21 August 2015

Greece set for fresh elections after Tsipras announces resignation

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned yesterday, paving the way for snap elections. He said in a televised speech, “We didn’t achieve the agreement we wanted”, adding that “the mandate we received on January 25 [in the Greek general elections] has expired.” The date for the elections has yet to be officially confirmed, with September 20 being mentioned as the most likely option.

Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos has this morning given Evangelos Meimarakis, the leader of the largest opposition party New Democracy, a mandate to try and form a new government – a procedure envisaged by the Greek constitution before parliament can be dissolved and new elections called. Meanwhile, 25 rebel MPs from Tsipras’s SYRIZA party have formed a new splinter party and a new parliamentary group called ‘Popular Unity’.

Thomas Wieser, the head of the Euro Working Group of Eurozone officials, told Austrian public broadcaster ORF that the elections would not affect the third Greek bailout, adding, “This was really an expected step and for many people a desired step to get to a clearer structure in the Greek government.” Martin Selmayr, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s top aide, tweeted on the rumours of snap elections, “Swift elections in Greece can be a way to broaden support for the ESM stability support programme.”

Slovak Finance Minister Peter Kažimír tweeted this morning, “We respect Mr Tsipras’s decision, but I can’t help feeling it is a bit cynical timing to do it immediately after the first disbursement [from the third Greek bailout loan].” German MP Michael Fuchs, Vice-Chairman of Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU group in the Bundestag, told Italian daily Corriere della Sera, “The Greeks have no alternatives. They know that the new rescue package will end immediately if they don’t meet their commitments. Even if a new government were elected, nothing could change.”

Open Europe’s Raoul Ruparel is quoted on the front page of City AM as saying, “The reform process will come to a halt [because of the election campaign]. That will have implications for the bailout.”   Open Europe’s Pieter Cleppe was interviewed by Deutsche Wirtschaftsnachrichten discussing the privatization programme the Greek government will have to implement as part of the bailout agreement.

Source: Open Europe Blog City AM Deutsche Wirtschaftsnachrichten The Wall Street Journal The Financial Times El País Kathimerini Bloomberg

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YouGov finds more voters back staying in EU, but undecided voters could still swing the vote

A new poll by YouGov found that 44% of respondents would vote to for the UK to remain an EU member, compared to 37% who would vote to leave. 16% said they were undecided.  The poll also found that 58% believe that Prime Minister David Cameron is seeking major or modest but significant changes to the UK’s relationship with the EU (22% and 36% respectively). When asked what they believed would happen if the UK voted to leave the EU, 41% said they thought there would probably be a second referendum after further negotiations with the EU. However, 45% said they thought a ‘No’ vote should lead to the UK leaving the EU without a further referendum.

In an interview with the Polish Press Agency, Open Europe’s Raoul Ruparel said, “[Undecided voters will] ultimately decide the outcome. I expect many of them will be swung by the size and nature of Cameron’s EU reform – so the broader and more substantive it is, the better. My sense is that, if Cameron can achieve changes that mean the UK will no longer be dragged into ever closer integration which it does not want, that would be quite a powerful message. However, it may also depend on what extent the ‘Out’ campaign is able to offer a clear alternative which doesn’t fall prey to the issue of sacrificing either economic access or sovereignty – something which no-one has really been able to do yet.”

Source: YouGov Polish Press Agency

European Commission to make renewed push for binding refugee quotas

The European Commission is set to put forward a revamped proposal for binding refugee quotas by the end of the year, the Financial Times reports. Under the plan, an emergency mechanism for the redistribution of refugees among EU member states would kick in automatically every time one or more countries face a sudden inflow of migrants from outside the EU.

Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph reports that comments from German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière that the border-free Schengen area “cannot exist” without a proper asylum policy could help prompt a broader rethink of the EU’s approach to immigration, asylum and free movement – arguing that this could possibly aid and fit with the UK’s renegotiation.

Open Europe’s Stephen Booth is quoted as saying, “The mounting migration crisis inside and outside the EU’s borders has the potential to trigger a major rethink about not only asylum policy but policies on free movement within the EU itself. While this is all speculative at this stage, after months of the UK being told that EU free movement is not up for discussion, we could see growing political pressure elsewhere in the EU for change on this front. This could provide the Government with a more fluid environment in which to make its demands for stricter rules on EU migrants’ access to welfare, which would seem pale in comparison.”

Separately, Macedonia has shut down its border with Greece in a bid to stop migrants trying to reach Western Europe. The country’s riot police have reportedly fired tear gas and stun grenades this morning in clashes with the migrants stuck on the border. Danish Integration Minister Inger Støjberg said earlier this week that Denmark would like to choose which refugees it takes under any quota, focusing on ones that have the best chance of integrating into the Danish culture and economy. She said that accepting refugees that would not be able to integrate does everyone involved a “disservice”, citing Somalians as a group that have trouble settling and integrating in Denmark.

Source: The Daily Telegraph The Daily Telegraph: Editorial Sky News The Financial Times Die Welt Jyllands Posten

Danish government considering moving referendum on scrapping EU justice opt-out in order to avoid influence from UK’s EU reform push

EurActiv reports that Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen is considering changing the date of the Danish referendum on whether to scrap the country’s opt-out from EU Justice and Home Affairs policy in order to avoid it being influenced by the UK’s reform push and EU referendum. The vote was originally scheduled for around the end of this year and no later than April 2016. The new date will likely be announced today and could be for November this year.

Source: EurActiv

UK tax break for films gets EU approval

UK plans to allow film companies to claim tax relief on 25% of production costs, announced in the March budget, has been approved by the EU.

Source: City AM

Eurozone private sector activity slightly exceeds expectations in August

The preliminary Markit Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), a measure of private sector activity, came in at 54.1 in August compared to expectations of 53.7 – suggesting activity is expanding at a faster rate than expected. The figure was driven by a strong performance in the German manufacturing sector, although it was weighed down by a poor performance in the French manufacturing sector.

Source: Markit press release

Jean-Marie Le Pen expelled from Front National

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of France’s anti-immigrant Front National and father of current party leader Marine, was expelled from the party yesterday. The decision follows his repeated controversial remarks over World War II and the Holocaust.

Source: Le Figaro