17 November 2015

France triggers EU ‘mutual defence clause’ after Paris attacks

At a meeting with his EU counterparts this morning, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian invoked Article 42(7) of the EU Treaty – which establishes that “if a member state is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other member states shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power.” It is the first time this ‘mutual defence clause’ in the Lisbon Treaty is triggered.

The move was announced by French President François Hollande yesterday, in his address to both chambers of the French parliament following last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris. He used his speech to reiterate that France “is at war”, and warned, “If Europe doesn’t control its external borders, one returns to national borders – when it is not walls and barbed wires that are announced. That will be the deconstruction of the EU.”

Hollande announced that France will intensify air strikes against the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria, and said that the French Constitution should be changed to better deal with this kind of crises in future. He also unveiled plans to boost security spending and hire 5,000 new police officers over the next two years. Hollande made it clear that, as a result, France will miss the deficit reduction targets agreed with the European Commission, adding that “the security pact prevails over the [EU] stability pact.”

Source: Hollande’s speech Le Figaro Libération The Financial Times BBC

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Schengen and refugee quotas under strain following Paris attacks

The European Commission’s quota system to redistribute 160,000 refugees across the EU is facing further resistance following the terrorist attacks in Paris, with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán telling MPs in Budapest, “As long as this  government is breathing, there won’t be any quota.” Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico said, “Slovak citizens and their security are of higher priority than the rights of migrants.” However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the G-20 summit that EU refugee quotas set with Turkey and other countries are the way forward, adding, “It is very, very important that we have no more illegal immigration.”

Meanwhile, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazenueve told France Inter radio this morning, “The majority of those involved in this attack were unknown to our [intelligence] services.” The Daily Telegraph cites diplomatic sources saying that France will push to suspend the passport-free Schengen travel area across Europe at an emergency meeting of EU interior ministers on Friday. Didier Reynders, the deputy Prime Minister of Belgium, said, however, that cross-border intelligence is the “real solution” rather than long-term border controls. Speaking to the House of Commons yesterday, UK Home Secretary Theresa May said that the threat-level in the UK remains “severe” and that new funding will be released to provide for an additional 1,900 officers for British intelligence agencies.

Source: Open Europe Blog: What do the Paris Attacks mean for the migration crisis? The Daily Telegraph Handelsblatt Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Süddeutsche Zeitung

Conservatives for Britain co-chairs to formally recommend Brexit

The Daily Mail reports that Steve Baker MP and David Campbell Bannerman MEP, the co-chairs of Conservatives for Britain, will table a formal proposal for Britain to leave the EU at a meeting of the group later today. The proposal will also set out the ways in which they feel Britain’s relationship with the EU should change, including ending free movement and the supremacy of EU law over UK law, and regaining the ability to unilaterally negotiate trade deals. The paper expects around 50 Tory MPs to sign up to the plans, although Conservatives for Britain will still formally remain neutral – as several leading members have yet to take a position on the renegotiation.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that Leave.EU has signed up around 3,000 small business owners who want to leave the EU citing wage competition from EU migrants, EU regulation and foreign competition as their main reasons.

Source: The Daily Mail The Financial Times

Petition forces euro exit debate in Finnish parliament

The Finnish parliament will next year hold a debate on whether Finland should leave the Eurozone, after a citizens’ petition raised the 50,000 signatures needed to force such a debate. The petition calls for a referendum on Finland’s euro membership. However, the referendum would need the parliament’s authorisation – which is very unlikely to be granted.

Source: Reuters

New German poll puts AfD third for the first time

A new INSA poll for Bild puts Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) – which has taken a hard-line stance on the refugee crisis – third for the first time, on a record-high 10.5%, behind German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU on 35% and the SPD on 23.5%. The Greens and Die Linke are both on 10%, and the FDP is on 5%.

Source: Bild Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

New Polish Interior Minister hits out at European Parliament President Martin Schulz

A war of words has erupted between the new Polish government and European Parliament President Martin Schulz, after the latter criticised the former’s stance on the refugee crisis. In an interview on Sunday, Schulz argued, “When Poland feels threatened by Russia and demands weapons, soldiers and funds, then Europe shows its solidarity. Then in such a situation it is not possible to suddenly come along and say refugees are solely a German problem which has nothing to do with us.” In an interview with TVN24, new Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Błaszczak described the comments as “yet another example of German arrogance”, adding, “We are talking in Warsaw, Warsaw was destroyed by the Germans.” He also argued that Schulz was “evidently detached from reality, also in Germany… Yesterday, in Dresden, several thousand people took part in the [anti-Islamification] PEGIDA protests which are opposed to the policy of [German] Chancellor Merkel who invited the migrants.”

Source: TVN24

Greece strikes deal with lenders, paving way for new aid disbursement

The Greek government has reached an agreement with its international creditors over the remaining ‘milestone’ measures to implement in order to secure the next €2bn tranche of Greece’s third EU/IMF bailout loan. Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said the Greek parliament would approve the measures later this week, and Eurozone officials in the Euro Working Group would endorse the deal on Friday – paving the way for the disbursement of the tranche.

Source: Kathimerini Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Süddeutsche Zeitung