In an unexpected turn of events, the Turkish general elections on 7 June did not end well for the conservative Islamists who have governed the country for the past thirteen years. The Justice and Development Party (AKP), which obtained 41% of the vote, has effectively—and unexpectedly—lost its majority in the Parliament and will now be forced to share power through a political coalition with other parties if it holds onto hope of governing the country.
Amidst growing criticism from civil society and academics on the adoption and focus of the EU budget, the European Commission proposed last week an annual budget of €143.5 billion for 2016, only 1.6% larger than in 2015, “to support the recovery of the European economy and help improve lives in Europe and beyond.” The budget amounts to no more than 1% of EU’s collective GDP, but has been scrutinized ever since the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community in the 1950s.
Romania is notorious for being the country with the lowest EU funds absorption rate despite its economy’s dire need for money. Romania’s public and private sector absorbed only €10.33 billion in available EU funds from 2007 until 2013, with €8.7 billion remaining in stand-by until the end of 2015, when the offer will be permanently withdrawn. However, according to the World Bank, the country still has the highest poverty rate in the EU. There are two main reasons that help explain this apparent paradox.
Forty countries are competing for the Eurovision Song Trophy in Vienna this year, with the Grand Final due to take place on 23 May. Although the contest has strict rules, according to which participants promoting political messages are banned from the competition, it also has a history of songs just on that thin line between activism and pure cheesiness. Most recently, social issues have been a potent underlying message, including respect for equality and human rights, culminating with the victory of the woman with facial hair in 2014, the Austrian Conchita Wurst. This year’s edition combines political and social activism with reference to the UK’s exit from the EU, the Armenian genocide and LGBT rights to equal citizenship in modern European countries.
The Spanish Foreign Minister, the Latvian Foreign Minister, and the EU foreign policy chief co-hosted an Informal Ministerial meeting with representatives of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Jordan, who declared their support for fighting terrorism and curbing irregular migration, two top priorities of the EU’s collaboration with its neighbours south of the Mediterranean Sea. The meeting was part of a series of consultations that the EU initiated with European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) countries to review its strategy of collaborations.
This week Saudi Arabia decided to recall its Ambassador to Sweden after Margot Wallström, the Swedish Foreign Minister, critized Saudi “human rights and democracy” standards. Wallström had been particularly vocal about the case of Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger and activist sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes for setting up a website called “Saudis Free Liberal Forum”. The Swedish Foreign Minister had described Badawi´s punishment as “medieval methods”.
Thousands of migrants die every year trying to cross into Europe. But exactly how many?
A consortium of over ten journalists managed to answer this question by joining efforts in a pan-European project that tracks the deaths of migrants seeking refuge in Europe. From January 2000, over 28,000 people have died trying to cross into Europe. Their locations vary from detention centers to territories and seas. The ongoing project shows that, so far, the highest number of people dies on Libyan land and coasts and in the seas of Western Sahara. The deadliest route is crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Libya into Italy.
The first official visit of the European Union High Representative to New York on 8 and 9 March included a statement made at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) regarding cooperation between the EU and the UN. The speech reflected the current European foreign policy priorities: putting Libya “back on track”, fighting terrorism in all its forms and across regions, and saving the lives of migrants crossing the Mediterranean into Europe.
The Fourth Eastern Partnership (EaP) Summit to be held in Riga in May 2015 will mark an “opportunity to evaluate progress achieved in political association and economic integration” between the EU and the post-Soviet states of Ukraine, Armenia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Georgia. According to this semester’s Latvian EU Presidency, the summit will send a “strong signal of long-term strategic support” to the EaP countries. There will be discussions about trade, mobility and energy. A declaration of Heads of State will be negotiated and published, probably reaffirming the EU’s commitment to a more adaptable and tailored-made EaP based on its current four priorities: democracy and good governance, economic integration, energy security and people-to-people contacts. That said, EU relations with Eastern Partnership countries are far from simple.
Three documents issued by the European Commission on 25 February 2015 aim to advance work on the Energy Union, a project figuring prominently on the Juncker Commission’s agenda. It is hoped that the proposed actions will help diversify Europe’s energy sources and turn the EU from the world’s largest energy importer to the world’s leader in renewable energy production.