EU Covid-19 Stimulus Negotiations and Its Historic Backdrop

EU Covid-19 Stimulus Negotiations and Its Historic Backdrop

After a long debate between the opposing factions, the European Union agreed on a recovery fund to aid the economy amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. The animosity among EU nations, manifested in the debate, has been a regular feature of the EU nations in recent years.

Crux of the Matter

Conflict And Agreement
The European Union (EU) recently “clinched” a budget and recovery fund of € 1.82 trillion ($2.1 trillion). After 4 days of discussion over the amount and the conditions applied, the EU leaders agreed on a € 750 billion fund to aid the economy affected by Covid-19.

Difference Of Opinion
“Frugal” North
North European nations wanted smaller recovery fund – a maximum amount of €350 billion – and wanted to put a limit to split of payouts in grants and repayable loans. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte blamed the Netherlands and its allies Sweden, Austria, Finland, and Denmark of “blackmailing” the country in negotiations.

Going Dutch
The allegations came after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and several major politicians of Netherlands promised their citizens to not provide money to “the Italians and French”. Reports have cited increasing resentment in the country as the reason, with citizens disapproving Netherlands being one of the largest “net contributors” to the EU.

Frozen Funds
The EU also proposed a “freezing of funds” for countries violating fundamental principles of democracy. In return, Hungary and Poland threatened to veto the move if any conditions were levied on the recovery funds.

History Of The EU

  • 1946: Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Britain during World War II, advocated the creation of the United States of Europe.
  • 1949: The Council of Europe was formed, which focused on “human rights and democracy”.
  • 1952: The European Coal and Steel Community was formed (ECSC).
  • 1957: The European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) were formed by the Treaty of Rome.
  • 1963: After the Elysee Treaty of 1963, Germany and France’s relations strengthened, which had deteriorated after the former occupied the latter in WW II.
  • 1967: The Merger Treaty fused ECSC, EEC, and Euratom into the European Committees (EC).
  • 1993: On 1 November, The Maastricht treaty was signed, officially forming the European Union.
  • 2020: 19 of 27 EU countries use the Euro (€) as official currency.

Interrelations And Controversies

  • 2003: The EU was split over the US-Iraq war. While France and Germany advocated peace talks, Britain, Italy, Spain, etc supported the US and advocated for the war.
  • 2018: France accused Italy of “cynicism and irresponsibility” when the latter forbade the Aquarius Dignitus ship, carrying rescued migrants, to enter its ports. In response, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte labeled French President Emmanuel Macron “hypocritical”.
  • 2019: Italy backed the “Yellow vest movement” of the working class in France, and condemned the treatment of the protesters by the French Govt.
  • 2020: On 31st January, the UK left the EU in a move called “Brexit”. Experts have claim perceived “economical disadvantage” and increasing nationalism as reasons for the move.

About Nationalism
Experts have pointed to the increase of nationalism across the world in recent years with leaders like Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Boris Johnson, Shinzo Abe, etc coming to power. However, there are several types of nationalism, with the major forms being:

  • Ethnic nationalism: Defines a nation on the basis of ethnicity, having a belief in shared culture and ethnicity.
  • Expansionist nationalism: Aggressive form of nationalism, believing in re-gaining formerly lost territories.
  • Civic nationalism: Nationalism with emphasis on liberal values of freedom and co-existence.
  • Cultural nationalism: Intermediate between Ethnic and Civic, it is a belief in national identity while recognizing the impact of different cultures, but rejects shared “ancestry or race”.
Curiopedia
  • Grexit was a hypothetical scenario under which Greece would withdraw from the Eurozone to deal with the now-expired Greek government-debt crisis. The term ‘Grexit’ was coined by the Citigroup economist Ebrahim Rahbari and was introduced by Rahbari and Citigroup’s Global Chief Economist Willem H. Buiter on 6 February 2012.
  • The Inner Six, or simply “the Six”, were the six founding member states of the European Communities. The countries are Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and West Germany.
  • The European Union flag, first adopted by the Council of Europe, consists of 12 golden stars in a circle on a blue background. The stars symbolize the ideals of unity, solidarity, and harmony among the peoples of Europe. The number of stars has nothing to do with the number of member countries, though the circle is a symbol of unity.

About innocent refugees and apathetic Turkish – European governments

refugees

Thousands of migrants have assembled together at Turkey’s border with Greece. Reports suggest that the Turkish government allowed the refugees to passage to Europe last week, saying it had “reached its capacity.”
The move treads on a 2016 deal struck with the European Union to interrupt migrants traveling from the Middle East towards Europe. It is being seen as a Turkish way of grasping European support for its military operation in Syria after a Russia-backed airstrike killed 33 of its soldiers.

Crux of the Matter

What’s Cooking up between Turkey and Greece?
In 2016, the refugee flood had overflowed from Turkey to the EU and the two powers had struck a financial aid deal to stem the flow. However back then, Europe never lived up to it. Even when Turkey threatened to open its borders if it had to continue to support 3.5 million refugees, which were mostly from Syria.

