This Week in Europe: Britain, vdL & Germany

, by Pascal Letendre-Hanns, Radu Dumitrescu

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English]

This Week in Europe: Britain, vdL & Germany

Members of the TNF team recount big events from Europe from the past week, and point attention to news that may have passed notice. What did we miss? Comment on our Facebook page at !

Brits protest suspension of Parliament

Thousands of people in the UK took to the streets on Saturday in towns and cities across the country to protest against the government’s decision to suspend Parliament for five weeks in the run up to the country’s scheduled exit from the European Union. The suspension (known as prorogation) is widely seen as an abuse of a power held by the Prime Minister. Under normal circumstances, these periods where Parliament is closed entirely occur just before a new parliamentary session or a general election and on average have only been a week long. Parliament has also never been prorogued for more than three weeks in the last 40 years. The move has also been condemned as it is seen as a way for the government to avoid parliamentary scrutiny as it aims for a No Deal exit from the EU. Parliament largely opposes the government’s commitment to leaving the EU at whatever cost and so the decision to suspend Parliament for such a long time is understood to have been an attempt to stop a parliamentary majority forming against the government’s plans.

Greek police clear out migrant shelters

Greek police have begun launching raids on various shelters for refugees in the Exarchia neighbourhood in Athens that have been set up by local community groups to fill the void left by inaction on the part of the Greek state. Abandoned buildings have been occupied by migrants, including families with young children, as the Greek government has failed to provide adequate facilities to host them. Anarchist collectives were already based in the area prior to the refugee crisis and have opened their doors as a show of solidarity with some of the of most vulnerable people in Europe. However, the election of the new national government in Greece and the arrival of a new local mayor, both committed to dismantling the makeshift migrant shelters, means the situation is becoming increasingly tenuous. Raids by police have been met with resistance from activists but have generally been successful. In spite of these raids, it remains unclear how the Greek government intends to safely host refugees.

ECB shifts to the hawks with new Austrian governor

The board of the European Central Bank will tilt towards the monetary policy hawks as a result of Austria appointing Robert Holzmann as the new Governor of the Austrian National Bank. Holzmann set out that while he recognised the benefits of stimulus, there could also be risks, particularly when loose monetary policy has been employed for as long as it has. Notably he is sceptical of the idea that it would be possible to return to the post-war levels of growth. Holzmann has previously worked at the IMF and the World Bank, though he has relatively limited experience in setting monetary policy. While his appointment is unlikely to mean the end of the ECB’s stance of a loose monetary policy, it does indicate that further stimulus is somewhat less likely.

German President Steinmeier asks Poland’s forgiveness for WW2

Last Sunday, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier asked for Poland’s forgiveness for the invasion that started the Second World War 80 years ago. At a ceremony in the Polish town of Wielun, where the first German bombs fell, Steinmeier said that he bowed “before the Polish victims of German tyranny. And I ask for your forgiveness.” He was joined by Poland’s President Andrzej Duda. Other European leaders, including Angela Merkel and Frans Timmermans, attended similar ceremonies in Poland.

vdL plans to restructure the Commission

According to POLITICO, new Commission head Ursula von der Leyen is considering major changes to the structure of the European Commission. One such change would involve the empowering of the Commission’s vice presidents, who currently lack actual power despite nominally overseeing commissioners. Under vdL’s plans, the vice presidents would have more power to inform and set legislation. Frans Timmermans and Margrethe Vestager will both be given first voice president posts.

Russia condemned for violations in the Magnitsky case

On Tuesday, the European Court of Human rights ruled that the detention of Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky breached his basic rights. Magnitsky, an auditor who uncovered a fraud scheme operated by Russian tax officials worth 230 million dollars, died in detention in 2009, after repeated requests for medical help went unheard. The judges at the ECHR found that Magnitsky had been mistreated by prison guards and received inadequate healthcare. The judges also ruled that the auditor’s posthumous trial was unfair but rejected a complaint that his arrest and detention had been “ill-founded.”

Germans don’t want any more migrants, poll reveals

On Thursday, the Bertlesmann Foundation published a study which revealed that a growing number of Germans believe migrants drive wages down and burden the welfare system. The party that benefits from those views is the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which continues to rail against foreigners despite a drop in asylum figures. More than 2000 people were interviewed, revealing however that 65% of respondents believe migration is an opportunity for the economy and a measure against an aging population. Between 2015 and 2016, the number of foreigners registered in Germany grew by almost 1.9 million. The study concludes that one in two Germans currently finds that Germany cannot accept any more refugees.

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