THIS WEEK IN EUROPE: Catalonia ruled by the central government and more

, by Juuso Järviniemi, Radu Dumitrescu, Věra Dvořáková

THIS WEEK IN EUROPE: Catalonia ruled by the central government 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 !

Italian regions seek autonomy

Veneto and Lombardy, representing 30% of Italy’s total economic output, have voted for greater autonomy from Rome. However, neither region seeks total independence from Italy, wanting instead increased powers in tax matters. As opposed to Catalonia, Italy’s constitution does not ban such referenda. In an interview to newspaper based in Rome, European Parliament president Antonio Tajani confirmed the legality of the process.

EU social security number and European Minister of Economy

The Commission intends to publish a legislative proposal regarding a European Social Security Number and a European Labour Authority by July 2018. Before the end of the year, however, another major proposal will come in the form of the “creation of a permanent European Minister of Economy and Finance who is democratically accountable”. The proposal is concurrent with the announced transformation of the European Stability Mechanism into a “European Monetary Fund”.

EU to reduce national veto powers

Among the Commission’s two dozen new proposals that are to be moved forward before next summer there is one that would prevent EU states from using veto powers to block legislation in areas that demand unanimous agreement. Instead, issues such as taxation would be decided by a qualified majority voting. Although the matter will be proposed next year, the present launch date is 2025.

Turkey releases European rights activists

Eight human rights activists were released on bail by a Turkish court on Wednesday, among them Idil Eser, the director of Amnesty International in Turkey, as well as Peter Steudtner, a German national, and Ali Gharavi, a Swede. They were all detained last summer on allegations that included aiding the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Global wine production lowest in 50 years

According to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, extreme weather in Italy, France and Spain, the world’s top three producers of wine, the total world output of wine is projected to fall, raising prices and damaging small producers. Italian wine production will fall 23% to 39.3 million hectoliters, France’s output will slump by 19% to 36.7 million hectoliters and Spain will experience a 15% drop, bringing its wine production to 33.5 million hectoliters.

Posting workers limited to 12 months

The issue of posted workers – which divided the EU from West to East – was settled by EU employment ministers after nearly 12 hours of talks. The duration in which posted workers can reside within a country has been limited to 12 months, with a possible extension of 6 months. French president Emmanuel Macron praised the deal as an “ambitious agreement.”

Government debt down in the Eurozone

The EA19 saw a drop in its government debt, which reached 89.1%, compared to 89.2% in 2017. Although the drop is small, it represents a reversal in government spending in the Eurozone. The government debt to GDP ratio thus fell to 89.1% from 90.8%. The same reduction in debt can be seen in the EU28.

Change-up in Visegrad

With the newly-elected Andrej Babis in the Czech Republic and the victory of Sebastian Kurz in Austria, the Visegrad 4 is bound to reshape its stances. The Austrian government of Kurz will likely include the far-right FPO, which is openly advocating for Austria to join the Visegrad Group, and who will further promote limitations on EU integration and immigration. While the other partner states distance themselves from the EU, Slovakia’s PM, president and parliament speaker pledged to remain firmly on a pro-European path.

Catalonia ruled by the central government; pro-unity demonstration

The central government took control over the region of Catalonia after the Catalan parliament declared independence on Friday. The regional government as well as the Catalan president Carles Puidgemont were removed from their posts and the head of local police force was fired. Puigdemont then called to peaceful resistance. The Spanish minister of foreign affairs confirmed that the former Catalan president could run for re-election in December if not arrested until then. In reaction to the takeover, hundreds of thousands people then joined a pro-unity demonstration in Barcelona.

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