The airstrike last week was the last straw, so now Turkey is using its huge refugee population as leverage against Europe and stopping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces from gaining more territory inside Idlib, Syria.

What are the Refugees up to in Europe?
Reporters met new refugees from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Morocco, and Somalia, who told them that they were taking this step in order to obtain a better life with opportunities. In hindsight, the ones who have been in Turkey for years, have struggled to find work, housing, and education for their children after the country’s economy took a downward spiral and the cost of living took an upward route.

Turkey claims that more than tens of thousands have already crossed into Greece, which is motivating more people to move towards the border but on the other side, Greece says that very few people are making it through.

Is Humanitarian Crisis in Store for Them ?
Currently, it seems unlikely that Europe will take the first step or any step for that matter. A situation has arisen where the lives of the most vulnerable are being used as pawns in the game of revenge. An attempt to control a humanitarian crisis in Syria could ultimately result in another emergency along its border with Greece. Thus things can go worse if the trajectory of decisions taken by the respective governments, goes on the same trail.

Curiopedia

Humanitarian crisis is defined as a singular event or a series of events that are threatening in terms of health, safety or well being of a community or large group of people. It may be an internal or external conflict and usually occurs throughout a large land area. Local, national and international responses are necessary in such events.
Each humanitarian disaster is caused by different factors and as a result, each different humanitarian crisis requires a unique response targeted towards the specific sectors affected. This can result in either short-term or long-term damage. Humanitarian crises can either be natural disasters, man-made disasters or complex emergencies. In such cases, complex emergencies occur as a result of several factors or events that prevent a large group of people from accessing their fundamental needs, such as food, clean water or safe shelter. More Info

Brexit: What is Britain's Way Ahead?

Britain officially left the European Union on 31 January 2020, marked as the Brexit Day. UK and EU will undergo a transition period of 11 months till all the negotiations regarding trade, governance, water distribution, and other things are finalized from both ends. Let us have a look at what will change and what remains unchanged.

Crux of the Matter

Immediate Changes
After separation from the EU, UK will have no representation in EU Parliament and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from UK will lose their seats. Moreover, Britain will continue to pay its share in the EU’s budget until the transition period gets over. It will have no part in law and decision making in the EU. Britain will circulate commemorative 50 pence coin in the country with text “peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations”.

Britain may enter into new trade agreements with countries like the USA and Australia. It must be noted that Britain faced restrictions in trade agreements with other countries to conform with EU’s policies.  UK will also negotiate its trade agreements with the EU.

It is speculated that Britain will not want to lose its access to the EU markets for its biggest export industry i.e. the financial services sector, which is likely to be used as leverage by EU demanding the UK to allow fishing in its water.

Unchanged For Now
Travel sector is likely to remain as it is. Both, the UK and EU will continue to follow trade deals without any changes until the transition period gets over. There will be no change in the living and working system in the EU and UK both and people will enjoy the same freedom of movement until the transition period get over.

Curiopedia

European Union free trade agreements – The European Union has concluded free trade agreements (FTAs) and other agreements with a trade component with many countries worldwide and is negotiating with many others.The European Union negotiates free trade deals on behalf of all of its member states, this means individual member states are prohibited from negotiating individual free trade deals with either non EU counties (known as Third Countries) and fellow member states. More Info

Brexit: Will Britain's EU Vacation Be Finally Over?

Crux of the Matter

EU a Vacation Home for Britain?
While the global tensions were freezing down after World War II into a Cold War, European nations, in 1957, formed the European Economic Community (EEC), which the United Kingdom was not a part of. In 1963, UK showed hints of joining the EEC. However, then President of France, Charles de Gaulle was skeptical about the British tilting towards the Americans even after EEC membership.

UK joined EEC in 1973 and soon after, in 1975, it was on the brink of exiting. It was saved by a referendum, a first during the period of Britain’s stay in the EEC. The politically Eurosceptic Labour Party lost its limb and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) was formed.

The rollercoaster went downhill again in 1984 when Conservative Party PM Margaret Thatcher took a tough stance towards the payment of Farm Subsidies to the EEC at a time when UK was the third poorest country amongst EU nations. The Iron Lady’s strong opinion was heeded then and is in place to date. This event is seen to have given UK a more vocal position in the EEC.

European Union was founded in 1992 through the signing of the Maastricht Treaty by EEC member nations. Britain’s bumpy ride with the EU started on various different terms post-1992.

21st Century Britain’s Outlook on EU
Once all-pervasive and powerful, the British were slowly losing ground in the EU. Due to the horror of the ‘Mad Cow‘ disease, British Beef was banned by EU nations during the late ’90s. At the beginning of the 21st Century, British-made chocolates, that contained vegetable-oil, sparked a controversy. And with the addition of 8 new members in the EU in 2004, Britain was apprehensive about the flocking economic migrants.

While the 2008 Global Financial Crisis was settling, David Cameron, PM of UK, in a very bold move rejected an EU treaty in 2011 on the grounds that it did not protect the financial sector of Britain. EU members were enraged with Britain’s decision and mulled over Britain’s stay in the EU.

