Category Archives: European Union

(PUB) “Preocupa-me mais a Itália do que o ‘Brexit'” – Entrevista a Carlos Moedas

(PUB) Carlos Moedas admite que existia uma “fadiga” do povo alemão em relação a Angela Merkel. A Itália é agora a sua maior preocupação.

O comissário europeu para a Ciência, Investigação e Inovação, Carlos Moedas, esteve em Portugal para participar na Web Summit. Numa entrevista ao PÚBLICO e à Rádio Renascença, que pode ouvir às 12h desta quinta-feira, Carlos Moedas alerta que a União Europeia continua a precisar dos seus dois motores habituais para conseguir avançar: o francês e o alemão.

A era Merkel está a acabar. O nome carinhoso que os alemães dão a Merkel é “Mutti”, que quer dizer mamã. De certa forma, Merkel foi a mamã da UE nos últimos anos. O que vai acontecer à União Europeia quando perder a mamã?
Todos os políticos podem ser substituídos. É normal que isso aconteça. Acho até extraordinário que o povo alemão, ao fim de tantos anos, continue a ter a mesma líder. Há agora uma fadiga do povo em relação à líder e isso é normal. Mas ela é realmente uma mulher que marcou a Europa para o bem e para o mal. Mas acho que o seu ponto está correcto, sobretudo nos refugiados, que foi aquilo que a fragilizou na política alemã

Que a matou, de certa maneira.
Penso que não foi só isso. Foi também o cansaço. Vivemos num mundo mediático instantâneo em que os políticos vão e voltam, e a Alemanha conseguiu ter esta política durante mais de dez anos sempre a liderar.

Há na Europa quem a possa substituir nessa missão de liderança?
Temos neste momento um Presidente francês muito forte. Os próprios europeus, que muitas vezes olhavam para França com reticências, hoje olham com esperança. A minha mulher é francesa e diz-me que é a primeira vez que ouve falar bem de França fora de França. Macron criou uma dinâmica positiva extraordinária, mas a Europa só funciona com dois motores e, quer queiramos quer não, são a Alemanha e a França. Quando um está desligado, a coisa não funciona. É muito difícil pensar numa Europa em que há um só líder. Quando isso aconteceu, com a senhora Merkel e a França não estava a funcionar, as coisas também não correram bem.

Merkel não conseguiu travar a extrema-direita na Europa. A saída de cena de Merkel coincide com uma regressão clara dos partidos tradicionais. Isto pode ser um momento de colapso desse centro mais moderado?
Não acredito que seja um momento de colapso. Tenho uma grande esperança no futuro da Europa. Quando passamos aqui pela Web Summit e vemos estes jovens todos a querer transformar o mundo com as novas tecnologias, isto dá um optimismo extraordinário. O meu pessimismo é mais no papel que a tecnologia está a ter na democracia. A tecnologia ajuda-nos a viver melhor e a curar doenças, mas não nos tem ajudado nas nossas democracias. Precisamos de uma liderança para uma Internet boa. E essa liderança  é a Europa que a está a levar para a frente.

O que é que falhou no ideal europeu para não ter estancado os populismos? Os dirigentes não se distanciaram do cidadão comum e fecharam-se em torres de marfim?
Talvez. Acho que nos últimos 20 anos os políticos disseram às pessoas que podiam fazer milagres. Ora, os políticos não fazem milagres. Quando as pessoas descobriram que os políticos lhes prometiam postos de trabalho que não conseguiam inventar, revoltaram-se e disseram: “Então vamos trocar.” Acho que as pessoas querem algo de novo porque os políticos também, de certa forma, não se fizeram respeitar.

Em princípio vai haver “Brexit” em 28 de Março. Acha que neste momento é possível uma Europa com um não-acordo com Theresa May?
É uma das grandes preocupações que tenho. Neste momento não podemos dizer se vai haver ou não acordo. Não temos a certeza. Do lado europeu fizemos todo o esforço possível. A questão agora é onde é que fica a fronteira da União Europeia. É uma decisão muito difícil. Para a fronteira ficar entre a Irlanda do Norte e a Irlanda temos um problema gravíssimo. Há pessoas que têm as suas vacas de um lado da fronteira e a sua casa do outro lado. É impossível haver uma fronteira entre a Irlanda e a Irlanda do Norte. Como é que vamos resolver este problema? Espero que os líderes consigam chegar a um acordo.

Não há uma vaga esperança de que possa haver um segundo referendo no Reino Unido?
O Reino Unido é um país onde as pessoas, quando tomam uma decisão, querem que essa decisão seja respeitada. Não penso que um novo referendo seja possível.

Como é possível ver a Europa sem o Reino Unido?
É muito preocupante, porque o Reino Unido era uma peça de equilíbrio muito importante deste motor franco-alemão, um país muito pragmático, racional e que de certa forma obrigava a máquina europeia a essa racionalidade. Vejo primeiro com tristeza e com alguma preocupação a saída do Reino Unido. É mau para os dois lados, mas neste momento temos de viver com isso. Qual é a minha esperança? Que dentro de dez anos consigamos ver o Reino Unido voltar. Qual é a minha segunda esperança? Conseguir um acordo em que o Reino Unido está fora, mas de certa forma está dentro. Isso é que é a grande dificuldade.

Esta semana, os comissários mandaram para trás a proposta de Orçamento da Itália. Se a Itália insistir em não cumprir as regras, qual é a solução?
É muito difícil. Acho que estamos a entrar num jogo muito perigoso porque obviamente não podemos aceitar aquilo que era o Orçamento italiano. Agora, tenho esperança de que haja algumas mudanças e de que a Itália possa reenviar esse Orçamento…

Mas eles prometeram ao povo que não reenviavam nada que cumprisse as regras…
Então a questão é o que é que se vai fazer. Vai-se abrir um procedimento por défice excessivo? Vamos multar? Isso ninguém sabe. Entramos aqui num momento muito complicado para a Europa. Se me perguntar entre o “Brexit” e a Itália, preocupo-me mais neste momento com a situação de Itália, o que vai sair daqui, qual vai ser o resultado disto tudo. Mas continuo a acreditar que consigamos chegar a algum acordo com o Governo italiano.

(OBS) Alexander Stubb: “Europa deve uma desculpa e um agradecimento a Portugal”

(OBS) A Europa deve uma desculpa a Portugal pelas “tremendas medidas” de austeridade que foram impostas durante a crise, afirmou Alexander Stubb, pré-candidato à presidência da Comissão Europeia.

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT HANDOUT/EPA

A Europa deve uma desculpa e um agradecimento a Portugal pelas “tremendas medidas” de austeridade que foram impostas durante a crise, afirmou Alexander Stubb, pré-candidato do Partido Popular Europeu (centro-direita) à presidência da Comissão Europeia.

“Penso que, de muitas formas, a Europa deve uma desculpa e um agradecimento a Portugal, no sentido de que as medidas de austeridade que o governo de centro-direita tomou em plena crise foram tremendas”, disse Stubb numa entrevista à agência Lusa em Lisboa.

