This Week in Europe: German minister speaks for EU army, Bosnian Pride parade announced and more

, by Juuso Järviniemi, Pascal Letendre-Hanns

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English]

This Week in Europe: German minister speaks for EU army, Bosnian Pride parade announced and more
Image by Samuel Mork Bednarz.

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 http://facebook.com/thenewfederalist.eu !

German justice minister speaks in favour of EU army

The German justice minister Katarina Barley, who leads the European election campaign of the country’s Social Democrats, spoke in favour of greater EU military cooperation in an interview with Politico Europe. For Barley, it is essential that EU forces be under parliamentary control, which “would require a proper defence committee in the European Parliament”. Among other institutions Barley supports is an EU military headquarters. She said that “a common European army would be the ultimate step to ensure that Europeans never wage wars against each other again”.

Bosnia to get its first Pride parade in history

This week, human rights groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina announced that the first-ever Pride parade in the country’s history will be held in Sarajevo in September. Balkan Insight reports that Pride events have not taken place in the country before due to security concerns, but that attitudes are becoming more tolerant in the country where homosexuality remained illegal until 1998. The BBC reports on hateful comments the march attracted on social media, and on the few reactions from politicians. According to the BBC, various embassies based in Bosnia and Herzegovina welcomed the Pride announcement.

NATO celebrates its 70th anniversary

NATO, the Euro-Atlantic military alliance, celebrated its 70th anniversary since its founding on 4 April 1949. Foreign Ministers of NATO member states met in Washington, D.C. to mark the occasion. The alliance is going through a turbulent time, as the United States is growing increasingly resentful over the European level of military investment, and US President Donald Trump has questioned the country’s commitment to the alliance’s mutual defence clause.

France has Europe’s highest prison suicide rate, report says

According to a Council of Europe study, inmates in France have the highest suicide rate in Europe, EUObserver reports. The report, however, highlights that some countries did not respond to the questionnaire, and that the method of data collection differ across countries. According to the report, 12.6 in 10,000 French prison inmates committed suicide. France also has the highest number of jailbreaks, with 611 people escaping French prisons in 2017. In Germany, 394 people escaped, while Switzerland came third with its 176 escapes.

Italy’s economic growth set to slow further

In a sign of the deteriorating state of the Italian economy under the populist government, expected GDP growth for the year may be revised even lower than the already unimpressive current estimate of 0.2%. The Commission has stated that this may mean certain spending plans will have to be frozen to ensure Italy does not break Eurozone deficit rules. When the Commission and Italy first clashed over spending plans, an agreement was reached that 2 billion euros worth of spending would be earmarked, to be frozen in case the economic situation worsened. Now the Commission is indicating that this condition may need to be put into action. This request would likely generate further conflicts with the populist duo of Lega and M5S who currently govern the country. That said, it remains unlikely that the Italian government would decide to deliberately flaunt European rules, instead looking for a fight purely to generate favourable domestic headlines.

Theresa May’s request for Brexit extension generates mixed response

This week, UK Prime Minister Theresa May sent a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk requesting for the Article 50 negotiating period to be extended to 30th June. Although the UK and EU concluded formal negotiations at the end of 2018, the Withdrawal Agreement has been repeatedly rejected by the UK Parliament. Though support has increased over time, it has still fallen short of a majority among MPs and parliamentary rules mean it is becoming harder for the UK government to keep on presenting its deal and asking MPs to vote again. Therefore to avoid the UK crashing out without a deal on 12 April, the government decided to ask for an extension. This letter has had only a lukewarm response among the EU27. Although Tusk himself and the German and Irish governments are keen to get an extension and avoid a no-deal scenario, other countries like France and the Netherlands are more sceptical about what such an extension could achieve if the UK government has no credible plan to break the domestic political deadlock. The EU27’s response will be decided in an emergency meeting of the European Council on Wednesday. TNF has also made a separate roundup of the many unusual events in British politics, from naked protesters to water leaks.

Germans take to the streets to protest rising rents

On Saturday, Berlin and other major German cities saw thousands of people come out to demonstrate against a trend of rapidly rising rents and a lack of housing. The protesters have been mobilised around a petition calling for the largest private landlord company to have its holdings turned over to social housing. A large proportion of Germany’s population chooses to rent and Berlin is known as having some of the lowest rents among Western European capitals, lagging far behind the prices commonly seen in Paris or London. Protesters are hoping that their actions will serve to scare off investors and keep prices low.

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