This Week in Europe : Valls, Sweden and more

, par Pascal Letendre-Hanns, Radu Dumitrescu

This Week in Europe : Valls, Sweden and more

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 !

Former French PM runs for mayor of Barcelona

On Tuesday, Manuel Valls, former French prime minister between 2014 and 2016 under president Hollande, announced his candidacy for the position of mayor of the city of Barcelona, in Spain.Valls was born in Barcelona but grew up in France and is a French citizen. He now plans to run as an independent against the current Podemos-backed left-wing Ada Colau in 2019. No other former head of government in the European Union has run for office in a different country. The former PM is targeting both unionists and separatists. The pro-unity, liberal Ciudadanos party declared its support for Valls. “No one better to defeat separatism and populism at the ballot box. It’s great news for our city, for Spain and for Europe,” said Albert Rivera, leader of Ciudadanos. Last year, Valls issued a serious condemnation of the separatist movement in Catalonia, and became famous on Spanish TV shows due to his work with pro-unity groups. The current mayor, Ada Colau, started attacking Valls before his bid for mayor, portraying him as a right-wing reactionary.

Square in Brussels named after Jo Cox

On Thursday, a square in Brussels was renamed after the murdered British MP Jo Cox, who also worked at the European Parliament in the past. The ceremony was attended by Cox’s parents and her sister, Kim Leadbeater, who said that Jo loved Brussels, where she lived for 6 years. Also present at the square were the mayor of Brussels, Philippe Close, and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Jo Cox was killed in 2016 by a right-wing extremist in West Yorkshire.

Court rules in favour of secret expenses

On Tuesday the General Court of the European Court of Justice ruled that MEPs were not obliged to reveal how they spent their expenses allowances. In total, these allowances amount to more than €100 million per year. The case came about after journalists asked the court to rule on whether MEPs, who had already refused to hand over this information, were allowed to keep these expenses secret. While the case tried to argue that the information was inherently public and had to be made available, the court ruled that it was still essentially personal information, regardless of the MEPs public profiles. Transparency campaigners, as well as pro-Europe activists, have been disappointed by both this ruling and the actions of MEPs on this issue, saying that it played into the hands of eurosceptics and populists.

Erdogan in controversial state visit to Germany

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Germany this week as part of attempts to heal over divisions between Turkey and Germany that have grown recently. The attempt has had mixed success, however, as Erdogan’s visit has highlighted the clashes between his supporters and critics. At the opening of a mosque in Cologne, for example, plans to allow up to 25,000 people to attend the event and see President Erdogan had to be cancelled over public safety concerns. Erdogan’s German critics were also angered when it was reported that he accused Germany of harbouring terrorists during a state banquet on Friday night. Such statements are often targeted at critics of Erdogan’s regime, such as Gulenists, rather than actual terrorists. The German newspaper, Bild, condemned the remarks as “hate speech”.

Swedish Social Democrats ousted from power

On Tuesday, a bid to oust PM Stefan Löfven and the governing Social Democrats by the center-right Alliance was successful due to the help of the far-right Sweden Democrats. In total, 204 MPs voted against Löfven’s government, while only 142 voted in favor. A new government must now be formed. In the elections earlier this month, the center-left Social Democrats and the center-right Alliance were separated by only one seat. In the third place, the far-right assumed the role of king-maker. So far, the Alliance refused to form government with the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, but a new compromise might be in the making. Without the help of the far-right, a center-right government would be as fragile as its predecessor.

Commission takes Poland to court over Supreme Court law

On Monday, the European Commission released a statement saying that it had referred Poland to the European Court of Justice “due to the violations of the principle of judicial independence created by the new Polish Law on the Supreme Court”. The law would force 27 of Supreme Court judges into early retirement, including the head of the Court. If Poland doesn’t change the law, it could face fines for non-compliance. Back in July, the Commission issued a warning to Poland on the same law - which reduces the retirement age from 70 to 65 years - but its author, president Andrzej Duda, refused to back down. “The Commission wants judges included in the new law on the Polish Supreme Court to continue to exercise their judicial functions, even if they have already retired,” Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva told reporters in Brussels.

European markets negative after Italy budget

European markets saw sharp falls after the Italian government revealed its plan to increase the country’s budget deficit in 2019. Though the 2.4% target will still be within the official limit of 3% under EU rules, it will heighten existing concerns that the government is not serious about reducing Italy’s overall government debt, which stands at 130% of GDP. Italy’s government plans to push ahead with a minimum income for the unemployed alongside more generous pensions and the repeal of planned VAT increases. Shortly after the plan was announced, stocks fell in Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the UK. Fears that this issue could lead to conflict with EU institutions, that the Italian government is itself unstable and that any economic problems in Italy could rapidly spread to other European countries have also put markets on edge.

Germany to host Euro 2024

Germany has been chosen by UEFA over Turkey to host the European Championship in 2024. Last time that the country hosted a major men’s football championship was in 2006, during the World Cup. UEFA judged that Germany successfully fulfilled every requirement they had. The announcement was made just ahead of the visit of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Germany on Thursday, and it was met with celebrations from German politicians and officials.

EU and Canada add climate clause to trade deal

On Wednesday, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom and Canadian minister Jim Carr adopted an update to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which entered into force last year. Both EU and Canada are to “promote the mutual supportiveness of trade and climate policies” such as the Paris Agreement. The upgraded environmental cooperation mark the isolation experienced by the United States under the Trump administration, which declared its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and came shortly after French president Emmanuel Macron said in his UN speech that countries rejecting the Paris accord should not benefit from economy-wide commercial deals.”We are asking a lot of efforts from our farmers, our industries,” said Macron. “If you opened your market to products coming from a country that decided not to accept the same [low-carbon] constraints, it would be totally crazy.”

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