EM Germany Weekly Round-Up | week ending 30/01/2015
EM Germany’s weekly round-up summarises the past week’s key European issues in a brief press review, which also includes a look at EM Germany’s activities and topics trending globally on Twitter. German version here.
The week’s highlights in print, at EM Germany and on Twitter
24/01-30/01/2015 – “A triumphant night for the Left” read one headline in Zeit Online last Monday. Syriza’s election victory in Greece was indeed foreseen, feared by some, and hoped for by others. Alexis Tsipras’ party received 36.3% of the vote, however it just missed out on an absolute majority of seats in the Greek parliament (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung). The Nea Demokratia party received 27.8% of the vote, while the right-wing extremist Golden Dawn is now the third-strongest party with 6.3% of votes (La Repubblica). Thanks to support from its right-wing populist coalition partner ANEL (Independent Greeks), Alex Tsipras became Greece’s new Prime Minister on Monday (Tageschau.de). Nikos Katzias is Greece’s new foreign minister – EM Germany provides more information on Katzias in its ‘EU-Akteur‘ report. Women’s associations and the ”Woman of Europe” network were very critical of the fact that none of the thirteen cabinet members are female.
Comments about Tsipras‘ election victory varied: Austria’s liberal Wiener Zeitung believes it will mean the end of austerity. Leader of the Social Democrats in the European Parliament, Gianni Pittella, commented on the election result with just two unambiguous words: “stop austerity” (Wiener Zeitung). In France, Syriza’s victory was met with enthusiasm from the socialist camp and the right-wing Front National (FAZ). Others commented that “agreements must be kept”. Less enthusiastic was, amongst others, the chairman of the conservative EPP group in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber (Christian Social Union). He said he is sure that “European tax payers will not be prepared to pay for Greece’s empty promises”. He also declared that Europe would stand shoulder to shoulder with Greece, if it sticks to the agreements made together with Europe (Spiegel Online). EM Germany’s member organisations gave various assessments of the election results: “Greece needs space to breathe and the chance to be able to build up a social and democratic country”, commented ver.di (United Services Union) chief Bsirske. It now depends on finding a common path with the Greek government, without demanding a special solution just for Greece, said the President of the German Union of European Federalists, Rainer Wieland MEP.
After Syriza’s election victory the European Central Bank (ECB) is not ruling out debt relief for Greece, however the ECB dismisses that it would make any contribution itself. On Monday, ECB board member Benoît Cœuré emphasised that it is not up to the ECB to decide whether the country needs debt relief (Handelsblatt). This would be more of a political decision. The ECB’s programme of buying government bonds would stimulate growth and the creation of jobs and through this aims for market stability. However, it is necessary for EU member states to quickly push through structural reforms and clean up national budgets (Wiener Zeitung).
It was a crucial week for the election of Italy’s new President. Former President Giorgio Napolitano left his post more than a week ago. The Italian parliament has been voting on a successor since Thursday. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced that Italy would have a new President by Saturday, and he was right: Sergio Mattarella of Renzi’s Partido Democratico (PD) was elected by a majority of 665 out of 1009 votes. Fears were widespread that if the political parties could not agree on a joint candidate, only early elections would enable a solution to this disagreement (La repubblica). In 2013, the Italian parliament had been unable to reach an agreement on a new President, causing Napolitano to remain in his post for a while longer.
In addition, many newspapers focussed on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz. The Bundestag remembered the day in a special session, in which Federal President said very clearly: “there is no German identity without Auschwitz” (Spiegel Online). European Commission Vice-President and High Representative of Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini explained on Tuesday that the commemorations in Europe are taking place in a worrying context. The recent terrorist attack on a supermarket in Paris shows that anti-Semitism continues to exist. “Seventy years after the Holocaust there are still Jewish communities in Europe that feel under threat. So today, more than ever, it is not enough simply to say ‚Never again!’” (ec.europa.eu). Russian President Putin did not attend the commemoration in Auschwitz. The Kremlin stated the lack of an invitation to the commemoration event as the reason for his absence. A member of the Auschwitz Council subsequently informed Spiegel that none of the heads of state and government had been invited, since survivors should be centre stage at the event, not politicians (Spiegel Online).
A standing ovation for the new “Woman of Europe”: Linn Selle received EM Germany’s award in front of 160 guests in Berlin on Monday evening for her voluntary European engagement with the youth association “Young European Federalists” (JEF). In his speech, Michael Roth, Member of the Bundestag and State Minister for Europe in the Federal Foreign Office, paid tribute to the 28-year-old, calling her a “European at heart” who has mobilised young people and raised awareness of Europe amongst them using new media. The ceremony was hosted by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ).
On Twitter the hashtag #ekloges2015 provides a look back at the Greek parliamentary elections. Speculation over a possible Euro exit by the country can be found via the hashtag #Grexit. The hashtag #Auschwitz70 compiles all tweets surrounding the Holocaust Remembrance Day. The current informal council on data protection and what the EU interior and justice ministers are discussing can be followed via the hashtag #EUDataP.