Mas para o ex-primeiro-ministro (2014-2015) e ex-ministro das Finanças (2015-2016) finlandês, considerado um “falcão da austeridade”, não havia alternativa: “Tivesse eu de fazer o mesmo na Finlândia, como primeiro-ministro ou ministro das Finanças, tinha de avançar. É assim”.

O Governo de coligação PSD-CDS, “fez um ótimo trabalho numa situação difícil”, mostrando “muita coragem”, mas “desde que o governo mudou”, Stubb diz que “não tem visto muita ação”.

“Se olharmos para o desenvolvimento económico português, gostava de ver um desempenho melhor. Penso que é a 20.ª economia com crescimento mais lento na Europa neste momento”, considerou Stubb, que é atualmente vice-presidente do Banco Europeu de Investimento.

Quanto ao futuro da União Económica e Monetária (UEM), Alexander Stubb assegurou que, enquanto “pró-europeu ávido”, é e sempre foi “a favor de mais integração” e de “aprofundar o euro”.

“Em relação ao euro, penso que demos passos enormes durante a crise, a legislação [de coordenação orçamental] ‘two pack’ e ‘six pack’, o mecanismo de estabilidade europeu e, obviamente, o embrião da união bancária. No final, quero ver uma união bancária plena, incluindo a garantia de depósitos e provavelmente uma mutualização da dívida”, assegurou.

“Mas isso não vai acontecer de um dia para o outro. As condições têm de estar lá [e] estamos a alguns anos disso”, advertiu.

Para Stubb, desenvolvimentos com o orçamento que Itália apresentou para 2019, que prevê “o agravamento anual da dívida em 40 mil milhões de euros durante três anos”, “não ajudam”, porque “aqueles que querem abrandar o curso nesta matéria, vão apontar o dedo à Itália”.

“Não sei qual é o Orçamento de Portugal, o da Finlândia é de cerca de 55 mil milhões, e se a Itália está a assumir 40 mil milhões por ano de mais dívida para aplicar uma política fiscal estúpida, não vai fazer avançar a causa da união bancária ou outros objetivos”, frisou.

Vice-presidente do Banco Europeu de Investimentos, Stubb sublinhou que esta instituição “é um exemplo de um banco completamente mutualizado”.

“Partilhamos dívida e funciona. Mas partilhamos dívida com base nas condições do mercado, não com base em decisões políticas, e é provavelmente isto que tem de ser tido em consideração”, afirmou.

Alexander Stubb, que disputa a designação como ‘Spitzenkandidat’ do Partido Popular Europeu (PPE, centro-direita) com o alemão Manfred Weber, da CSU, foi entrevistado à margem da iniciativa Escola Europa, organizada pelo Partido Social-Democrata (PSD) de Portugal e pelo Partido Popular (PP) de Espanha com o apoio daquele grupo político europeu.

Após as eleições europeias, em maio próximo, cabe ao Conselho Europeu, compostos pelos chefes de Estado e de Governo dos membros da UE, designar um candidato à presidência da Comissão, o qual se submete depois a votação no Parlamento Europeu.

O Tratado de Lisboa determina que o resultado das eleições europeias seja tido em conta na escolha do presidente da Comissão, mas o Conselho não é legalmente obrigado a fazê-lo.

A escolha de candidatos pelos grupos políticos, os chamados “Spitzenkandidat” ocorreu pela primeira vez nas eleições europeias de 2014, em que Jean-Claude Juncker, candidato pelo PPE, sucedeu a José Manuel Durão Barroso.

(EUobserver) Why Brazil’s election matters to Brussels

(EUobserver) Why Brazil’s election matters to Brussels

  • Increased deforestation in the Amazon could undo the EU’s climate action (Photo: Neil Palmer (CIAT))

 

The election of the far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil last month is not only of concern for the Brazilian population.

It could have profound consequences for Europeans as well.

  • Connie Hedegaard: ‘I think that all good forces should right now try to reach out and deliver the good arguments for Brazil’. (Photo: European Parliament)

Before being elected, Bolsonaro said he would take Brazil out of the climate agreement agreed in Paris in 2015, and that he would allow a sharp increase of logging in the Amazon tropical rainforest.

What’s more, he suggested that the trees, which currently soak up CO2, could be replaced by industry and beef farming.

As if it would not be bad enough to see the Amazon forest’s ability in neutralising man-made greenhouse gases challenged, it could thus be replaced by additional sources of these gases.

Bolsonaro has also suggested merging the agriculture and environment ministries.

Specialist news website Climate Home called Bolsonaro’s election “the environmental story of 2018”.

Ahead of the elections, some already signalled what his election could mean for the world.

“A potential Bolsonaro win would, without a doubt, make Brazil lose its leadership on the global climate agenda and become a huge obstacle for the global efforts to combat global warming,” Carlos Rittl told the New York Times.

Rittl leads a Brazilian organisation called Climate Observatory, which had looked at presidential candidates environmental views.

US climate activist Bill McKibben sent a sobering tweet after Bolsonaro’s victory.

“The new Brazilian president’s pledge to wreck the Amazon is a tragic reminder that environmentalists need to win a fight forever, while the other side only needs to win it once,” he said.

So what now?

How should Europe react to the potential threat to the world’s climate?

Former European Commissioner for climate action, Connie Hedegaard, said that Bolsonaro could still change his mind.

“We must see how he puts his government together,” Hedegaard told EUobserver in an interview in Brussels.

“I think it’s early days,” she said.

“I think that all good forces should right now try to reach out and deliver the good arguments for Brazil. In that sense I think the jury is still out,” said the Danish former commissioner.

“I have also noticed that Bolsonaro … is not as firm stating ‘we should withdraw’ as he was only some few weeks back. Let’s see if the good arguments can win here,” she noted.

As environment minister, Hedegaard prepared and hosted the United Nations climate change conference in 2009. From 2010 to 2014, she was the EU’s climate action commissioner.

Bolsonaro will officially take office on 1 January, which means it will still be the outgoing government that will represent Brazil next month at this year’s UN climate summit.

As Climate Home noted, Brazil was an important partner for the EU at the 2015 Paris conference, where the first-ever global climate treaty was signed.

This year’s climate summit will be held in Poland, in Katowice.

Environmentalists are keen to point out the discrepancy between Poland hosting the summit, while simultaneously still relying on coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels, for its energy.

But just wait until next year.

In 2019, the UN climate summit, known as the Conference of Parties (COP), will be hosted by Brazil.

Hedegaard suggested that this may actually be a good thing for climate action.

“I mean, you cannot imagine that we have the COP in a place where they have decided to leave the [Paris] agreement,” she said.

“It would be extremely unfortunate if Brazil chose to leave, but I really believe it would also be unfortunate for Brazil itself,” she said.

Organising the climate conference may become a matter of prestige that defuses some of the more radical plans, Hedegaard suggested.

“Until … proven [otherwise], I think that common sense and the economic interest and the international reputation of Brazil will prevail here,” said Hedegaard.

Beyond diplomacy, the EU does have some sticks available.

Campaigner for the environmental group Fern Nicole Polsterer wrote in an opinion piece “the EU’s chief – and perhaps only – leverage, is trade”.

