WELCOME TO EUROPE DECIDES » INSIGHTS INTO POLITICS, ECONOMICS AND BUSINESS IN EUROPE, FROM BURSON-MARSTELLER EMEA

Why the change in Spain and Italy will unsettle the EU

It was a coincidence that both Spain and Italy agreed new leaders within hours of each other on June 1. The new Prime Ministers were sworn in on the back of very different crises. In Italy, it came almost three months after elections that produced shock victories for the extremist populist parties. In Spain it came quickly after the Socialist Party opposition successfully tapped outrage over a Supreme Court ruling that convicted former members of the governing People Party. But the consequences of both could lead to the same result: instability across the European Union, in particular in the Eurozone.

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Why the EU’s green grades are not as high as they should be

The European Commission’s proposed ban on single-use plastics, announced on May 28, is an archetypal European environmental initiative: it is a bold measure to improve our planet, and it responds to rising public concerns about an alarming pollution problem. It comes a fortnight after the Commission’s third Mobility Package, setting targets for heavy-duty vehicle emissions, and just days after two big political environmental events: the annual EU Green Week, and the Clean Energy Ministerial in Copenhagen and Malmö.

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Can the EU make our roads smarter, safer and cleaner?

The European Commission’s plans for road transport are hugely ambitious: it wants to modernise mobility, making it cleaner, smarter, and safer. The third Mobility Package, unveiled by the Commission on May 17, covers everything from heavy-duty vehicle emissions to rules for self-driving cars, as it aims to set the pace in legislation on smart vehicle technologies. But can these measures untangle the knots of congestion and pollution on Europe’s roads while still getting people and goods from A to B?

The latest proposals are mainly focused on boosting intelligent transport systems (ITS), including automated and connected cars; curbing CO2 emissions from trucks and buses; and increasing the uptake of electric cars in the European market. These measures have ethical, legal, financial, economic, and technical dimensions

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Europe joins the AI fray

Scarcely a day goes by without artificial intelligence making news in some form or other. Much of it is about the new applications for AI, which have been used to create new beers, diagnose depression, detect cardiac arrests, and even write poetry. But there are also ominous warnings about the dangers of AI, with Google co-founder Sergey Brin last month joining Tesla’s Elon Musk, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and the late Stephen Hawking worrying about the technology’s threat to humanity.

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Did the Facebook saga prove the EU right on privacy?

In the wake of the Facebook data scandal, the European Union is looking prophetic. The EU’s long-planned tech privacy rules, known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force next month, amid a global furore over how personal information can be manipulated. It is a rare moment when regulators in Brussels are hailed for their foresight – not just by politicians across Europe, but also in US by lawmakers on Capitol Hill and tech giants in Silicon Valley.

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What to expect in the year before Brexit

Theresa May has enjoyed a remarkable resurgence as British Prime Minister in recent weeks. She has secured an agreement with the other 27 European Union members on a Brexit transition period, her EU and NATO partners followed her lead in punishing Russia over a nerve agent attack, and she appears to have headed off Conservative Party rivals for her job – at least for the moment. She is on a roll and is at last getting the credit she is due, Downing Street tells us.

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A tit-for-tat trade war would hurt everyone

The United States used to champion free trade. US President John F Kennedy would say that, “a rising tide lifts all boats” but the current occupant of the White House, President Donald Trump, takes a different view. However, with Europe and the US poised to trigger a trade war, there are huge risks for business and jobs.

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Why the EU’s budget must be both bigger and better

While the European Union has a proud record in keeping the peace amongst its members, it always feels like hostilities are breaking out again when it’s time to talk about the budget. There were already signs of mounting tension when EU leaders gathered in Brussels for their summit on February 23, with battle lines forming over the next big budget fight. As the leaders argue about how to fill the hole left by the departing British, they will have to answer existential questions about how they want to spend their money after 2020.

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Europe at centre of unpredictable Italian elections

“We have to brace ourselves for the worst scenario and the worst scenario could be no operational government.” This was European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s warning ahead of the Italian elections, taking place this Sunday (4 March) – even if he was later forced to retract his comment, tweeting: “Italy remains a central player in Europe and in defining its future”.

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Can Europe lead in clean energy and beat energy poverty?

Whether it means pulling on a woollen jumper, wearing gloves, or cranking up the heating, the winter months usually prompt small changes in our day-to-day behaviour. But for some people, the cold can’t be beaten with just another layer of clothing. More than one in ten Europeans suffer from ‘energy poverty’, a lack of essential energy services. As temperatures plunge, they shiver in unheated homes, fall ill, and struggle to make it through to spring.

While the Juncker Commission has made clear progress on its commitment to a clean energy transition – as acknowledged in the recent Agora Energiewende and Sandbag report – the reality remains that clean energy can be costly and progress on addressing energy poverty has been much less prominent. January 29 saw a step forward to redress the balance when the European Commission launched the Energy Poverty Observatory.

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