WELCOME TO EUROPE DECIDES » INSIGHTS INTO POLITICS, ECONOMICS AND BUSINESS IN EUROPE, FROM BURSON COHN & WOLFE

The European Parliament enters uncharted territory

This year’s European Parliament elections, which take place from May 23 to 26, come at a time of unprecedented public debate on European Union issues. The EU now has more influence over our daily lives than ever before, it is central to the national political discourse in every member state, the past five years have provided a cornucopia of EU issues to argue over, and the campaign has been more visible than at any time since MEPs were directly elected in 1979. Yet at the end of all this, the result could be a Parliament that reflects the current centrifugal forces across the EU and where there is no stable majority. The key question is whether this fragmentation and internal division might undermine the exercise of Parliament’s legislative competences and thus its political authority.

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This anniversary year should remind NATO of its bonds forged in battle

This is a year of birthdays for anyone involved in Europe’s defence. In early April, NATO celebrated the 70th anniversary of its founding document, the Washington Treaty, which set up the most successful security alliance the world has ever seen. And it was forged less than five years after one of the most important military operations ever undertaken: the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944, 75 years ago.

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Post-Juncker EU must find ways to connect to citizens

The past five years have been the European Union’s own version of the Infinity War, facing crises on almost every front. But as outgoing Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker nears his own Endgame, it’s time to turn the page and look at what Europe might do next. The Commission’s so-called ‘Strength in Unity’ strategic agenda attempts to do that. Issued ahead of the special May 9 EU summit in Sibiu, Romania, it tackles areas like sustainability, eurozone rules, migration and defence. Yet while the Commission lists ample challenges to keep the EU busy for the next five years, there is a lingering question of whether it does enough to address one of the most pressing issues: how to connect to citizens.

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Is the EU doing enough to fight fake news?

On April 1 this year, the European Commission’s office in Athens leaked a report saying that Greece had been fined for introducing daylight saving time. Greece would face a fine of €17,650 for every hour that passed until it agreed to turn the clocks back. The leak was, of course, an April Fool’s joke, but with a serious intent: the Commission said the fake statement was aimed at raising awareness about disinformation, an issue that is gaining increasing concern in the run-up to the European Parliament elections next month. But apart from issuing jaunty pranks, has the European Union prepared enough to fight the expected wave of fake news?

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BOTTOM-LINE BREXIT – PART XI

What business needs to know about how Brussels sees the process of Britain leaving the European Union, as related to BCW by senior EU sources.

Don’t ‘sell in May and go away’

The old City stockbroker’s adage, dating back to a leisured age of top hats and spongebag trousers, has had an airing in Brussels since the pre-Easter summit which pushed Brexit back as far as Oct. 31. But beware. Plenty can happen in the coming months, and probably will. “Now it gets ugly,” warns one top EU diplomat closely engaged in the negotiations with the United Kingdom.

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BOTTOM-LINE BREXIT PART X

 

What business needs to know about how Brussels sees the process of Britain leaving the European Union, as related to BCW by senior EU sources.

No deal no way?

After the “flextension” to Oct. 31, granted by the EU27 in the early hours of Thursday, the risk of a no-deal, transitionless Brexit has been pushed back from April 12. The UK political situation remains extremely unclear and so the risk of no deal remains, possibly as early as June 1. However, if the UK holds an election on May 23, as is now scheduled in the UK electoral calendar, no deal will not be possible until Oct. 31. As significant, we believe, is that the behaviour of member states at the summit indicates a significant reduction in the risk that the EU will simply accept a no-deal outcome.

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Europe is on the verge of a cannabis boom

These are boom times for the cannabis industry. As countries around the world lift restrictions on the drug, the legal market is soaring. In Europe, momentum is growing for legalisation and many governments are poised to lift restrictions on cannabis, whether in recreational or medical form. There are also calls for more research into medicinal cannabis as its status as a controlled substance has hampered a full understanding of its science. However, the situation is still confusing, raising many associated questions for users and suppliers – including pharmaceutical companies – about how to deliver cannabis to customers.

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BOTTOM-LINE BREXIT PART IX

What business needs to know about how Brussels sees the process of Britain leaving the European Union, as related to BCW by senior EU sources.

Don’t despair of a deal

In a follow-up to our latest update, which still holds good, Friday’s bit of choreography between EU summit chair Donald Tusk and British Prime Minister Theresa May ahead of next Wednesday’s latest “crunch” summit is intriguing. The former Polish premier has long been a diehard supporter of giving Britons the chance to back out of Brexit but his offer of a year-long “flextension” to the Article 50 withdrawal process is far from popular with EU leaders – the French were quick to brand it “clumsy” – and should be read more as a bit of help from Brussels to May’s efforts, still, to rally a parliamentary majority behind her exit deal so Britain can leave the EU soon.

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Bottom-Line Brexit Part VIII

What business needs to know about how Brussels sees the process of Britain leaving the European Union, as related to BCW by senior EU sources.

Plus ça change…

Talk of Britain being dumped out of the European Union next Friday seems overblown. The risk of a no-deal Brexit is still very real and carries with it a sudden reintroduction of customs controls and questions over mutual regulatory recognition. But there is still little appetite among EU leaders – who will meet British Prime Minister Theresa May in Brussels on Wednesday – to pull the trigger on hard Brexit. Not just yet.

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