According to the European Commission, the EU accounts for 18.3 percent of Brazil’s total trade, making the bloc Brazil’s second-biggest trading partner. The EU is the biggest foreign investor in Brazil.

In 2017, 42 percent of all beef and live animals imported into the EU came from Brazil. In the first six months of 2018, the EU imported €284m worth of beef and veal from Brazil, ahead of Argentina (€212m) and Uruguay (€153m)

EU-Mercosur

Trade with Brazil is currently the subject of negotiations as part of a possible free trade deal between the EU and a regional trading bloc consisting of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

However, it is unclear when this EU-Mercosur trade deal will be wrapped up.

In September, the two sides met for the 35th round of talks in Montevideo.

A two-page report from the commission said “overall, the round only resulted in limited progress”.

(EurActiv) Macron calls for ‘true European army’ to defend against Russia, US, China

(EurActiv

French President Emmanuel Macron, flanked by French Defense Minister Florence Parly and French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux,. Paris, France, 13 July 2018. [CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON]

French President Emmanuel Macron called on Tuesday (6 November) for a “real European army” to allow the bloc to defend itself against Russia and even the United States, a hugely sensitive idea amongst EU nations which jealously guard their defence.

Macron, who has pushed for a joint European Union military force since his arrival in power, said Europe needed to be less dependent on American might, not least after US President Donald Trump announced he was pulling out of a Cold War-era nuclear treaty.

“We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States,” Macron told Europe 1 in his first radio interview since becoming president in May 2017.

“We will not protect Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army.”

With Brexit looming, Germany and Britain ramp up defence cooperation

Britain signed a military cooperation agreement with Germany on Friday (5 October), emphasising London’s commitment to helping shield Europe from future security threats at a time when negotiations over its own exit from the EU are reaching a crunch time.

Macron has spearheaded the creation of a nine-country European force, independent from NATO, that could rapidly mount a joint military operation, evacuate civilians from a war zone, or provide aid after a natural disaster.

The nine countries’ defence ministers are set to meet for the first time on Wednesday in Paris to start thrashing out details of how the force will operate.

Finland is set to become the tenth country involved in the project, according to a source close to the talks.

Touchy subject

The wider EU is due to vastly expand its defence budget starting in 2021, allocating some €13 billion over seven years to research and develop new equipment.

Under an initiative known as PESCO, 25 EU countries have also pledged to better coordinate their defence spending and potentially their operations.

But talk of an “EU army”, an idea floated by European federalists for years, remains a deeply touchy subject amongst member states anxious to defend their sovereignty.

A French source said Macron was speaking about more closely coordinated defence rather than a truly supranational military spanning the continent.

The president “used the strong image of a ‘European army’ as a reminder” of the need for closer defence ties, the source said.

Europe aims for greater ‘strategic autonomy’ from US on defence

EU leaders pledged in Brussels on Thursday to intensify efforts to strengthen military cooperation within the bloc and reduce its reliance on the United States, amid growing doubts over the continued US involvement in transatlantic security.

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said that the EU backed “a more meaningful and assertive defence identity” but that this cooperation should start with joint research and procurement.

“I don’t think this defence identity will start with an EU army,” he said.

“We have to start with the rest and we’ll see that at some point in time.”

Bruno Alomar, a professor at the French War School which trains top military officers, said Macron’s vision of a tight-knit European defence force was a long way off.

“The idea of creating a common strategic culture is not a bad one,” he told AFP.

“But there’s a massive gap between the European defence that Emmanuel Macron dreams about and the reality of very powerful disagreements between European partners.”

Russian meddling fears

Macron, who is set to host dozens of world leaders on Sunday for commemorations marking 100 years since the end of World War I, said the 70 years of peace enjoyed in Europe could not be taken for granted.

“For millennia, it has never lasted so long,” he said in the interview, recorded Monday night in Verdun, northeast France, as part of a weeklong tour of former battlefields.

Faced with “a Russia which is at our borders and has shown that it can be a threat”, Macron argued: “We need a Europe which defends itself better alone, without just depending on the United States.”

Battle rages over EU defence pact

A diplomatic tussle has broken over the European Union’s flagship defence cooperation pact, amid warnings that the bloc could cut itself off from major allies like the US and post-Brexit Britain.

In another apparent reference to Russia, he insisted that “intrusion attempts in cyberspace and multiple interventions in our democracies” required a united response.

The centrist French leader has been waging a vocal war on nationalism in recent days as he prepares to host leaders including Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ahead of European Parliament elections next May – billed by many observers as a battle between Macron-style pro-Europeans and rightwing populists – he said politicians must respond to voters’ fear and anger.

Europe “has probably become too ultra-liberal”, he said, “which doesn’t allow the middle classes to live well”.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen – one of the targets of Macron’s anti-nationalist tirades – meanwhile accused him of seeking to turn Europe into an empire.

“And it was empires that were at the origin of World War I, not nations,” she told Radio Classique.

(EUobserver) Greek austerity violated right to health, says watchdog

(EUobserver)

  • Greek unemployment is at 19.1 percent – higher than any other EU member state. (Photo: Eric Maurice)

 

Years of EU-led austerity in Greece continue to ravage a population that struggles with crippling poverty and access to basic health care and education, according to a new report from the Council of Europe (CoE).

Dunja Mijatovic, the CoE’s commissioner for human rights, told EUobserver that Greeks are still suffering from the aftermath of international bailouts and imposed economic structural reforms.

(SputnikNews) Portugal to Bypass EU and Negotiate Own Post-Brexit Deal With UK – FM

(SputnikNews) Portugal’s foreign minister also accused the European Union of leaving them in a state of “limbo” and exposed to the economic shocks of a no-deal Brexit.

Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva has hit out at the EU for not allowing member states to secure their own bespoke, bilateral trade deals with Britain while Brexit negotiations have been faltering.

Warning that they are currently in a state of “suspension” and “limbo”, Silva said the stalled negotiations between Brussels and the UK is raising the likelihood of a hard Brexit, which he described as the worst possible outcome.

“At the same time, it limits member states like Portugal [in their ability to] deal with their bilateral relationship [with the UK].”

Moreover, the Portuguese official suggested they will negotiate their own deal with the UK after March 2019, as they can’t do so until then due to EU rules, warning that their economy will be severely hurt by a hard Brexit, as Britain is a key market for Portuguese exports.

Portugal is also a popular tourist destination for many Brits, who have propped up the southern European country’s economy in recent years.

Although European countries will also be financially hit by a no-deal Brexit, the UK is most vulnerable, with countless economists and trade bodies warning that Britain is likely to experience high levels of inflation, low or negative economic growth, and even shortages, in such a scenario.

However, with negotiators still unable to find a solution to the issue of the Irish border, a hard Brexit is looking increasingly likely, and all sides have already started planning for such an eventuality.

(LeMonde) Le Portugal, meilleur élève des pays du sud de l’Europe

(LeMonde)

Le premier ministre portugais, Antonio Costa, à Bruxelles le 17 octobre.

