We use cookies to help improve and maintain our site. More information.
close

July 01, 2019

The questions we will be asking tomorrow

By the time you read this, the European Council may have reached a deal. Or not. 

The events of the last few days raise questions that will not be answered today - more important than who gets what. The first issue is what the process so far is saying about the leadership of the EU itself, and the effectiveness of the broad centrist coalition. The wrangle on the spitzenkandidaten is an indication that it is much harder to build large cross-party coalitions at EU level than at national level. We have written before the the loss of the cosy EPP/SD duopoly in Brussels and Strasbourg is highly significant because many of the decision-making structures that developed in the last few decades are no longer viable in the new context. That goes for the spitzenkandidaten, a German concept tailor-made for the German political system; but also the Osaka-style government by directorate, to which other member states objected to; and the assertiveness of the previously-compliant parliamentary groups themselves.

The second is where does the decision leave the ECB. It faces two primary challenges: to regain the traction of monetary policy it has lost since the crisis, and to have a strategy in place to act as a lender of last resort in the next crisis. We don't think the OMT, ingenious as it may have been in 2012, is the way forward. Has the European Council really given any thought to what the next ECB president should do - as opposed to whether the person should be French or German, or man or woman? 

The third issue is the political fallout in Germany. We all note that Angela Merkel is no longer the dominant force in European politics that she once was. It looks like Angela Merkel is not fighting any more. One of the German news reports said she could live with all the candidates under discussion. And we don't get the sense that she is pushing for Jens Weidmann either. She seems oddly deflated - even beyond what we would have expected after she announced her decision to step down as leader. 

Last night, German television commentators were in shock when they suddenly realised that Merkel had given up on Weber as Commission president. On Saturday, FAZ contemptuously spoke that Weidmann might get the ECB job as a consolation prize for Merkel's failure to deliver Weber. We would not consider the ECB as a consolation prize. But Germany might not get the ECB job either.

In Brussels, the debate is how to allocate the five jobs between candidates fulfilling various criteria. What is not sufficiently understood in Brussels is that outside of their own little fishbowl people don't care so much about the minor jobs - the high representative, the EP presidency, and even the presidency of the European Council. The latter is more of a co-ordinating than agenda-setting role. We think all these jobs are important. But they all fade in comparison with the ECB and Commission presidencies. A trade-off is interpreted outside the fishbowl differently from inside the fishbowl.

We fear that Federico Fubini (@federicofubini) is right with his glum tweet this morning: that the EU is drifting; and that the centre does not hold. 

Show Comments Write a Comment

July 01, 2019

What category of diplomatic accidents is Sea Watch 3?

If you thought that immigration was no longer the big issue in Europe, just witness the diplomatic spat between Italy and Germany right now, after the arrest of the Sea Watch 3 captain who docked her refugee boat in the port of Lampedusa. Matteo Salvini yesterday accused Carola Rakete of a being a war criminal and told the German president not to encourage German citizens to break Italian law. A well-known German TV satirist has started a campaign of donations, which passed the €1m mark in no time. The Green Party is asking the government for active interference in the case. 

The German public, media and political leaders have been shocked beyond incomprehension by Italy's treatment of Rakete - who enjoys a cult status in Germany. Italian police put her under house arrest, and she is facing up to ten years in jail. We saw a story last night that she might be extradited to Germany - but we are not sure that this is legally possible since Germany has no legal case against her. Given the political escalation, the legal case is not getting easier.

France has joined Germany in the condemnation of Salvini's actions, which prompted a threat by Salvini to divert refugee boats to the port of Marseille "given that the French government is so generous with immigrants". It is not hard to see that, even in the fast-moving 21st century, a relatively small incident at sea can turn into a major diplomatic crisis.

Immigration and EU fiscal rules are the two issues that managed to turn Italy, which used to be the most pro-EU nation in Europe, into its most eurosceptic. The tide of immigration from the Middle East and Northern Africa has been receding, but incidents such as Sea Watch 3 keep the issue at the top of the political agenda. What we see here is the long-term political fallout from the Dublin regulation that makes border countries primarily responsible for asylum seekers. The quid-pro-quo is that these countries are now acting unilaterally. However, Salvini himself is now more careful in the way he personally interferes in law-enforcement decisions after a prosecutor brought criminal charges against him in relation to an incident in his early days as interior minister.

Show Comments Write a Comment

This is the public section of the Eurointelligence Professional Briefing, which focuses on the geopolitical aspects of our news coverage. It appears daily at 2pm CET. The full briefing, which appears at 9am CET, is only available to subscribers. Please click here for a free trial, and here for the Eurointelligence home page.