Cameron fought elections with the agenda of renegotiating the UK-EU terms. Cameron won the election and decided to hold a referendum on whether Britain will remain in the EU on June 23, 2016.

I don’t just want a better deal for Britain. I want a better deal for Europe too. It will be an in-out referendum. It is time for the British people to have their say. It is time to settle this European question in British politics. I say to the British people: this will be your decision.

– David Cameron in his 2013 Bloomberg Speech

Post Referendum Snapshot
2016 Referendum resulted in 51.9% voters voting to ‘Leave‘ EU. Pro-Euro Cameron resigned and Theresa May held office. On March 29, 2017, May revoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Revoking the Article is the first step if a country voluntarily wants to leave the EU. May also stated that UK would not be a part of the EU Customs Union and the Single Market, and that European Court of Justice (ECJ) would not have jurisdiction over UK. The Brexit date was formalized to be 29 March 2019 even if Britain had a ‘no-deal Brexit‘ with the EU. It must be noted that Northern Ireland and Scotland voted against Brexit.

One of the issues that hindered the problem was UK’s demand to build a hard border between Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is a part of the UK. Interestingly, Northern Ireland, which voted against Brexit, will continue to follow EU norms. Whereas Scotland is mulling over an independence referendum.

Britan’s Exit Deal negotiation stretched for two years. In 2018, the EU rejected the UK-prepared revised Exit proposal that outlined UK – EU ties post-Brexit. EU and UK were to decide upon the divorce on fronts of legality, politics, economic policies, trade & commerce, migration laws, aerospace laws, etc.

May’s Brexit Proposal got rejected three times in the UK House of Commons. Brexit Date got extended from March 29, 2019, to 30 June 2019 to 31 October 2019. In the compelling European Parliament Elections of May 2019, the pro-Brexit Party won. Thersa May resigned and Boris Johnson was asked by the Queen to form the government.

On 17 October 2019, EU and UK agreed on the revised Exit proposal. Extending the Brexit Date for the third time, EU deferred it to 31 January 2020. Boris Johnson, PM of UK, presented EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill which passed in the House of Commons and later in Parliament, once MPs were assured that a ‘no-deal Brexit‘ is off the table. It received Royal Assent on 23 January 2020.

What Next for Britain?
The Act is up for a vote in the European Parliament on 29 January 2020. With the Brexit date on 31 January 2020, the UK must get the Act passed in the European Parliament or either get an extension or settle for a ‘no-deal Brexit‘ – a scenario in which Britain exits EU without withdrawal agreement.

If the Act passes, the UK will undergo an 11-month transition period. During that period, UK and EU will negotiate the terms and conditions on trade, aviation, water treaties, law, data security and sharing, utility supplies, pharma treaties, etc. ECJ will hold jurisdiction over UK and almost all the rules including movement in UK by citizens of EU members, and of Britons in EU will remain the same.

Curiopedia

Maastricht Treaty – The treaty founded the European Union and established its pillar structure which stayed in place until the Lisbon Treaty came into force in 2009. The treaty also greatly expanded the competences of the EEC/EU and led to the creation of the single European currency, the euro. More Info

Mad Cow – In the United Kingdom, from 1986 to 2015, more than 184,000 cattle were diagnosed with the peak of new cases occurring in 1993. It is believed that a few million cattle with the condition likely entered the food supply during the outbreak. More Info

The Irish backstop is a defunct appendix to a draft Brexit withdrawal agreement developed by the May government and the European Commission in December 2017 and finalised in November 2018, that aimed to prevent an evident border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland after Brexit. The backstop would have required keeping Northern Ireland in some aspects of the Single Market, until an alternative arrangement were agreed between the EU and the UK. More Info

European Parliament to pass resolution on Kashmir & CAA

A number of critical international statements and parliamentary resolutions have been filed on Jammu & Kashmir and Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) by the majority of members in the European Union (EU) Parliament.

Crux of the Matter

The current resolutions that focus on CAA are being introduced by 6 political groups representing a total of 626 of the total 751 members of the European Parliament. These will be taken up for discussion and voting this week.

According to the agenda of the plenary meet, the European Commission Vice-President Mr. Josep Borell will first deliver a statement on ‘India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019‘. The EU parliament had discussed developments in Jammu & Kashmir in September 2019 but had not ended in a vote. 22 EU MEPs had visited Srinagar in October 2019.

The resolutions list actions by the government that is allegedly in violation of international norms and India’s international commitments on Human Rights and at the UN Security Council. Mr. Borrell had held talks with PM Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on the sidelines of the Raisina Dialogue conference.

The groups that have filed resolutions include the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) with 182 members, the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament with 154 members, the Renew Group with 108 members.

Curiopedia

The European Parliament (EP) is the legislative branch of the European Union and one of its seven institutions. Together with the Council of the European Union, it adopts European legislation, normally on a proposal from the European Commission. The Parliament is composed of 751 members (MEPs), intended to become 705 starting from the 2019–2024 legislature because of specific provisions adopted about Brexit, who represent the second-largest democratic electorate in the world (after the Parliament of India) and the largest trans-national democratic electorate in the world (375 million eligible voters in 2009). More Info