La comparaison est un peu facile, mais elle est tentante. Tandis que, d’un côté, l’Italie poursuit le bras de fer avec Bruxelles autour de son budget, de l’autre, le Portugal a adopté le sien sans faire de bruit, en première lecture, mercredi 31 octobre. Le contraste entre les deux pays est grand : si Rome table sur un déficit public à 2,4 % du produit intérieur brut (PIB) en 2019, contre 1,8 % cette année, Lisbonne prévoit de réduire le sien à 0,2 % du PIB – un niveau historiquement bas –, contre 0,7 % en 2018. Et ce, sans pour autant renoncer à une politique sociale généreuse. « C’est un budget qui renforcera la confiance ; la stabilité politique maintenue ces trois dernières années l’a rendue possible », a déclaré le premier ministre socialiste, Antonio Costa.

Le texte doit encore être passé au crible des commissions parlementaires, avant une adoption définitive le 29 novembre. Dans le détail, le gouvernement table sur une croissance de 2,2 % en 2019, après 2,3 % cette année et le record de 2,8 % en 2017. La dette publique, qui a culminé à 129,9 % du PIB en 2016, devrait tomber à 118,5 % en 2019. Côté dépenses, l’exécutif prévoit d’augmenter l’investissement dans les infrastructures, de renforcer les subventions pour les transports en faveur des familles vivant dans les agglomérations de Porto et Lisbonne, ou encore de relancer les progressions de carrière pour les fonctionnaires, gelées depuis 2009 : les salaires publics devraient ainsi gonfler de près de 3 % en moyenne. Les pensions publiques devraient également augmenter plus vite que l’inflation en 2019.

L’opposition de droite n’a pas manqué de dénoncer ces dépenses, les qualifiant « d’électoralistes ». A l’autre bout du spectre, la gauche radicale, qui soutient le gouvernement, estime qu’elles manquent d’ambition. Dans les deux cas, les formations politiques sont déjà en ordre de bataille pour les élections législatives de l’automne 2019.

(EurActiv) Merkel’s move poses risk of paralysis for the EU, analysts say

(EurActiv)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker pose for photographs during the German-French Ministers Meeting in front of the German government’s guest house Meseberg Palace, in Meseberg, near Berlin, Germany, 19 June 2018. [Christian Bruna/EPA/EFE]

As Europe’s most powerful leader, Angela Merkel’s decision to quit as German chancellor in 2021 spells uncertainty and possibly paralysis for the EU as populists rally, diplomats and analysts warn.

After her announcement on Monday (29 October), the European Union is even less likely to bridge divisions on key topics like migration or eurozone reform in the coming months, they say.

The end of the Chancellor after the Hesse election

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Monday (29 October) she no longer wants to run for CDU chairmanship in December and, after the current legislative term, does not want to stand as a candidate for the chancellorship. EURACTIV Germany reports on ‘the end of an era’ in the country.

“Nobody is going to listen to her anymore in Europe. She has taken herself immediately out of the game,” said Sebastian Maillard, director of the Jacques Delors Institute think tank.

Maillard was referring not only to Merkel’s decision to quit as chair of her party before stepping down later as chancellor, but also to not run for an EU position afterward.

“It’s a tough blow for Europe,” Maillard told AFP.

Julian Rappolt, an analyst for the European Policy Centre, predicted few, if any major decisions would be taken before the May elections for a new European Parliament.

“Nothing will happen before the end of the year and probably nothing will take place until the European elections,” Rappolt said.

“There is the risk of paralysis at the European level,” he said.

Even though arrivals of asylum seekers peaked in 2015, the EU’s political crisis is as grave as ever over how to share responsibility for migrants who enter the bloc.

Many critics said Merkel’s initial open-door policy toward Syrian refugees exacerbated the political divisions.

Merkel and the refugees: How she emerged from a political abyss

Near the end of a recent campaign speech in northern Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel turned to Europe’s refugee crisis of 2015 and offered her audience a comforting dual message.

But the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, disagreed that Merkel’s announcement would lead to paralysis, a commission official said.

“Angela Merkel’s decision was expected. She had foreseen it and it changes nothing. The chancellor will not leave right away,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Sudha David-Wilp, deputy director of the German Marshall Fund’s Berlin office, also noted that Merkel’s departure was not a surprise and appeared to be orderly.

“I don’t see chaos or instability for Europe because this is going to be a very slow departure,” David-Wilp told AFP from the United States.

“Right now it is not in anybody’s interest for the grand coalition to split apart in Berlin,” she added in reference to Merkel’s ruling coalition with the centre-left SPD party.

‘Serious internal crisis’

Other analysts underscored uncertainty over who — from loyal allies to fierce critics — will replace Merkel as head of the centre-right CDU party in December and secure a chance to succeed her as chancellor.

“If it’s Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, it will be rather a good thing to revive the EU,” Schuman Foundation Director Jean-Dominique Giuliani told AFP.

“She is close to France and is very European. She will be more active than Merkel, who always played in the background,” he added.

“If Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer assumes the party chairmanship, there’s still a chance the chancellor can stay on the job until 2021,” Rappolt said.

Merkel proposes close ally for crucial party job

German Chancellor Angela Merkel put forward close ally Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer yesterday (19 February) to take over as secretary general of her Christian Democrats (CDU), heeding calls from within the party to inject new blood and groom a successor.

If not, “it will be the end,” he warned.

Such uncertainty comes at a bad time.

“Europe is experiencing a serious internal crisis,” an official from an EU member country noted.

“There is a lack of leadership in Europe. Most of the leaders are in trouble,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

French President “Emmanuel Macron has tried to give new impetus, but his initiatives have not found much support,” Rappolt remarked.

Not all Macron’s EU reforms possible, German finance minister says

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said EU reforms proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron should be addressed before European elections next year, but added that some of the proposals were not feasible.

Merkel herself has done little to revive Europe, Maillard said.

“The French-German engine did not start because France never had a guarantor in the chancellor. Angela Merkel always temporised, was always on the defensive,” he said.

Schuman Foundation president Guillani suggested “now that her authority is dented, tongues will loosen. I think her balance sheet will be pretty negative.”

(EurActiv) ‘No thanks!’ to EU and Nato, Iceland PM says

(EurActiv)

  • Katrin Jakobsdottir became Iceland’s first Green prime minister on 30 November 2017 (Photo: Seppo Samuli/norden.org)

Eurozone failures mean Iceland should stay out of the EU, its prime minister told EUobserver.

She would also quit Nato if she had her say.

  • During the Second World War US troops kept Iceland free from German occupation (Photo: EUobserver)

“I don’t think we should enter the EU right now. I don’t think there is any reason to apply,” Katrin Jakobsdottir said in an interview with this website, as Iceland’s new government prepared to celebrate its first anniversary in power.

“Personally, I’m critical towards the economic policies of the EU – the creation of the eurozone without any real centralised policies on taxes or fiscal policies,” she said.

“The European Central Bank has become really powerful without being very democratic. The economic policies of the EU have been really distant from people in the eurozone and they’ve created divisions that need not be there,” she added.

Iceland applied to join the EU in 2009, but abandoned the process in 2015.

