Posts in "Institutions" Category

The EU needs to seize the Macron moment

The European Union is changing. As it emerges from the economic downturn, it is facing new challenges, including climate change, migration and Britain’s imminent departure from the bloc. The European Commission’s response, in March this year, was a White Paper on the Future of Europe, timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. But can the EU reform itself? In the first in a series of articles by Burson-Marsteller’s senior advisors on the future of Europe, David Harley considers how the political landscape in Europe is evolving.

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Paris climate deal marks rare EU victory

The European Union is getting so used to feeling under siege, it is easy to forget it can eke out a victory every now and then, and last week’s move to ratify the Paris climate change agreement is definitely a win.

After a series of recent setbacks, from Brexit to the persistent refugee crisis and the ongoing economic slump, the Paris deal is proof that EU officials still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

There were doubts about whether the ministers could pull off what is effectively a fast track approval of the sweeping agreement from last December’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21, in the French capital. Legal experts pondered the legitimacy of a decision by the EU to deposit its ratification of the accord to cut greenhouse gas emissions before it was ratified by all 28 member states.

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Going Dutch – looking back at the presidency

In the first half of 2016, The Netherlands held the presidency of the European Council for the fourth time since 1986, a record in the Union. Many think the country’s stance towards the EU has been changing for the worse, in fact, the Financial Times even named The Netherlands ‘the most obstructive’ EU-member state. 

In line with their reputation, the Dutch went cheap on their presidency. All meetings were held in the same location, hardly any trips were organised outside of Amsterdam, and there was no grand opening or closing. This was to accommodate the increasing anti-EU sentiment in the country. At the start of the Dutch term, Rutte had already been Prime Minister for six years, and was fairly familiar with the EU routines and key players.

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Saving EU trade policy

These are tough times for the European Union’s trade policy. Public sentiment has never been more hostile to the idea of free trade than it is now. An area previously of interest only to specialists of technical issues like tariff schedules, quotas, customs rates and trade balances is now the subject of impassioned street protest and furious rhetoric over the perceived risks of such deals for consumer rights and more. Free trade is now so contentious that nervous ministers are ready to block even the most modest of EU agreements.

This past year has already seen many setbacks for trade.

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Brussels Brexit Briefing – 2nd August

As we enter the summer break in the UK and across Europe, Brexit fervour at last seems to be dying down.

The big news in the last week has been the appointment, by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, of former French Foreign Minister and EU Commissioner, Michel Barnier, to lead the EU’s Brexit negotiations. Mr Barnier, who led the Commission’s overhaul of EU banking laws in the aftermath of the 2008 financial meltdown, is already being seen as a provocative appointment by many in the UK media, given France’s firm stance on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

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Brussels Brexit Briefing – 27th July

Theresa May’s new government has made its first practical moves towards Brexit by pulling the UK out of its scheduled slot in the EU’s rotating presidency in the second half of 2017.

The UK’s space will be taken over by Estonia, which will bring forward its own presidency by six months. A spokesman for European Council President Donald Tusk said there was “broad agreement” when EU ambassadors met in Brussels, although the decision still has to be formally confirmed.

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Brussels Brexit Briefing – 19th July

Key EU figures have put pressure on Theresa May to move fast to quit the EU. European Parliament President Martin Schulz called on her to invoke Article 50 after the summer, saying her government must give “the utmost consideration” to the European Parliament, which has the power to veto the UK’s EU divorce and any future trade deal. In an article for the Guardian, Mr Schulz called for talks to begin “without rancour” and for Britain to be thought of as a beloved relative leaving home rather than a treacherous renegade.

However, EU officials have acknowledged they have no powers to force the UK to trigger Article 50. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, at a summit in China, offered conciliatory words for Mrs May, saying that the UK will face no “hate” or “revenge” during the Brexit talks. “I will not negotiate with Britain in a hostile mood. We have been partners in the EU for 40 years. We are allied countries, most of us in the North Atlantic Alliance,” he said.

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How much tax is ‘fair’?

Google’s agreement with Britain’s tax collectors and the European Commission’s proposals on tax avoidance have put corporate tax firmly back on the front pages – although it never really went away.

The issue will no doubt remain near the top of political and business agendas for the foreseeable future.

So here’s four takes on what’s happened and what it means.

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Digital Single Market – Commission at crossroads in development of digital health

The scope of the European Commission’s Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy is certainly ambitious: copyright, geo-blocking and online shopping are all covered, with the aim of helping consumers and businesses to realise the potential of the digital revolution.

Dig a little deeper, and you also find numerous references to digital health. This is a welcome move, after more than three years of inactivity since the publication of the eHealth Action Plan 2012-2020, the second roadmap to support the development of digital health (eHealth). But at the moment, the strategy is heavy on analysis of the problems, and light on solutions.

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