This Week in Europe: European Renaissance, Women’s Day demonstrations and more

, by Juuso Järviniemi, Pascal Letendre-Hanns

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

This Week in Europe: European Renaissance, Women's Day demonstrations 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 !

Macron calls for ‘European Renaissance’...

This week, French President Macron launched his European campaign ahead of the European Parliament elections at the end of May. Macron’s intervention was unprecedented in nature, targeted directly at European citizens across the EU with an article that was published in a variety of different newspapers and translated into all the official languages of the EU. In his piece, Macron described the need for major change in Europe and the threat of rising nationalism. Among the specific ideas proposed was a call for the creation of a ‘European agency for the protection of democracies’, a European minimum wage, drastic cuts to carbon emissions, a common border police and asylum policy for the Schengen zone and a European ‘Security Council’ (which would aim to include the UK). Beyond these specific measures Macron also put forward the idea of a general consultation, to get input from citizen panels and civil society groups on what reforms Europe needed to bring forwards. Notably, he was open to including ideas that would require a revision of the treaties - a subject that has been taboo over the last decade.

… And AKK answers

In response to Macron’s campaign launch, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer - the head of the CDU and favourite to succeed Merkel as German Chancellor - has outlined her own ideas in a piece entitled ‘Getting Europe Right’. On a number of measures, “AKK” set out her disagreements with Macron, especially concerning measures that would lead to the Europeanisation of the social security system (such as through a European minimum wage). In other areas, however, the German party leader is more supportive, for example in the case of measures to protect the environment, the deepening of the Single Market for banks, and the expansion of Europe’s role in defence. Finally, Kramp-Karrenbauer also suggested scrapping the European Parliament seat in Strasbourg, a measure that would be broadly popular in the EU (and among MEPs themselves) but could test the French commitment to Europe.

Massive demonstrations in Spain for International Women’s Day

On International Women’s Day this week, hundreds of thousands of women in Spain came out to protest against the slow pace of change towards gender equality. Government estimates suggested that there were around 360,000 demonstrators in Madrid, 220,000 in Valencia and 200,000 in Barcelona. Alongside the protests, female workers and students also organised strikes and temporary work stoppages. The massive feminist mobilisation comes in the context of debates in Spain on issues such as the right to abortion, fuelled by the rise of the far-right Vox and the rightward lurch of the Partido Popular (PP). The current PP leader, Pablo Casado, has openly criticised ‘leftist feminism’, a position that has helped contribute to this backlash from Spain’s women.

60 countries’ nationals will need to register to visit Schengen from 2021

This week, especially American news media reported on the upcoming European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), to be put in place on 1 January 2021. The system, which is to apply to nationals of 60 countries, requires people travelling to the Schengen Area to register online and obtain travel authorisation before visiting, in a similar vein to the ESTA authorisation required before visiting the United States. The ETIAS authorisation costs 7 euros, and the authorisation enables the individual to visit the Schengen Area unlimited times for three years. The system, announced by the European Commission in July last year, applies to nationals of countries including the United States, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Singapore and Israel.

European Greens launch election campaign

On Wednesday, the European Greens’ lead candidates Ska Keller and Bas Eickhout presented the party’s manifesto for the European elections. The manifesto highlights the fight against climate change, as well as human rights themes such as stopping arms exports to dictators. The two lead candidates warned the centre-right European People’s Party against turning to the right, and said that if the EPP doesn’t take a more progressive stance, the Greens cannot ally with them in the European Parliament.

Finnish government resigns ahead of elections

On Friday, the Finnish government resigned after failing to deliver healthcare reforms. Supporters argue the reforms are needed to ensure that long-term costs of the Nordic social security model can be kept under control, but the changes remain controversial. Critics said the expected savings from the new measures were unrealistic and the Finnish Parliament’s constitutional committee determined that the proposal would need to be overhauled or else it would be unconstitutional. With only a month to go before the next scheduled parliamentary elections, the government decided that there would not be enough time to make the necessary adjustments and so had to admit that it would not be able to see through its plan. The resignation will not affect the date of the elections but result in negative political consequences for the governing coalition of the Centre and the National Coalition Party.

Orbán floats leaving EPP to team up with Polish PiS

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s nationalist Fidesz party is set to face a vote on expulsion from the centre-right European People’s Party on 20 March. With high-profile leaders such as Jean-Claude Juncker and Manfred Weber putting increasing pressure on Orbán, the Hungarian premier on Friday said that Fidesz may leave the party to team up with Poland’s conservative PiS in the European Parliament. However, Orbán would still be willing to stay in the party to shape it from the inside. On Tuesday, the EPP’s lead candidate in the European elections, Manfred Weber, demanded Orbán to stop his anti-Brussels information campaigns “immediately and permanently”.

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