It has remained a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area (EEA), two free-trade clubs, instead.

The North Atlantic country, with a tiny population of just 340,000 people, is also a member of Nato, the world’s largest military alliance.

The issue of EU membership remained divisive, Jakobsdottir said.

“It was controversial then [in 2009] and still is,” she said after recent polls, which indicated that 60 percent of Icelanders wanted to stay out of Europe, while 40 percent wanted to go in.

Free trade with the EU had been unequivocally good for Iceland, the eurosceptic prime minister said, however.

“Iceland’s position within the EEA has proved beneficial to us,” Jakobsdottir said.

“When we look at our economy, our social structure and our policy-making, I think that we’ve done pretty well without being members of the EU,” the prime minister said.

“You can check all the indices of the world: We’re not doing too badly on economic performance, social indicators, or gender equality for that matter, where we’re ahead of all other Nordic countries,” she added.

War games

The 42-year old Jakobsdottir, a former academic, became the second-ever woman to lead Iceland last year.

Her party, the Left-Green Movement, formed a coalition with the liberal Progressive and Independence parties to take power.

The government supports Nato membership, but the prime minister said she favoured “diplomatic and political” solutions to modern security challenges.

“My party’s position is that we are against Iceland’s membership of Nato. However, we’re the only party in Iceland’s parliament that holds that position,” she said.

“We – as the Left-Green party – recognise that there is a strong majority in Iceland in support of our Nato membership, but we don’t favour the idea of a permanent military presence here in Iceland,” she added.

US troops kept Iceland free from German occupation in World War II.

Iceland also became a founding member of Nato in 1949, but the US quit its permanent base there in 2006.

Jakobsdottir spoke amid mass-scale Nato war-games – Trident Juncture – which began last week and which saw three Canadian and two British frigates as well as a US amphibious assault ship, the USS Iwo Jima, and 7,000 American soldiers come to Reykjavik.

The operation’s focus is to defend Norway from a “fictitious aggressor” – Nato’s veiled term for Russia.

But the straits between Greenland, Iceland, and the UK have received increased attention after Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and began a military build-up in the Baltic and Arctic regions.

US P-8 Poseidon aircraft, which hunt for Russian submarines, have also become frequent visitors at Iceland’s Keflavik airport in recent years.

Diplomatic solutions

Jakobsdottir said she was “critical of any increased militarisation of the North Atlantic.”

Her government would “stick to the security policy [Nato membership] that we’ve agreed upon”, she said.

But “we [her party] favour more peaceful solutions and we don’t think that increased militarisation is a solution,” she added.

“We need to strengthen diplomatic and political relations. We will not give up that position even if there is trouble around us,” she said.

(ZH) Merkel To Step Down As CDU Leader In Dramatic Move

(ZH) Angela Merkel will not seek re-election as chair of Germany’s ruling CDU party, effectively standing down as leader of the Christian Democratic Union, a post she has held for 18 years, after a disastrous performance by her party in regional elections in the German state of Hesse on Sunday badly dented her authority, and followed an ultimatum by her junior coalition partner, the SPD which also suffered a devastating loss in latest elections.

According to Spiegel and Bild, Merkel, who has chaired the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) since 2000, was expected to compete again at the party congress in Hamburg in early December. however in what many are calling “the end of an era” during which her command of Germany put its stamp on Europe and beyond for more than a decade, on Monday morning she told senior party executives that she would not stand again.

Merkel is scheduled to speak to the media at 1 p.m. local time on Berlin.

The Chancellor will reportedly retire after the end of her current term in 2021, which will give the CDU time to groom a successor. Though she remains one of Germany’s most popular politicians, her fellow Christian Democrats have long been demanding that she clear a path for her successor. After leaving German politics, Merkel has reportedly said she won’t consider any EU-wide posts.

As we reported on Sunday, the CDU won the election in Hesse, but its share of the vote fell by more than 11 points, while the junior partner in her governing grand coalition, the Social Democrats, also slumped. The party’s poor showing reignited calls for the SPD to quit the government.

While Merkel can assume she’ll have the support to remain chancellor, “she’s broken the game for her succession wide open” according to Bloomberg, although doing it in a dramatic fashion, a surprise, as she has here, may help throw her competitors off balance. That would help her hand-picked successor, CDU General Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. But others are waiting in the wings. Bild reports that Friedrich Merz, her main antagonist in the first years after she took over the CDU in 2000, has thrown his hat in the ring.

Other possible contenders include Health Minister Jens Spahn, who has publicly criticized her open-doors refugee policy and is championed by the CDU’s social conservatives and Ralph Brinkhaus, a fiscal hawk who unexpectedly ousted Merkel’s longtime parliamentary caucus leader. Others include two state premiers Armin Laschet and Daniel Guenther, who carry weight after recently leading the CDU to victory in regional elections.

However, as Bloomberg notes, the potential for change in Germany is hemmed in by the country’s constitution and relatively strong political center.

“Even if Merkel were to be replaced and/or if a new government were to take power in Berlin, with or without new elections, it would not make a major difference once the dust has settled,” Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg, said in a note. “Any conceivable coalition in Berlin would still be dominated by the mainstream parties CDU/CSU, SPD, Greens and the smaller Liberals.”

The repercussions of her decision will resonate far and wide, not least in the U.K., where Brexit is the all-consuming topic. As Bloomberg notes, there might be dismay at the prospect of someone so influential disappearing from the scene.

She has the ability to tip the scales and she has taken a more conciliatory approach than say, France’s Macron. But if Merkel does stay on as chancellor, could this free her up to throw some caution to the wind and steer the ship safely without having to worry about burning political capital?

The news sent the Euro sliding to session lows, down as much as 0.3% to 1.1360 before staging a modest rebound. Meanwhile, Germany’s DAX30 has extended gains to more than 1% since the first media reports of Merkel not seeking to continue as CDU leader, largely on the back of the weaker euro.

(WSJ) In First for Europe, Brussels Rejects Italy’s Budget

(WSJThe populist Italian government has vowed to press ahead with plans to cut taxes and expand welfare and pension benefits

Giovanni Tria, Italy's finance minister in Rome on Thursday. The Italian government has three weeks to submit a revised budget.
Giovanni Tria, Italy’s finance minister in Rome on Thursday. The Italian government has three weeks to submit a revised budget. PHOTO: ALESSIA PIERDOMENICO/BLOOMBERG

The European Union took the unprecedented step Tuesday of rejecting Italy’s draft budget as incompatible with the bloc’s rules on fiscal discipline, escalating a battle between Europe’s establishment and populists in Rome.

Following a meeting of the European Commission—the EU’s executive arm—Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said the Italian government was “openly and consciously going against commitments made” to drive down the country’s debt and deficit levels.

The Italian government’s effort on Monday to explain why it had planned its budget in breach of rules was unconvincing, Mr. Dombrovskis added.

The government—a coalition of the antiestablishment 5 Star Movement and the nationalist League—vowed after Mr. Dombrovskis’ rejection to press ahead with its plans to cut taxes and expand welfare and pension entitlements, insisting that Italy’s economy needs a fiscal boost.

