1. Story of the Week
Whilst EU member state leaders trample over each other to select those that will hold the top jobs in the next five years, another leadership context has captivated the EU crowd. The leadership vacuum in the UK Conservative Party since Theresa May’s resignation has been the subject of curious voyeurism by Brexit watchers in recent weeks. The contest has seen ten candidates reduced to just two. One is the current Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt and the other is the former Foreign Secretary and former Mayor of London, none other than Boris Johnson. The thing that unites these two candidates aside from immense privilege (both went to OxfordUniversity and Hunt is related to the Queen) is a commitment to leaving the EU on the 31 October and their fervour for the latter is what has made them successful in the process. However, the do or die attitude is one that Boris Johnson is pushing to the limit and should he succeed, as most polls suggest, it may be a bluff too difficult to not call.
Why it matters
Leadership races of parties in member states are not supposed to elicit media interest on an EU level. In fact, the EU was created in part to obviate the petty national politics of individual states. Brexit changes everything. Although elected by 0.3 % of the population the nominee will automatically become Prime Minister and their first and only order of business will be Brexit. However, the winner, (and that winner being Boris) will want to take advantage of his neophile premiership and cement his mandate for whatever comes next. Cue a general election in the UK and a renewed jingoism in the Brexiteer camp after a Brexit party win in the European elections means that the Tories will go gung ho to regain the faith of the Leave electorate whilst pushing the Remain camp completely off its ranks. The EU will have to watch from afar but take heed on the political reality from the UK and make appropriate moves to counter them.
Expect a hellish summer of political upheaval in Westminster. And, if the jobs situation isn’t solved (amicably) between EU member states, the chaos on the EU side and the August holiday lull may set the scene all the way to the Haloween Brexit date. On the EU side, there may be a preference for a position of mercilessness towards the UK given the fatigue induced by this one member state on the zeitgeist of the Union. However, the opportunity to be the adult in the room should not be taken lightly by the new Commission and Parliament who may be more in tune with Emmanuel Macron’s form of European populism than a realpolitik game played to a T thus far by Michel Barnier et al. No deal Brexit is too extreme to be entertained let alone accepted by the EU. But this needs to be balanced with the danger of playing the game of an officially illiberal member state that is leaving that could tempt other illiberal member state governments, (see Hungary, Poland and now Italy) to run amok and emboldened to make the EU play to its fiddle.
2. Tweets of the Week
3. Numbers of the Week
The amount in millions of euros that the EU will give to Tunisia in a so-called Macro-Financial Assistance. MFA’s are funds that the EU has designated to countries in its neighborhood intended as disbursements for crisis zones. The funds given to Tunisia will be one of the various disbursements, the most recent of which was 100 million to Jordan added to the 500 million given to Ukraine in November last year. The EU is making it rain on its neighbourhood so that the milk and honey keep pumping at home.
The estimated number of people that participated in a demonstration in the Czech Republic against the government on Sunday. The march is the culmination of weeks of protests against Prime Minister, Andrej Babiš, calling on him to resign. This comes after potential criminal charges against Babiš were recommended by prosecutors followed by his appointment of a close allyas Justice minister. 30 years after the country’s ‘Velvet revolution’ against communism, time could be up for the man known as the Trump of the Visegrads.
The expected percentage increase in exports to Vietnam after the EU signs a trade deal with the country. The deal will be the first of its kind between the EU and a developing Asian country and will set the mark for future trade deals, perhaps one with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a whole. It is expected to be signed this coming Sunday after three and a half years of negotiations which, in the world of FTAs, is breakneck speed.
The EFF — European Future Forum held its first general assembly at the European Parliament in Brussels, bringing together a large variety of NGOs and civil society organisations to share their projects with each other, workshop new initiatives and improve their communication skills and methodologies.
The EFF is the first European Communication and Project Development Network. It is open to any organisation and individual. For more information, visit their website.
4. Quotes of the Week
‘So are we pregnant with future, or have a disease of history?”
The assessment of Austrian author Robert Menasse on the future of the European project. Discussing his novel on EU politics and politicians, the ‘The Capital’ is a satirical take on the EU through the lens of an absurdist comic tragedy in order to convey a pro-European message of the political revolution that is the EU.
“I am afraid that you (the UK) are wasting time. I am not happy with this but I have to accept political reality”
The stern rebuke from Donald Tusk to the political events of late in the UK with regard to Brexit. The European Council president spoke after last week’s summit echoing thee frustration of most if not all of the leaders of the EU27 against the Brexit process and how it has been handled by the UK political class. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reiterated the EU commitment to not reopen the Withdrawal Agreement meaning that any future talks between the UK government and the EU will likely see sassy sparks and off the cuff remarks from the Tusk.
“For many, Facebook has become the scapegoat, the malign force that has manipulated otherwise right-thinking people into acting against their own interests”
The words of former UK Deputy PM and Chief Lobbyist for Facebook Nick Clegg. The College of Europe alumnus was speaking at the Hertie School of Governance about the tech-lash that Facebook is the poster child for and made a case against the suggestion both from the US and the EU that the company, along with other tech giants, be broken up into smaller pieces.
5. Video of the Week