It has been a slow legal news week in the EU, but there have been plenty of relevant political stories to keep you interested. This week the ELB applies Euroscepticism to a wider audience — are there other Member States that feel the same way? Also included is a summary of the riots in Sweden, an update on the olive oil regulation that caused outcry last week and a special profile on Angela Merkel.
Euroscepticism: Which other Member States are like the UK?
Summary of the Euractiv Report
The last few weeks have been quite stressful for David Cameron on the annoying issue of EU membership. As reported last week, it is suspected that his support within the party is declining after an amendment to his legislative agenda was tabled and gained considerable, though not majority, support in the House of Commons. This week Lord Howe, a prominent Conservative cabinet minister under Margaret Thatcher and supporter of the EU, told The Observer that Cameron was ‘losing control’ and that he had ‘allowed deep anti-Europeanism to infect the very soul of the party’.
For us, it is the same news that we’ve been hearing for years; there’s even a TV report by the European Parliament on British Euroscepticism. But what about other Member States? Sometimes it can seem that the EU is just a big Contintental party that the UK refuses to take part in, preferring to sit in the corner and sulk. However, this not the case. In an excellent report by Euractiv, we can see that there are plenty of other Member States that have a bone to pick with the European institutions. Here’s a summary of their findings:
- Denmark: The UK and Denmark were recently labelled ‘probably the most Eurosceptic of nations’. The Danish European affairs minister has stated that he does not intend to debate the issue of European membership, as we have in the UK. His reasoning is that the EU is in too much ‘turmoil’ at the moment for an effective referendum to take place. Much like the UK, Denmark has opted out of measures in the field of security and justice and does not use the euro. It is said that in Denmark scepticism is mainly found amongst the public, not in the government, with only 22 per cent of people saying that they wanted to adopt the euro when polled in October 2012, down from 41 per cent in February 2012. Also like the UK, Denmark votes sceptic parties into the European Parliament. Their reasoning is also something we have heard before: fear of losing sovereign independence to Brussels.
- France: One half of the economic power couple and founding country of the EU, France has a growing atmosphere of scepticism thanks to the rise of the far right party, the National Front, led recently by Marine Le Pen, known the world over for her outspokenness. Like the UK and Denmark, there is a section of the public that fears the loss of independence to Brussels. However, Euractiv argue that the real point of contention is the detachment and indifference to the euro.
- Greece: It is no surprise that Greece is on the list after their troubled economic history. Riots and protests are not uncommon in response to crippling austerity measures that are linked to EU orders. It is not easy to simply ignore the Greek scepticism considering the increasing strength of the far right, Neo-Nazi ‘Golden Dawn’ party in the country. A fortnight ago, the Greek parliamentary session was interrupted by a Golden Dawn MP insulting members of the left by using derogatory language, and they were ejected from Parliament. As he left, cries of ‘Heil Hitler’ began. Last week, a Golden Dawn MP declared that the public should ‘kill bankers, not themselves’ at a time when suicides are not uncommon. Support for this anti-EU party has risen to 14 per cent in recent months, making it Greece’s third largest political party.
- Germany: The Open Europe group have been reporting on the rise of the Alternative for Germany party for many months. The rise in support for this party has been seen as a serious setback for European support considering its source in the most powerful political and economic Member State. It has been described as ‘one of the worst nightmares for many in Europe’, with a worrying amount of voters willing to consider voting for an anti-euro party (15 per cent of the Social Democrat party and 27 per cent of the Green party). The party has also been labeled a problem for Angela Merkel, as her centre-right party is now facing opposition from within its own right-wing ranks.
Riots in Sweden
Pyromania grips Stockholm
Sweden has experienced rioting in its capital, Stockholm, and its surrounding suburbs last week in what many have seen as a response to inequality. The riots began last Sunday and are believed to have been sparked when the police shot a 69-year-old Portuguese man in the town of Husby, north-west of Stockholm, which has an 80 per cent immigrant population. The man was believed to be wielding a machete and the police were concerned that a female inhabitant was in danger in his apartment.