The battle is the new front line in disputes pitting the EU’s political mainstream against rebels across Europe that have gained voter support following the region’s economic and migration crises.

Insurgent movements in Italy and elsewhere want to loosen EU constraints on member countries. Victory in the budget battle would bolster the League and 5 Star ahead of elections to the European Parliament in May, a contest in which populist movements around Europe hope to make gains.

Italy, a founding member of the EU and Europe’s fourth-biggest economy, is testing whether a rebel government can defy the bloc’s rules and skirt pressure from financial markets to back down.

Investors have dumped Italy’s government bonds and bank stocks repeatedly since the League and 5 Star agreed to govern together in May. Italy’s combination of high government debt and chronically weak economic growth make it vulnerable to capital flight.

The extra yield that investors demand to hold 10-year Italian bonds over safe German bonds hit 3.3 percentage points last week, the widest gap in more than five years. That has battered shares in Italy’s banking sector, which is heavily exposed to its national debt.

However, markets remain far more stable than during the eurozone debt crisis of 2010-2012. Back then, the spread between Italy and Germany peaked at 5.6 percentage points.

Most investors expect Rome and Brussels ultimately to reach a compromise over the budget. Plus, today’s economic backdrop is better than before. Italy’s economy is expected to grow by around 1% in 2018, in contrast to its sharp contraction during the debt crisis.

League and 5 Star leaders have brushed aside investor pressure to compromise over the budget. The Commission had hoped that this pressure, coupled with its courting of Italy’s pragmatic finance minister, Giovanni Tria, would nudge Rome into compliance.

“Markets love Italy more than some European institutions do,” 5 Star leader Luigi Di Maio said.

He predicted “weeks of strong exchange with the European Commission, but both the Commission and the markets will come to understand that this is a government that believes in what it is doing.”

The Commission has much to lose. Failure to stop a flagrant breach of agreements on fiscal discipline would weaken economic-governance rules created after Europe’s debt crisis that are already tarnished by the waiving of regulations for France. Some member countries have indicated they believe the Commission has already been too lenient with Italy.

Officials also know that disciplinary proceedings against Italy will play into the hands of 5 Star and League politicians, who routinely paint Brussels as a remote bureaucracy hostile to the needs of ordinary Italians.

Under the EU’s protracted procedures, Italy has three weeks to submit a revised budget and the Commission then has three weeks to respond. The budget fight could thus come to a head in early December. That will likely be a sensitive time for Italy, since the European Central Bank has said it plans by the end of 2018 to cease its bond purchases, which have been vital in moderating Italy’s borrowing costs.

If Italy refuses to adopt a compliant budget, the resulting EU disciplinary proceedings could lead to fines equal to 0.2% of Italy’s gross domestic product and the freezing of some funding. Those fines can grow over time if Italy continues to defy Brussels.

Defiance toward Brussels has lifted the Rome government’s popularity. Over 60% of Italy’s electorate support the League or 5 Star, according to recent polls. A similar share of voters say they support the draft budget.

To go into effect, the budget must be approved by the Italian parliament before the end of the year.

The government’s weakest spot is the vulnerability of Italy’s banks, and thereby its economy, to investor flight. Further pressure on Italian bonds could erode the capital of Italian banks and force them to restrict their lending to the country’s businesses and households.

(P-S) Will Italy Sink Europe? – Jim O’Neill

(P-S) Italy’s coalition government has been generating headlines with its pursuit of populist economic policies that threaten to leave eurozone fiscal rules in tatters. But before EU authorities respond, they should bear in mind that if Italy does not achieve stronger GDP growth, political conditions there could deteriorate further.

LONDON – Despite political turmoil and  at the global level, the eurozone has had two years of strong economic growth, at least by its own historically disappointing standards – and even with the United Kingdom  toward withdrawal from the European Union. But with the emergence of a populist government in Italy this year, it is no longer safe to assume that the eurozone’s worst days are behind it

Italy was the first country that I studied when I entered the financial world back in 1982, so I have a special affection for it. I was working for a very large American bank at the time, and I can still remember joining frequent transatlantic conference calls to discuss Italy’s debt-to-GDP ratio. The question on everyone’s mind was when the country would default; but it never did. Instead, Italy muddled through, and has continued to do so ever since. Still, now that the Italian government seems poised for a standoff with the EU, it would not be surprising if worries about a default were to re-emerge.

As my experience more than 30 years ago shows, Italy’s economic problems far predate its adoption of the euro. It has long had poor productivity by European standards, and that translated into relatively low trend growth in the pre-euro decades. At the same time, occasional spurts of faster growth regularly sowed the seeds for various crises, often resulting in devaluations of the Italian currency, the lira.

Of course, there are some who now yearn for the days when the lira could be weakened to restore growth. That is no longer an option under the single currency. But what the pre-euro romanticists overlook is that euro membership has given Italy low inflation, and thus lower interest rates. Moreover, there is reason to think that lira devaluations did more harm than good. Even if they offered an occasional competitive boost, they stood in for tougher structural reforms that would have increased productivity over the long term.

There are also some who believe that the eurozone’s fiscal and monetary framework locks Italy into weak nominal GDP growth, possibly too-low inflation, and high debt. Yet before the new government took office, Italy’s cyclically adjusted fiscal deficit – as opposed to its underlying debt position – was often rather restrained compared to the rest of the eurozone, as well as the other members of the G7 (Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States).

Still, the mainstream political parties that governed Italy until this year did not deliver the nominal GDP growth that the country needs. As a result, Italians elected an unconventional coalition whose program combines the policies of the populist left with those of the populist right. While the League party promises to cut taxes, the Five Star Movement (M5S) is pursuing a form of basic income.

But what Italy needs is a broad structural reform program to improve productivity. That is the only way to achieve a higher long-term growth rate, given the country’s demographics. In addition to enacting policies to boost the labor-force participation rate among women, Italy must provide more attractive opportunities for its young people.

For its part, the EU should do more to help Italy take the tough steps it needs. The European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the German government have erred in insisting on rigid enforcement of the EU Stability and Growth Pact, particularly the 3%-of-GDP cap on fiscal deficits. Although some countries have been allowed to breach the deficit cap during challenging times, Italy is almost never afforded much accommodation, owing to its high debt levels. Yet as the experience of Belgium and Japan shows, high government debt can be reduced only through sustained economic growth.

Complicating matters further, some reforms to boost long-term productivity can actually reduce growth in the short term. Thus, any government enacting such measures will need to have the option of pursuing counter-cyclical stimulus.

Another problem concerns monetary policy. The ECB could stand to be more broad-minded in how it pursues its inflation target of just under 2%. That target, along with Germany’s own 2% target, leaves Italy locked into a state of low inflation, even when it could benefit from more monetary-policy stimulus.

Under these conditions, the EU authorities would do well not to oppose the current Italian government’s plans too aggressively. If mainstream liberals are worried about the implications of a democratically elected populist government, then they should worry even more about what could come next if economic circumstances worsen. At this stage, Italy needs stronger nominal GDP growth – plain and simple.