 

Recent News

  • December 02, 2019
  • Will pension reform protests spiral out of control?
  • Malta's PM resigns over murder case
  • April 24, 2019
  • May's final and biggest gamble
  • Will the EP be Brexit's great parliamentary beneficiary?
  • Can Loiseau fight the far right given her past?
  • September 12, 2018
  • It is easy to criticise Chequers but very hard to come up with an alternative
  • February 05, 2018
  • How big is Germany's external surplus, really?
  • Macron's first election test
  • Coeure's endorsement of a fiscal union
  • July 03, 2017
  • Can Greece exit its programme without a credit line?
  • The softening Brexit
  • Macron's state of the nation address
  • November 28, 2016
  • And now what Monsieur Fillion?
  • The inescapable logic of an interim agreement
  • On Germany's foreign policy post-Trump
  • How to lose against the populists
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • September 17, 2019
  • Beware of the diplomacy of humiliation
  • Germany’s climate hypocrisy
  • March 18, 2019
  • May's deal still on the table. Don't rule it out.
  • EPP decision on Fidesz still open
  • On the defeat of liberalism
  • September 21, 2018
  • SPD ministers want to continue grand coalition
  • March 28, 2018
  • The real reason for the sanctions against Russia
  • Wishful thinking: Brexit edition
  • Wishful thinking: Future of euro edition
  • Wishful thinking: Italy edition
  • October 02, 2017
  • Catalonia recalls EU and eurozone instability
  • French trade unions increase pressure over labour reforms
  • Watch out for a political accident in the UK
  • Municipal elections boost Portugal's Socialists
  • April 10, 2017
  • Nein, nein, nein, und nein
  • Sounds like a bad Brexit story, but ain’t
  • On how not to exit the euro
  • October 17, 2016
  • Ceta is dead for now
  • L’après-Hollande, c'est Hollande
  • SPD against Russia sanctions
  • Nissan to join customs union and other fanciful tales
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • January 24, 2020
  • Is Germany anti-semitic and racist?
  • Did the Greek financial crisis play a role in Brexit?
  • September 18, 2019
  • No doubt, this is a constitutional crisis
  • Macron's immigration bid
  • May 13, 2019
  • Brexit Party has already changed UK politics
  • Orbán visits Trump, after a very long wait
  • Le Pen's appeal to the PiS likely to fall on deaf ears
  • January 04, 2019
  • Will the AfD become the Dexit party?
  • Romania's corruption problem in the spotlight of its EU presidency
  • August 28, 2018
  • Urban politics and national crisis - the Irish case
  • How anti-semitism became one of the main issues in British politics
  • April 25, 2018
  • Macron's pitch to Trump
  • Montoro in Schleswig-Holstein
  • The old world and the new
  • December 22, 2017
  • Will Macron be the new de Gaulle?
  • 2018 through the looking glass
  • August 21, 2017
  • Soft, getting softer
  • Tsipras' chances of a boost
  • On the fallacy of a middle-ground option for the eurozone
  • April 20, 2017
  • Don’t bet on Trump turning globalist
  • A note on UK election polls
  • December 20, 2016
  • The politics of terror
  • On Lagarde
  • Is a disruptive Brexit possible?
  • August 22, 2016
  • Gold for Brexit
  • EU and Turkey talking past each other
  • Switzerland is the next migrant transit country
  • On the death of neoliberal economics
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • February 17, 2020
  • Security issues we should be discussing
  • Salvini has changed his mind on the euro - yet again
  • January 27, 2020
  • How the left lays the ground for Le Pen
  • Project Fear - Irish Edition
  • January 06, 2020
  • A decade that started with a bang
  • What to expect of Spain's next government
  • Divide et impera: Macron's pension reform strategy
  • December 13, 2019
  • EU climate disagreement overshadows budget
  • House of Representatives approves law to sanction NordStream 2
  • November 26, 2019
  • Disrupting and glueing: on Anglo-Saxon clichés about France and Germany
  • November 11, 2019
  • Grand coalition agrees to continue grand coalition
  • Can Greens and conservatives agree on priorities?
  • Germany - self-content and without energy
  • October 27, 2019
  • German political centre is melting
  • Train drivers in all-out confrontation with Macron
  • Erdogan makes threats again
  • October 14, 2019
  • What is Turkey's medium-term game?
  • Germany sabotages EIB climate change policies
  • September 30, 2019
  • A pyrrhic victory for Kurz
  • Will there really be UK elections?
  • September 17, 2019
  • Beware of the diplomacy of humiliation
  • Germany’s climate hypocrisy
  • September 05, 2019
  • Would Keynes be in favour of Brexit?
  • August 27, 2019
  • Remain’s narrowing pathway
  • Macron's diplomatic masterstroke
  • August 06, 2019
  • Macron's next bet: municipal elections
  • A victory for Salvini and his coalition
  • July 29, 2019
  • No-deal Brexit is no longer just a scenario
  • No German warships to the Strait of Hormuz
  • July 22, 2019
  • Will Johnson go for elections?
  • How will von der Leyen handle the east?
  • July 15, 2019
  • No queues in Berlin for von der Leyen’s succession
  • Mitsotakis moves fast with tax bill
  • The feel-good factor in the pre-Brexit days
  • July 09, 2019
  • What the UK polls are telling us - and what not
  • July 05, 2019
  • Why it is difficult to legislate against a no-deal Brexit
  • July 03, 2019
  • A bold but risky choice
  • What will the European Parliament do?
  • July 02, 2019
  • How not to choose
  • Why no-deal Brexit has emerged as a strong probability
  • July 01, 2019
  • The questions we will be asking tomorrow
  • What category of diplomatic accidents is Sea Watch 3?