This Week in Europe: Next Enlargement, Bulgarian Presidency

, by Radu Dumitrescu

This Week in Europe: Next Enlargement, Bulgarian Presidency

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 !

Anti-Russian propaganda bill in Moldova

After pro-Russian Moldovan president Dodon refused to sign the bill regarding new media regulations into law two times, the country’s Constitutional Court ruled that either the speaker of the parliament, Andrian Candu, or PM Pavel Filip, both members of the pro-Western Democratic Party of Moldova (PDM), could do it instead. On Wednesday, Speaker Candu did exactly that, appointing seven new government ministers along with a law that bans the rebroadcasting in Moldova of Russian television programs on news, analysis, politics, and military issues.

EU prepares for next enlargement

In a strategy paper that is to be adopted next month, the European Commission advances 2025 as the deadline for the next wave of enlargement of the Union. The primary candidates are Serbia, Albania, Bosnia, Macedonia and Kosovo. The date contradicts Jean-Claude Juncker’s 2014 statement that there will be no EU enlargement in the near future. As for the would-be new EU members, Serbia and Montenegro are already in accession talks, while Macedonia and Albania aim to start the same talks in 2018.

9-year low of unemployment in EU

With an unemployment rate of 7.3% at the end of 2017, the EU countries are seeing the fewest people out of work since October 2008. Moreover, at 8.7%, the eurozone has reached the lowest unemployment rate since January 2009, continuing a strong downward trend.

Dark start for the Bulgarian EU presidency

On New Year’s Eve night, 6 people from Novi Iskar were shot while celebrating. On January 8th, a businessman connected to the ruling GERB party was assassinated. On the 18th of December, a high-ranking tax officer was shot. All 3 events happened in capital of Bulgaria, Sofia. As authorities shrug helpless, the high-profile killings loom large on the country’s presidency of the Council.

At the same time, protesters from Sofia and 15 other cities in Bulgaria demanded a stop to corruption, this time regarding a decision to permit a ski resort and commercial logging in Pirin National Park. The protests, supported by a group of environmental NGOs, call for the resignation of the minister of environment and water, Neno Dimov. As EU officials arrive in Sofia for Bulgaria’s Council presidency, the large crowds of protesters give no sign of letting up.

Denmark and Greenland clean up US military waste

On Thursday, Greenland premier Kim Kielsen and Danish environment minister Esben Lunde Larsen decided on a €29 million deal to clean up abandoned US military Cold War-era installations in 680 locations across Greenland.

Hungarian and Polish NGOs ask for EU aid

Affected by new legislation that targets civil society groups that receive outside funding, forcing them to label themselves as “supported from abroad”, Polish and Hungarian NGOs have asked the EU to set up a fund meant to support organizations that protect European values in its member-states. The Helsinki Committee, which focuses on protecting the rights of asylum seekers and refugees in Hungary, is one such group. Current EU-financed projects are short-termed, making the survival of these NGOs a year-by-year survival period. On Monday, Hungarian PM Viktor Orban stated that the refugees coming to Europe should be regarded as “Muslim invaders that..take advantage of economic opportunities.”

Poland and U.K. reshuffle governments

In the U.K., PM Theresa May conducted an overhaul of her cabinet in order to demonstrate her authority after a disastrous performance at the Conservative Party’s annual conference in October and the subsequent resignation of three cabinet ministers., The changes left all the top ministers in place, including the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, and the chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Business Secretary Greg Clark. In December, Mrs. May’s de facto deputy, Damian Green stepped down after he was found to have misled the public about pornography found on his work computer.

In Poland, Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki dismissed several cabinet-level ministers that were openly against the EU. Still popular among voters, the ruling Law and Justice party has come under fire lately from the EC and other EU countries for its move to control the judiciary. Last month, the EU initiated a process that could end with stripping Warsaw of its voting rights in the EU institutions. Among those dismissed were defence minister Antoni Macierewicz, a veteran radical right-wing nationalist, the environment minister and the foreign minister.

European elections set for 23-26 May 2019

On Thursday, the European Parliament’s conference of presidents produced an agreement on the date of the next European elections, namely 23-26 May 2019. The next elections have a heightened importance due to the departure of the United Kingdom. French president Emmanuel Macron and others in Brussels want the 73 British seats to be allocated to a pan-EU list of candidates.

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