the European Parliament next week.

EU says Hungary's anti-Juncker campaign is fake news

The European Commission has branded the latest campaign by the Hungarian government as 'fake news', after Orban's government accused Juncker of pressing ahead with migration proposals that threaten the country's security.

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