This Week in Europe

New Polish PM, Austrian same-sex marriage and pro-Catalan march

, by Radu Dumitrescu

This Week in Europe

Members of the TNF team recount big events from Europe from the past week, and point attention to news that may have passed notice. What did we miss? Comment on our Facebook page at !

Schulz: United States of Europe by 2025

At the congress of the German social democrats (SPD), Martin Schulz, former president of the European Parliament and leader of the party, urged his colleagues to push for the creation of the United States of Europe by 2025. Schulz also argued that the SPD should enter into coalition talks with Angela Merkel’s CDU in order to form a grand coalition government. Earlier in the week, while at a business conference, Schulz also stated that the eurozone needed its own budget and finance minister.

Manuel Marin, founder of Erasmus, dies at 68

Manuel Marin, a Spanish Social-Democrat, is best known for launching the Erasmus student exchange programme from his position as EU commissioner. In total, Marin was commissioner three times and interim Commission president for six months.

Agreement reached on Irish border in Brexit talks

In Brexit negotiations, progress was made on the question of the Irish border. Guarantees were made that there will be no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Interestingly, Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom would be in the same position in terms of regulation, which suggests ‘regulatory alignment’ between the EU and the UK as a whole.

The agreement can be expected to secure “sufficient progress” on the question, so that trade talks can proceed after the December European Council meeting. However, discussions on the precise border arrangement will have to continue, and the unstable domestic political situation within the UK and Northern Ireland may still bring complications with it.

Greenpeace leaks EU-Mercosur treaty; Japan-EU trade deal

On Wednesday, Greenpeace published 171 pages of classified documents relating to the future EU-Mercosur trade agreement. According to the revelations, the Latin American bloc would export additional goods, laying pressure on Europe’s farmers. However, the published papers date back from July, so their actuality remains debatable.

On Friday, the EU Commission announced that an agreement has been reached with regard to the EU-Japan trade deal. While the deal does not cover investment protection, it does create an economic zone of 30% of the world’s GDP.

Austria legalizes same sex marriage

On Tuesday, Austria’s Constitutional Court ruled that same-sex couples can marry beginning in 2019. Existing laws, as the Court saw it, layed grounds for discrimination. Despite obtaining the right to registered partnerships since 2010, thus obtaining the same rights within a marriage, Austrian gay couples were so far unable to marry.

EU blacklists 17 tax havens

In an attempt to “increase the transparency of the global tax environment”, the EU has created two lists - one of 17 tax havens and one of 44 countries that will have to take measures against tax avoidance. American Samoa, Bahrain, Barbados, Grenada, Guam, Korea, Macao the Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Namibia, Palau, Panama, Santa Lucia, Samoa Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, and United Arab Emirates. The second list includes countries like EU candidates Turkey, Serbia and Montenegro, as well as Switzerland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Morocco, Thailand, Vietnam and Hong Kong. The lists, however, do not include sanctions.

Pro-Catalan march in Brussels

On Thursday, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont led 45,000 on the streets of Brussels. Addressing the crowds and the EU Commission, Puigdemont pleaded for Europe to “play a role in the Catalan crisis.” Having previously fled to Brussels in order to escape the Spanish justice system, the Catalan leader intends to run in the upcoming regional elections. In front of the demonstration in Brussels, Puigdemont asked “is there any place in the world that holds demonstrations like this to support ’criminals’?" The Belgian judge in charge of the case will decide on 14 December whether to extradite former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont.

Czech Republic and Hungary defy the EU on Jerusalem

On Wednesday, Hungary blocked a statement that was to issued in the name of all 28 member states of the Union and which was meant to condemn US president Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Czech Republic later issued its own statement, recognizing Jerusalem to be “in practice the capital of Israel.” In response, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, stated that Trump’s decision has “the potential to bring us back to even darker times than the ones we’re already living in”.

Poland tags in EU-friendly PM

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) announced the replacing of Beata Szydlo, who had become the face of the party’s judicial reform and migrant relocation, with Mateusz Morawiecki. Polish media reports that the change was made on the order of party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is said to suffer from poor health. The 49-year old Morawiecki previously worked for Santander and was economic adviser to a center-right opposition party. He also speaks fluent English and German, is well regarded by EU officials, led a crackdown on tax evasion in Poland and channelled extra funds into welfare.

King Michael of Romania dies at 96

Born in 1921, Michael first became king at the age of 6. After giving up the throne to his father until 1940, Michael was again removed from power by strongman general Ion Antonescu. In 1944, the king took back the throne, arrested Antonescu and officially renounced the alliance with the Axis. In 1947, communist leaders forced Michael to abdicate and leave Romania. Only in 1997 did the Romanian government decide to return Romanian citizenship to the ex-king. He remained, however, immensely popular with the people.

Former Georgian president arrested by Ukrainian Police

Mikheil Saakashvili, former Georgian president and part of the Ukrainian opposition since the 2014 pro-Western revolution, was arrested on Tuesday after a police raid. However, he was shortly freed by his supporters. After clashing with police, people marched downtown Kiev to the parliament, shouting “revolution!” Saakashvili, who then led the people on from a roof, was detained for “assisting members of a criminal organization and covering up their criminal activities”, according to the Ukrainian security service.

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