Some will say that it was a mistake to have allowed Italy into the eurozone in the first place, and that an optimal currency zone should have been more discriminating in its membership. But the German and French business communities insisted that the monetary union must include some of Italy’s more competitive companies. And once Italy was considered eligible, so, too, were many other countries.

At the end of the day, those with the power to set and enforce EU fiscal and monetary rules know full well that the eurozone could not survive a Greek-style crisis in Italy. It is their responsibility in the months ahead to make sure it doesn’t come to that.

(EUobserver) Dodgy regime lobbying is below the EU’s radar

(EUobserver)

  • The Commission, Parliament and Council have the perfect opportunity to reform the ‘voluntary’ lobbyist register and at least deliver some actual change (Photo: Daniel Huizinga)

Why is it that the US has been able to legally sanction political fixer Paul Manafort for failure to disclose details of his lobbying for the Kremlin-backed Ukrainian Viktor Yanukovych government, while in the European Union – where he also operated a multi-million euro lobbying operation for the same regime – there are no consequences whatsoever?

The contrast with the US brings into sharp focus the lack of legally binding power and enforcement in the EU’s lobbying register.

Now the Commission, Parliament and Council have the perfect opportunity to reform the register and at least deliver some actual change.

Because the Manafort case is not an isolated one.

At the heart of the EU in Brussels, public relations professionals and lobbying consultants are working for some of the world’s most autocratic regimes and human rights abusers.

These companies whitewash their clients’ images, smear dissidents and opponents, run elections, hide abuses, and lobby for lucrative investment, trade deals, aid, and political support with the EU institutions and member states.

And we have no way of knowing for sure who they are, how much they are paid, or what they are up to.

While some firms and lobbyists working for these clients in Brussels are entered in the EU’s voluntary Transparency Register, others do not appear on it at all.

Even those that do register may be omitting controversial clients and massively under-reporting lobby spending.

The current negotiations for reforming the Transparency Register provide the perfect opportunity to change this and we expect that all three institutions will be able to contribute to delivering results.

However, while the commission has tabled its proposal, it has failed to make it mandatory for consultancies, PR firms, and lawyers employed in Brussels that lobby the EU institutions on behalf of foreign governments to register.

A 2015 report by Corporate European Observatory Spin Doctors to the Autocrats uncovered what appeared to be massive under-reporting of lobby spending by a front group tied to the former Ukrainian regime, as well as a number of other cases of repressive regimes whose lobbying was missing from the register.

The cases CEO discovered were likely to have been the tip of the iceberg.

But without stronger EU transparency rules for lobbyists for foreign governments, it is extremely difficult to uncover the full picture.

It seems unlikely that China, for example – which as of October 2018 had no less than 20 active registrants in Washington, including several multinational lobbying consultancies – is paying none in Brussels to lobby the EU, but the People’s Republic and its various departments appear nowhere as clients in Europe’s Transparency Register.

The weakness of the EU’s transparency register means it is only thanks to US investigators that we know that Paul Manafort paid millions for ex-politicians from around Europe to lobby for the former Ukrainian government.

The FBI’s indictment says Manafort “secretly retained a group of former senior European politicians to take positions favourable to Ukraine”.

These include former European commission president and Italian prime minister Romano Prodi, former Austrian chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, and former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski.

Brussels contrast with Washington

One of the legal charges brought by the FBI was over Manafort’s failure to register his client under the Foreign Agents’ Registration Act (FARA).

FARA came into force in 1938 to monitor foreign influence on US politics, after American public relations firms took on – among others – Nazi Germany as a client.

FARA created mandatory disclosure requirements and legal retribution for avoiding them.

It requires “total public transparency over the operations of foreign agents in the US”; the law was subsequently amended to “shield the US Congress and the president from foreign-influenced grassroots lobbying shaping policy, legislation and lawmaking”.

Post-Manafort, FARA is coming under fire for loopholes and reporting failures, and there are various proposals underway for strengthening it.

Yet being mandatory, at least it allows legal retribution for failure to register as a lobbyist for a foreign agent. And enforcement works: as a result of the attention on Manafort, in 2017 FARA registrants increased 50 percent from the preceding year.

Thus, FARA remains far more robust than anything the EU has in place.

Meanwhile the lobbyists that fail to file information on lobbying for non-EU governments in the European transparency register face no sanctions whatsoever.

There is simply no enforcement mechanism to do so.

The Alliance for Lobby Transparency and Ethics Regulation is demanding that all lobbyists for non-EU governments should be required to register.

The lobby consultancies, PR firms, and lawyers employed to lobby the EU institutions on behalf of third country governments, or to promote their image, should be required to declare all such clients, with details of expenditure and the policy areas being lobbied on.

In the light of the Manafort case, as well as the others that Corporate Europe Observatory has uncovered, it would be interesting to learn what the European Commission’s case is for why regimes – in particular autocratic and undemocratic ones – are able to use consultancies and front groups to lobby the EU without mandatory reporting requirements, and why the EU’s register for foreign agents should be so much weaker than that of the US?

In a time when anti-democratic forces are gaining ground the case for better scrutiny and commitment to a legally-binding register seems unavoidable.

(EUobserver) May to tell British MPs 95% of Brexit settled

(EUobserver) UK prime minister Theresa May will tell parliament on Monday that 95 percent of the Brexit deal has been agreed with the EU, but that the EU’s proposal for the land border with Northern Ireland is still not acceptable. May is also to confirm deals have been struck on the future of Gibraltar and the UK’s military base in Cyprus, according to excerpts of her speech seen by British media.

(Reuters) EU’s Barnier says Brexit deal 90 percent done, but Ireland issue could derail it

(Reuters) European Union negotiator Michel Barnier said on Friday a Brexit deal with the United Kingdom was 90 percent done, although there was still a chance no accord would be reached due to ongoing stumbling blocks over the Irish border.

European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier attends the EU Commission’s weekly College meeting in Brussels, Belgium, October 17, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

“Ninety percent of the accord on the table has been agreed with Britain,” Barnier told France Inter radio.

“I’m convinced a deal is necessary, I’m still not sure we’ll get one,” he said.

On Thursday, British Prime Minister Theresa May and other EU leaders voiced renewed confidence that they could secure a Brexit deal, yet the two sides remain at odds over how to deal with their only land border, between the British province of Northern Ireland and Ireland.

May had also signaled she would consider extending a so-called transition period “for a matter of months” after Britain leaves the EU in March.

(EurActiv) MEPs hope to reduce EU budget cuts for Portugal

(EurActiv)

Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa with the European Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu (L) at Sao Bento Palace in Lisbon on1 December 2017. [EPA-EFE/MIGUEL A. LOPES]

The financial package outlined for Portugal in the next EU budget could still be improved, Portuguese MEPs José Manuel Fernandes and Pedro Silva Pereira have said, noting the urgency of concluding negotiations before next May’s European elections. EURACTIV.com’s media partner Lusa reports.

With the negotiations for the next EU budget going on ‘behind closed doors’, the 2021-2027 EU budget should be discussed at the EU December summit – amid expectations that planned cuts for spending in Portugal can be, in part at least, mitigated.

