This Week in Europe: Juncker doubts Romania, ECB predicts global decline in 2019, and more

, by Juuso Järviniemi, Pascal Letendre-Hanns

This Week in Europe: Juncker doubts Romania, ECB predicts global decline in 2019, 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 !

“Fifty-fifty” chance of no Brexit on 29 March

The British trade minister Liam Fox, a prominent Brexit supporter, has said that there is a “fifty-fifty” chance of Brexit not happening on 29 March if the UK Parliament rejects Theresa May’s deal in January. At the same time, The Guardian reports that MPs from both the Conservatives and Labour are discussing an extension of Article 50 by several months in the event that the deal is voted down. The UK Parliament is believed to vote on the Brexit deal on the week starting on 14 January, with a large majority of MPs hostile to the deal.

Juncker doubts Romania’s ability to take on EU presidency

Romania is to take on the presidency of the EU Council in January, as Austria’s six-month term finishes at the end of the year. In an interview, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker questioned the Romanian government’s “willingness to listen to others and the firm will to put one’s own concerns at the end of the queue”. According to Juncker, at a technical level the country is prepared for its task, but with the government embroiled in corruption scandals, there are fears that the government is too disunited.

Commissioner Oettinger condemns Macron’s budget plan

Günther Oettinger, the European Commissioner for budget and human resources, said that French President Emmanuel Macron had “lost authority” because his draft for the next French budget would involve a 3.2% budget deficit. The upper limit for deficit as defined in EU rules is 3%. However, Oettinger said that the EU will accept France’s exceeding the limit “as a one-time exception”. Over the past few weeks, the ‘gilets jaunes’ protests have criticised Macron for his plans to impose budgetary discipline.

World economy will decline in 2019, says European Central Bank

EurActiv reports that the European Central Bank is predicting a decline in the global economy in 2019. After next year, the world economy is predicted to remain stable. The predicted decline is reported to be mainly due to disagreements between the United States and China, and the volatility of the American economy.

Russia refuses to release Ukrainian sailors

Despite France and Germany’s request, Russia has refused to release the 24 Ukrainian sailors who have been detained in Russia since the Kerch Strait Incident in November. In a joint statement, Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron denounced Russia’s “human rights violation”, demanding an immediate and unconditional release of the Ukrainians. Russia dismissed the demands as “unacceptable”.

Tens of thousands protest against Serbian government in Belgrade

In Belgrade on Saturday, up to 50,000 demonstrated against Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, criticised for curtailing media freedom and for corruption. The event was a part of a weekly opposition protest, catalysed by a physical assault on opposition politician Borko Stefanović in November. Prime Minister Vučić had earlier said that he would not change tack even if five million of Serbia’s seven million citizens went to the streets to protest.

Hungarian hero’s statue removed from Martyr’s Square

A memorial to Imre Nagy, who led Hungary during the 1956 revolution against the Soviet regime, has been removed from Martyr’s Square, an important location near the Hungarian Parliament. The government is pushing ahead with plans to rebuild the square and so the statue is being taken down for restoration and being moved to another square. The Imre Nagy statue will be replaced with a memorial to victims of the 1919 Red Terror. Imre Nagy is an important symbol for the struggle for democracy in Hungary and many have criticised the decision to ‘demote’ his statue.

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