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February 23, 2017

Ukraine agreement passes Dutch lower house

No surprises in the Tweede Kamer on Tuesday on the EU's association agreement with Ukraine. The VVD and the PvdA had the support of the other pro-EU parties, D66 and GroenLinks. The Christian Democratic CDA was the only centrist party that voted against, calling the statement that Mark Rutte obtained from the European Council to address the concerns of Dutch voters an empty proposal. Without the CDA, however, the agreement cannot pass the Dutch senate. To judge by the Volkskrant coverage, nothing has changed there either. Last week Rutte needed two defecting senators from the CDA. The party said it would not enforce voting discipline on its senators. These two senators still have not come forward. We reported that the Dutch council of state had given its advice that the European Council's statement was vague and of uncertain legal status. Since then the council of state has reversed position after received sufficient clarification from the Dutch government. 

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February 23, 2017

Brexit from Euratom

While looking at the broader impact of Brexit we have noted an outcry a few weeks ago on the British government's intention to leave the Euratom treaty as well as the EU. This was apparently buried in a footnote to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill:

"The power that is provided by clause 1(1) applies to withdrawal from the EU. This includes the European Atomic Energy Community (‘Euratom’), as the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008 sets out that the term "EU" includes (as the context permits or requires) Euratom (section 3(2))."

The realisation of this led to outraged shock, as in this Guardian comment by Clare Moody entitled "We are heading for a senseless nuclear Brexit - with no political or legal mandate". The issue of the political mandate is the recurring argument by the remains of the Remain camp. Their fall-back position appears to be that it is not clear what kind of Brexit the British electorate voted for last June. Theresa May's "Brexit means Brexit", on the other hand, appears to sum up the view that Brexit means exit from anything and everything associated with the EU.

Regarding Euratom in particular, Steve Peers wrote a piece at the EU Law Analysis blog in which he argues that in practice leaving Euratom is an inevitable consequence of Brexit.

One reason for this is that the 1967 "merger treaty" brought together the institutions of the European Communities (Economics, Coal and Steel, and Atomic Energy). From that point on, the European Council, Commission, Parliament, and Court of Justice also had responsibility for Euratom. He then homes in on the resulting article 106a of the Euratom treaty. 

"In practical terms, this would mean that if the UK left the EU but not Euratom, it would still have Members of the European Parliament, a Commissioner, a role on the Council, judges on the EU courts, and so on. From a legal perspective, it’s hard to believe this odd scenario was intended by the drafters of the Treaties; from a political perspective, this prospect would surely dismay those who voted to Leave."

The UK could negotiate its way back into the Euratom treaty after Brexit in a manner similar to the envisaged free-trade agreement. There are two articles of the Euratom treaty allowing it to enter into (association) agreements with non-Euratom countries. The best way forward is for the UK goverment to express willingness to negotiate such an agreement, and to start consulting with British stakeholders about the desired content of such an agreement.

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February 23, 2017

Why is Merkel not fighting back against Schulz?

It is always painful to read Bild, the language is grammatically and aesthetically truly awful. But despite of this, this article is asking an interesting question about German politics: Why is Angela Merkel not attacking Martin Schulz, who has overtaken her in the polls of the leaders while the SPD has closed the gap to the CDU/CSU in the party polls. There is pressure inside the party on Merkel to start attacking Schulz.

The article notes that Merkel treads carefully as ever. She almost lost the 2005 campaign, which she started with a strong lead, because she overdid it when campaigning too aggressively on reforms. Her more restrained campaigns in 2009 and 2013 were both more successful. Her calculation is that she would benefit from playing the role of the globally respected statesman, rather than to panic, the article argues.

We think this strategy may not work so well against Schulz, who was president of the European Parliament for six years, and has more international standing than the other SPD candidates against whom she campaigned in the past, except Gerhard Schroder. Lack of international experience is hardly a reason not to vote for Schulz. The outcome of the election is wide open - all polls have the two largest parties now within the error margin. Schulz is this rare breed of a centrist populist, which is why he is so dangerous for Merkel.

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