“I am confident. Even so, the package that is proposed, at current prices, is €33 billion, which is a lot of money. Our criticism is that there is a 10% cut compared to the current package and we want to improve that. I have been part of these negotiations for more than two years and the truth is that if they had told me two years ago that this was the end result, I would have said ‘let’s close the deal’,” Fernandes, a centre-right MEP, confessed.

Fernandes, the only Portuguese MEP to be involved in negotiating the EU’s 2021-27 budget, believes there is “room to improve” Portugal’s financial package.

“The Cohesion Fund has been cut by about 40% and this fund exists for the poorest countries, for those that have less than 90% of Gross National Product per capita. It is unacceptable that the fund that helps the poorer regions be the one that is cut the most. If we can improve the package of the Cohesion fund, we can achieve a fairer allocation,” he said.

Portugal dominates RegioStars Awards with innovation, culture projects

Portugal was the big winner of the RegioStars awards 2018 in Brussels, a project promoting regional innovation, cohesion and culture in the EU, with two awards for its innovation in sustainable industrial technologies and the promotion of cultural heritage.

Pereira also pointed out that the Parliament’s position is “very favourable” to Portugal’s aims, as MEPs have called for “a reinforcement of the appropriations for cohesion and for the Common Agricultural Policy in a direction that converges with the interests of Portugal.”

It is important for Portugal that, as requested by European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, negotiations should be closed before the end of the mandate.

“I think it is still possible and desirable that the negotiations can be concluded before the European elections, because I see no reason to think that the result available after the next European elections will be more favourable to Portuguese interests,” said the Socialist Party MEP.

The European Commission’s proposal for 2021-2027 has earmarked around €21.2 billion for Portugal under the Cohesion Policy, a cut of 7% compared to the current framework, while for the Common Agricultural Policy the EU executive has offered €7.6 billion at current prices, down from €8.1 billion in the previous budget.

This proposal includes a slight increase in direct payments and cuts in rural development: at current prices, for the MFF 2021-2027, a sum of €4.2 billion has been earmarked for the first pillar (direct payments to farmers) and €3.4 billion in the second (rural development).

The cuts included in the Commission proposal also affect the fisheries sector, with Portugal receiving €378.5 million, €14 million less than in the current budget.

(Politico) Negotiators reach Brexit divorce deal

(Politico) Negotiators in Brussels have reached a deal on a Withdrawal Agreement that would secure the U.K.’s safe exit from the EU with a transition period to prevent economic shocks, according to three EU diplomats.

Indications that a tentative deal at negotiator level was close, began to emerge mid-afternoon Sunday, when the U.K.’s Department for Exiting the EU released a statement that Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab would make an unscheduled trip to Brussels.

“With several big issues still to resolve, including the Northern Ireland backstop, it was jointly agreed that face-to-face talks were necessary ahead of this week’s October European Council,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

Subsequently, EU diplomats said a meeting of EU ambassadors had been scheduled for 6.30 p.m. Sunday evening. Three EU diplomats confirmed the meeting was to allow ambassadors early sight of the divorce deal.

One EU diplomat stressed “that the deal is at negotiator level [only],” so much could still change. Last week, diplomats were told a deal had been done by negotiators only for it to unravel amid continuing talks.

A European Commission official declined to comment, saying only, “Talks are ongoing.”

If the putative deal does not hit any road blacks with ambassadors it will move to EU27 ministers at the General Affairs Council meeting on Tuesday. Diplomats also cautioned that it could still be blocked by ministers in London or potentially by the Democratic Unionist Party who vote with Theresa May’s ruling Conservative party in the House of Commons.

The agreement is due to be discussed by EU leaders Wednesday night at a European Council summit dinner. Only at that point does it have sign off on the EU side.

The diplomats who said a deal had been struck were cautious, and one expressed particular concerns about how the package would be received in the U.K. May has struggled from the outset to navigate her Brexit strategy through the warring camps and interest groups: hard and soft Brexiteers, Remainers, and hard-core unionists, citizens rights’ advocates and business and industry concerns.

But even if some details were not nailed down, the flurry of activity over the weekend underscored the intensity with which negotiators were pushing to show major gains in the negotiations before the Wednesday European Council summit.

EU leaders have said that only if there were signs of such progress would they schedule another special summit in November focused on Brexit. After this week’s meeting, EU leaders are not officially scheduled to gather again until December.

Even if the agreement on divorce terms — including the fraught issue of the Northern Ireland border — passes muster with EU leaders and the U.K. Cabinet, negotiators must still agree the “political declaration” which will lay out the U.K.’s future relationship with the EU.

Theresa May is also facing considerable opposition to the nascent deal in the House of Commons from Brexiteers in her own party and the Democratic Unionist Party.

In an op-ed for the Sunday Times, former Brexit Secretary David Davis called on Cabinet ministers to “exert their collective authority” to kill off the deal because it would not allow the U.K. sufficient trade freedoms.

(JN) Primeiro-ministro da Polónia diz que vai ultrapassar PIB per capita de Portugal em 2019

(JNO primeiro-ministro polaco garantiu que o PIB per capita do seu país irá ultrapassar o de Portugal no próximo ano.

Primeiro-ministro da Polónia diz que vai ultrapassar PIB per capita de Portugal em 2019

O PIB per capita é um dos indicadores mais utilizados para estimar a qualidade de vida dos cidadãos. Portugal está historicamente na cauda da União Europeia, mas poderá ficar ainda mais abaixo. A Polónia está confiante de que irá ultrapassar o PIB per capita português no próximo ano. A ambição foi tornada pública pelo primeiro-ministro polaco, Mateusz Morawiecki, em Nova Iorque, esta sexta-feira, dia 5 de Outubro.

“Em 2019, o nosso país deverá ultrapassar Portugal em termos de PIB per capita”, afirmou Mateusz Morawiecki, referindo que a Polónia já ultrapassou a Grécia nesse indicador e que deverá alcançar a Itália nos próximos dez anos.

Estas declarações surgem num discurso que o primeiro-ministro polaco fez no evento “Poland: The Can-Do Nation” através do qual está a promover o país nos Estados Unidos, tentando captar investimento estrangeiro.

De acordo com Mateusz Morawiecki, entre 1989 e 2004, o PIB per capita – que mede a riqueza do país dividida pelo número de cidadãos – polaco cresceu 135%, “posicionando o país como um dos que mais cresceram”. Desde 2004 que a Polónia é um dos Estados-membros da União Europeia.

Os dados do Eurostat mostram que, em 2017, o PIB per capita polaco era de 20,9 mil euros enquanto o português era de 23 mil euros. Estes números são em paridades de compra, ou seja, para que a comparação seja mais fiável retira-se o custo de vida (diferenças nos preços).

O que aconteceu nos últimos anos às duas economias? A economia polaca cresceu 4,6% no ano passado, ao passo que a economia portuguesa aumentou 2,8%. Em 2016, o crescimento da Polónia tinha sido de 2,9% enquanto o de Portugal foi de 1,9%. Durante os anos de ajustamento, a economia portuguesa entrou em recessão, mas a Polónia manteve-se a crescer.