25 August 2015

Merkel and Hollande call for “unified asylum system” and “fair sharing” of refugees

At a joint press conference in Berlin yesterday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande called for a “unified asylum system” and a “fair sharing” of refugees across the EU – although they stopped short of endorsing the binding quota system proposed by the European Commission. The two leaders urged Italy and Greece to speed up the creation of “reception centres” to identify migrants arriving from outside the EU and separate those entitled to asylum from illegal ‘economic’ migrants. Merkel and Hollande also proposed that EU member states agree on a list of ‘safe countries of origin’ to which failed asylum seekers can be returned.

Meanwhile, Germany yesterday decided to suspend the application of the EU’s Dublin Regulation to Syrian asylum seekers. This means Germany will process all the asylum claims lodged by Syrian nationals even if they have made their way through other EU member states – and could therefore be deported to the country of first entry under EU rules. Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said yesterday, “The Dublin system doesn’t just work badly. It doesn’t work at all anymore.” Separately, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka warned yesterday that the refugee crisis is endangering the Schengen agreement allowing for passport-free travel in Europe. Theo Franken, the Belgian State Secretary for Migration said, “When I see that there almost aren’t any controls at the borders [of the EU], then internal controls will be needed.”

Source: AFP Les Echos Le Figaro De Morgen De Standaard The Guardian El País Die Presse The Daily Telegraph

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Swedish and Finnish finance ministers back greater protections for non-Eurozone states

Following a meeting with Chancellor George Osborne yesterday, Finnish Finance Minister Alexander Stubb said, “You cannot leave the biggest economies which are not in the Eurozone outside the decision-making procedure.” He added, “Our take is very simple, without the United Kingdom there is no European Union…That is why we have to take into consideration the concerns that the British government has put forward.” Meanwhile, Swedish Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson, who also met the Chancellor, backed greater protections for EU countries outside the single currency and stressed the need to avoid a British exit from the EU. “As a non-euro country I can see lots of good things in having another large country that is also a non-euro member…of course we [will] work constructively in those discussions that will be coming,” she said.

Source: Reuters The Financial Times

European markets slump to worst day since 2008

European stock markets have rebounded this morning after suffering their worst day since 2008 yesterday. The FTSE 100 closed down 4.7%, the German DAX 4.75%, France’s CAC40 5.4%, Spain’s IBEX 5% and Italy’s FTSE MIB 6% off the back of huge falls in Asian markets. The wider market turmoil pushed the euro higher against the US dollar, at one point it was up 2.8% though it closed up around 1.5%. Germany brushed off concerns that turmoil in China could impact its economy with Chancellor Angela Merkel saying, “China will do everything in its power to stabilise the economic situation,” and a spokeswoman for the Economy Ministry saying the “immediate consequences” should be “limited.” The German Ifo business climate index also rose slightly in August, data released this morning showed, shrugging off concerns of a slowdown in China.

Source: The Financial Times The Wall Street Journal Bloomberg

Greece still on course for elections on 20 September as parties ready for campaign

Panayiotis Lafazanis, leader of the Popular Unity party which recently split from Syriza, has called for the elections to be held later than 20 September though his calls are unlikely to be heeded. He also requested a meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, which was declined as Tsipras preferred to focus on prepping for elections. Kostas Isichos, former Deputy Defence Minister and a leading member of Popular Unity, told Spanish business daily Expansión, “Popular Unity presents euro exit as a chance to return to social growth. It’s part of our programme. The Eurozone is currently a neo-colonial ultra-liberal system directed by Germany.” He added that “a reduction of over 60% or 70% of [Greek] debt is possible, there are already precedents.” Tsipras suffered another blow yesterday as Tasos Koronakis resigned as secretary of Syriza’s central committee in protest over the way the party has been run.

Source: Kathimerini The Wall Street Journal Kathimerini 2 Reuters Expansión: Isichos

Poroschenko warns of “imminent” Russian invasion as Merkel and Hollande call for ceasefire to be implemented

Ukrainian President Petro Poroschenko met German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande in Berlin on Monday to discuss preserving the fragile Minsk ceasefire-agreement signed in February this year. “We have gathered here to implement Minsk and not to question it,” Merkel told journalists at a press conference, acknowledging that violence has recently been escalating. She added that, although Russian President Vladimir Putin did not attend, he had been consulted on the telephone. On the eve of the Berlin summit, Poroschenko warned in Kiev that there are 50,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, and that the threat of a Russian invasion is “imminent.”

Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung The Wall Street Journal Bloomberg

Lithuania requests millions from EU to help milk farmers suffering Russian sanctions squeeze

Lithuania on Monday requested €50m in EU aid to help its dairy farmers suffering from low milk prices driven by a Russian embargo on agricultural goods from the bloc. Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius said in Brussels that the situation was “critical” as the exports of milk and dairy products had declined by 34%.

Source: Algirdas Butkevicius Statement

German politicians vow decisive action after protests against refugee home in Heidenau

Germany’s Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel visited the East German town of Heidenau yesterday which witnessed running battles between police and anti-refugee protestors over the opening of an asylum shelter over the weekend and on Monday. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesperson Steffan Seibert described the attacks by far-right groups on a planned refugee-centre as “repulsive.”

Source: Spiegel Online Süddeutsche Zeitung Handelsblatt Die Welt Bild

Germany makes move to ban GMO crops under new opt-out clause

Christian Schmidt, German Minister of Food and Agriculture has informed the state governments of Germany’s intention to use new EU “opt-out” rules to stop the cultivation of genetically modified crops (GMO), even if varieties have been approved by the EU, reports Reuters. The move follows pressure from five German state-governments for a nationwide ban on GMOs instead of the current approach in which they themselves can decide.

Source: Reuters EurActiv