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The Fall of the Wall Edition

7 November 2019

1. Story of the Week

What happened?

Instability seems to be in vogue these days and this week is an example of it. In the last few months, there has been a change of government in Romania, the Spanish will be holding their fourth election in four years on Sunday in the context of unrest in Catalonia and the UK is in a permanent state of Brexit crisis as it goes into early elections. Meanwhile in Germany, the far-right is still making headways in regional elections as the governing CDU is having a succession crisis. Speaking about filling Angela Merkel's shoes, Emmanuel Macron is taking the solitary lead of the EU whilst in China making deals about the climate, as the US officially pulls out of the Paris Climate Accord. Hungary is meeting with Putin and Poland is being reprimanded by the European Court of Justice. That is just the member states. On a European level, the Euro is in a delicate place as new ECB chief Christine Lagarde takes over and the new EU commission, which should have begun work this week, is struggling to get started just in time to leave for the Christmas holidays. As we leave the 2010's there is a sense that instability is the new stable

Why it matters

This week will see the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. The significance of this event marked a new Europe and transformed the potential of the European project from a uniquely economic project to an ambitiously political one. If history equals geography divided by time, then the fall of the Berlin Wall served to multiply the geographical scope of a market economy that was based on individual human rights and collective respect for democracy with the rule of law as its helm. It was, however, the political credo of Neoliberalism that tried to sustain this model with an unhealthy dose of finance capitalism which worked to keep the project stable in the first 20 years, until it crumbled in the 2008 financial crisis as a result of the globalised transfers of risks it permitted. Also, the emphasis on the international over the local provided for an influx of ideas, something a bit too much to bear for states whose cultures were previously overwhelmed by foreign totalitarian ideologies. The transfer of people that this new system allowed, apart from worsening cultural unease, exacerbated the economic fragility, at least according to anti-immigration arguments. Worst of all, market liberalisation has seen environmental degradation leading to disruptions that will affect all sides of all proverbial walls.

The takeaway

Neoliberalism is dead. The EU's push to preserve it will only serve to embolden its most populist and authoritarian of opponents. Rather Europe should embrace a green agenda, a truly green agenda with all its component parts and ideologies, not a greenwashed version based on a market model. Being green small 'g' means being conscious of the role of public policy, the economy and its effect on the environment. The Green 'capital G' is one that embraces ecology as the catalyst towards a better public policy for the individual and collective, something that hasn't been necessarily endorsed by so-called Green parties and movements of recent years. Another identity mark of this new post-Berlin wall, post Neoliberal era is to provide a clear alternative for citizens to the nation-state, a globalisation that is not threatening. Therefore the EU institutions need to serve as the arbiter of ecology and not the servant of its member states. Like a turkey voting for Christmas, yes, but Christmas, in this case, is the preservation of the species: turkeys, humans and the planet alike. Nation-states and nationalism are the 'Berlin Walls' of our time and the new era is post-national ecological awareness where green globalisation is human-centred, not market centred.

2. Tweets of the Week

3. Numbers of the Week

11

The number of months the UK will have if it is to achieve its own goal of having a trade agreement by December 2020 with the EU. The short amount of time is partly due to the fact that the UK must first approve the Withdrawal Agreement which will take an estimated 37 days. Add to that the fact that the British parliament is currently in election-mode and time is becoming increasingly precious. Should a deal not be reached by the end of 2020, the UK will either fall back on bare-bones WTO trade terms or be forced to strike a snap agreement which would keep the UK close to the EU but being subject to most EU rules.

13

The number of potential women EU commissioners in the upcoming College. That is if Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has anything to do with it. Aside from the 11 already approved by the European Parliament, VDL is reported to have chosen Romanian MEP Adina Valean who was put forward by the country's new government to fill the Romanian seat over the other candidate, fellow MEP Siegfried Muresan. This nomination was supplemented by an urgent letter to the UK yesterday, which asked for a woman to fill in the Commissioner role for the UK up until its (potential) departure on 31 January 2020. This would make the European Commission gender almost equal at least for a few months, if it manages to take up office before then, of course.

65

The age of retirement of male polish judges set by 2017 judicial reforms while women were forced to retire at the age of 60 for some unjustified reason. This reduction of the age of retirement for Polish judges was ruled unconstitutional by the European Court of Justice week, who cited political interference with the courts in their findings. The reforms were subject to intense controversy in 2017, and Poland was taken to court by the European Commission. The actions of the Polish government and its refusal to back down resulted in the unprecedented triggering of Article 7, threatening the voting rights of Poland for not respecting the rule of law.

A Message from our Partners

The EFF — European Future Forum brings 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.

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4. Quotes of the Week

"With the threat of Libra on the horizon, it is time for action now.

The words of Markus Ferber MEP on EU action in light of Facebook's proposed cryptocurrency, Libra. The currency has not yet been released but has already put lawmakers and central bankers on edge in the EU and the US as the potential for its spread could be worldwide. As a result, the Council has suggested a countermeasure for the perceived threat: the European Central Bank should issue its own cryptocurrency to counter the potential systemic risk posed by a widely used yet privately issued currency. That measure is sure to raise a few eyebrows in the notoriously conservative world of monetary policy.

“Your contribution is indispensable to the success of this
Wine Market Observatory"

You read that right. The words of Michael Scannell, Director at the European Commission DG for Agriculture and Rural Development. The remarks were part of an opening speech introducing the European Commission's Wine Market Observatory which aims to provide transparency and analysis for the EU wine sector which represents 60% of the world's vino and 70% of exports. For those that passed their EPSO exams this week, the prospect of working at DG AGRI just got a lot more lit. Let's hope wine watching is as much fun as wine drinking.

"I've had enough Brexit"

Honest words from a soon-departing JCJ. Known for his oftentimes blunt style, outgoing Commission President Juncker (who is already on his first week of Commission overtime) put into words what most people are feeling these days as regards the UK’s protracted departure. During an interview with the BBC Juncker was keen to stress that he didn’t want to interfere in any future negotiations which will be up to the incoming Commission to lead. However, the UK’s vote to leave will be a sad mark on his tenure which he is not alone in deeming a major faux pas.

5. Video of the Week

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