As a result of the incident, a group of people set fire to around 100 cars in the area. The riots have since spread to other suburbs that have large immigrant populations and have escalated over the week, including the setting alight of two schools. It is reported that the riots are a response to growing unemployment and the increasing gap between rich and poor — an increase which is the biggest of any developed country in the last 25 years. After a week, many more police were sent to take control of the situation, with conflicting reports over how violent they were being in their tactics.
Olive oil saga: (E)U-turn
Ban reversed after ridicule
As reported last week, the EU had planned to ban the use of reusable olive oil bottles as part of their large action plan for improving the olive oil industry and in turn improving the struggling oil producing economies of Spain, Italy and Greece. The aim was to achieve quality control across supplies of EU-sourced olive oil as it is a large target of food fraud. The plans caused outcry amongst those who believed the EU was wasting their time on such things. In response, the Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos said that he would withdraw the plans, though he defended the idea as preventing customers being mislead being served cheap or old olive oil in new bottles.
Continental news round-up
As previously mentioned in ELB#6, Britain and France have been in favour of lifting the arms embargo against the fighting rebels in Syria in order to arm the moderate opponents against the country’s oppressive regime. The EU agreed to lift the ban this week. However, there is no immediate decision to send arms to Syria as talks continue to be held in Brussels over the matter.
The Croatian President has expressed his desire for Britain to stay in the EU. President Ivo Josipovic believes the UK should stay in and change Europe from the inside, whilst also emphasising the importance of the UK economy to the EU. Croatia is set to become a Member State on July 1.
In a similar vein, Mario ‘Super Mario’ Draghi has also expressed his willingness for the UK to stay in the EU. The President of the European Central Bank and one of the EU’s most respected figures, Draghi said that the UK needs to be ‘more European’ and it would be devastating for the institution of the EU if the UK leaves.
Iceland’s new government have suggested a referendum be held in the country in order to decide whether they should join the EU. Iceland applied to become a member in 2009, but it was soon plunged into a financial crisis that saw its main banks fail. Since then it has made quite a startling recovery. Polls suggest the Icelandic public are against membership.
UKIP MEPs have done some good this week by ordering the suspension of an Italian MEP from the European Parliament, who began a racist tirade against Italy’s new integration minister, Congolese-born Cecile Kyenge.
Tweet of the week
This week’s tweet from Martin Schulz (@MartinSchulz) is puzzling for two reasons: first, WHAT WAS THE PREVIOUS TWEET?! No one knows! Second, it’s the President of the European Parliament using a smiley face:
Previous tweet was clearly an accident – apologise everybody. But I’m glad that it made you laugh :- )
What the deal with… Angela Merkel?
ELB knows you all enjoyed learning about the leaders of the European institutions, but now it’s time to learn about the key political figures. What better place to start, of course, than the stony-faced German powerhouse that is Angela Merkel?
Nationality: German, born in Hamburg
Education: Degree and doctorate in physics from University of Leipzig
Notable previous occupation: Despite the degree, she was a chemistry researcher at a science academy in Berlin
Political career journey:
- joined the democracy movement in time for the fall of the Berlin Wall
- became a spokesperson for the pre-unification caretaker government
- upon reunification she joined the Christian Democrat Party in 1990
- elected to the Bundestag and became the Minister for Women and Youth
- moved to Minister for the Environment and Nuclear Safety
- became leader of the party in 2000 and chancellor in 2005.
Key moments: Leading Germany to be the savior of Europe that it is today; during 2009, when the economic crisis was hitting, her approval ratings were maintained at an impressive 60 per cent
Fun fact: Apparently she is known to dislike dogs, and George W Bush tried to give her a back massage at the 2008 G8 Summit, only to be shooed away
Awards: Forbes’ #1 most powerful woman 2013; Forbes’ #2 most powerful person 2013.
The ELB is written by Associate Editor of TSL, Natalie Hearn. Law Graduate from the University of Birmingham, prospective EU Law Masters student at UCL, currently teaching English in Japan. Follow her on Twitter: @ninjahearn