This Week in Europe: Elysee Treaty, Nutella riots and mummies

, by Radu Dumitrescu

This Week in Europe: Elysee Treaty, Nutella riots and mummies

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 !

New Elysee Treaty

To celebrate the 55th anniversary of the 1963 treaty, the French National Assembly and the German Bundestag simultaneously adopted a resolution calling for the strengthening of Franco-German relations. The resolution comes to confirm a meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in January 19th. At the same meeting the two suggested a “bilateral harmonisation” of the two countries’ legislation in the economical field, bringing together French and German civil societies through exchange and twinning programmes, an enhancement of their common work in the fields of foreign policy, defence and security and more.

Progress in Macedonian name dispute

As a first step to resolving the dispute between Greece and Macedonia over the latter’s national name, Macedonia committed to renaming the Alexander the Great Airport in Skopje. “We“We don’t want to just solve the issue of [Macedonia’s] name, but to put the relations of our two countries on solid foundations,” noted Macedonian PM Zoran Zaev after meeting with Greek PM Alexis Tsipras, whose country has blocked Macedonia’s NATO and EU bid for a decade due to the fact that its name implied a territorial claim to a Greek region. At the same time, the 25-year old dispute saw its latest protest last Sunday, when 90,000 Greeks took to the streets of Thessaloniki.

Ukraine aims new bill at separatists

After 4 years of constant and grueling conflict, Ukrainian authorities want to redefine the national policy toward its eastern separatist territories such as Donbas. The primary promoter of the new bill, which declares Russia as an aggressor and calls Luhansk and Donetsk “temporarily occupied territories”, thus shifting the focus from local elements to Russia directly, is Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. The new bill also expands presidential authority to conduct operations there, although commentators regard it as political posturing by Mr. Poroshenko ahead of the 2019 elections. On the other side, Russia condemns the new bill as a “preparation for war.”

France sees “Nutella riots”

On Thursday, one French supermarket chain slashed the price of the 33-ounce Nutella jars by 70%, leading to heated scenes between overly eager customers. In one store in Ostricourt, northern France, the police had to be called in order to deal with the disorder. The spread is a favorite in France, often used for topping croissants and baguettes. Ferrero, the producer, said that it had nothing to do with the promotion by the supermarket chain, Intermarché.

Brexit opens the door to pan-european lists

On Tuesday, the EP’s constitutional affairs committee decided to redistribute 27 out of the 73 seats currently occupied by British MEPs among the remaining 27 member states, starting with May 2019. The number of French MEPs will grow from 74 to 79, while Spanish MEPs will increase in number from 54 to 59. Italy and the Netherlands each gain three seats, going from 73 to 76 and 26 to 29 respectively. Ireland will increase its number of MEPs from to 11 to 13. Denmark, Estonia, Croatia, Austria, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Finland, and Sweden all have been allocated one additional seat. Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, Portugal, and Slovenia will keep the same number of MEPs as they have today. Germany already has the maximum number of MEPs allowed, 96.

The remaining 46 seats will remain empty, but can be used in future for MEPs from new member states. However, plans for pan-European lists, which would allow any European to vote for any European candidate, have also been initiated, following a statement of support by French president Emmanuel Macron. On Friday, the Visegrad Four (Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland) issued a common statement in disagreement with the establishment of transnational lists. The V4 countries also oppose the ’Spitzenkandidat’ system of the winning European political party’s main candidate becoming the EU Commission president.

New €6.7 billion aid to Greece

On Monday, Greece’s creditors unblocked €6.7 billion in aid in an effort to end the bailout program next summer. Eurozone finance ministers reached the agreement after the Greek authorities successfully adopted reforms to help new businesses, limit strikes and to reorganize the energy market. €5.7 billion will be disbursed in February to help Greece repay its debt (€3.3bn) and its arrears (€1.5bn), as well as to create a ’cash buffer’ (€1.9bn) for the post-programme period.

Scientists uncover a mummy related to Boris Johnson

The mummified body of a woman found in the Swiss city of Basel in 1975 has been identified as the great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother of U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Anna Catharina Bischoff, by her name, died in Basel in 1787 due to mercury poisoning, a common treatment for syphilis until the 19th century. Scientists compared her DNA with that of living descendants, revealing a 99.8% probability that the woman was from the same maternal line.

Zeman defeats pro-EU opponent for Czech Presidency

Incumbent Czech President Milos Zeman was re-elected with 51.37% of the votes, in an election that saw a turnout of almost 67%, defeating novice politician and vocal pro-EU candidate Jiri Drahos. Zeman has been in constant disagreement with the EU, refusing the migrant quotas or the sanctions against Russia. However, newly elected Czech PM Andrej Babis, recently charged with defrauding the EU, has reason to celebrate - Zeman promised to support Babis in forming his government.

Gianni Pittella to run for Italian Senate

The leader of the Socialists and Democrats in the EP, Gianni Pittella, announced on Saturday that he will be running in the Italian general elections at the invitation of former PM Matteo Renzi, leader of the Democratic Party. Pittella described his candidacy as “an act of duty and responsibility towards my party, towards Italy and towards Europe” meant to “prevent Italy from falling to right-wing, populist and xenophobic movements.”

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