This Week’s Hotspots
Guy Verhofstadt, MEP and former Belgian Prime Minister announced his candidacy for the European Parliament’s presidency. Verhofstadt’s party Alliance for Liberals and Democrats in Europe is smaller than the dominant European People’s Party, headed by Antonio Tajani, and the Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, led by Gianni Pitella, which both need to align with smaller parties to succeed in the elections on January 17.
Frontex reported a plunge in migrants arriving from North Africa to Italy. The number of arrivals totalled 181,000 in the last year.
Poland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Witold Waszczykowski, publicly criticised Donald Tusk, the President of European Council, calling him “icon of evil and stupidity”. Waszczykowski also urged Tusk to stay away from Poland. The Warsaw-Brussel feud ignited after the EU tightened inspections into the state of Polish rule of law.
Austria’s Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said, “as long as the European Union is not in a position to protect its external borders, Austria will rely on national measures.” Germany has also maintained its border control, in contradiction to the European Commission’s aim of restoring the Schengen area’s freedom of movement.
In France, border control police arrested Ramush Haradinaj, the ex-Prime Minister of Kosovo. The arrest was based on a Serbian warrant from 2004. The Serbian government claims Haradinaj was a warlord during the 1989- 1999 conflict.
The French authorities also captured a local farmer aiding illegal migrants crossing the border from Italy.
Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, appointed a new Ambassador to the EU, after Sir Ivan Roger resigned. Sir Tim Borrow worked as British envoy to Russia.
A senior political officer at the Israeli embassy to the UK, Shai Masot, was caught speaking about a plot to take down British MPs. Israel issued an apology to Sir Alan Duncan, the UK deputy foreign secretary, and announced that Masot would be leaving the embassy soon.
Mario Soares passed away at the age of 92. He is known in Portugal as the ‘father of democracy’ who managed to stabilise the country after the 1974 revolution. Soares served as president twice, from 1986 to 1996.
2016 has been the warmest year on Earth, according to a report from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. According to the organisation, the Arctic witnessed the sharpest increase in temperature.
Obama’s latest Cypriot win
Greek and Turkish Cypriots have been working on a reunification agreement of Cyprus. A potential reunification could positively impact EU foreign policy making, in which the ‘Cyprus issue’ is a known breaking point. The last phase of negotiations is set to take place this month and will determine the future of the deal. The talks score a win for the Obama administration, which has acted as a facilitator.
Europe’s growing crisis
For the EU Brexit will mean the loss of its strongest military power and of a primary economic partner. And on top of the un-remedied debt crisis, the European economy remains fragile and is likely to dwindle with the UK’s exit. According to Matthias Matthijs, professor of political economy at Johns Hopkins, the Union’s crisis can be traced back to the four decades after WW2, during which European elites failed to build the institutions to sustain a single market. Today, Greece’s financial crisis, a high youth unemployment rate, and political tensions over the refugee influx, are increasing the possibility of the EU’s disintegration.