Collage European press roundup: Dutch presidency, economic side of Schengen and ceiling on number of asylum applications

The Dutch Presidency of the EU, an Austrian proposal to limit refugees on its territory, Iran, arms exports and the visit of Polish prime minister to the European Parliament were in European headlines this week.

On Tuesday, the Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo visited the European Parliament, where the new Polish laws on media and the constitutional court were discussed.

The former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said that the debate on the rule of law in Poland was “a sad affair” for his native country.

The Netherlands, who will have the presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2016, will focus on fighting unemployment, limiting European bureaucracy and boosting growth through stimulating especially small- and medium sized companies (SMEs).

In recent months, however, the economic agenda has been pushed down by the refugee crisis, which again might be the case in 2016, reported the Greek Euranet Plus member Skai Media.

Schengen and the economy

The continuous arrival of thousands of refugees from the Middle East is still the most important topic on Europe’s political agenda. The 28 countries are increasingly tempted to strengthen their national borders.

In Strasbourg on Wednesday (January 20), the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned of economic dangers in case the Schengen area is continuously disintegrated, reported the Italian Euranet Plus member Radio 24 (in Italian).

“One country after another is closing the borders. Once all the borders are closed, we will realize that the costs are enormous”, Juncker said.

Eleonas, temporary refugee accommodation center in Athens in December 2015 / ec.europa.eu

Open borders, no more?

Austria to announce an upper limit for refugees

The German weekly “Die Zeit” commented on the Austrian plan to introduce a ceiling on the number of annually submitted asylum applications.

“In Austria they call a border fence not a fence, but structural measures,” Joachim Riedl, the author of the article, argues. He suggests that an upper limit for accepting refugees needs not necessarily be called a limit, but could also be called a “guideline” instead, as the Austrian Federal Chancellor Werner Faymann did.

In an interview with the German Euranet Plus member AMS-NET,  Joachim Riedl explained, why in his mind an upper limit is unrealistic: “It can’t work. First because actually it isn’t in line with EU standards. Secondly, because you only can secure borders if you use the military. And I find it hard to imagine that we will have, permanently, in the full sense of the word, a border fortification.”

Eleonas temporary refugee centre in Athens in December 2015 / ec.europa.eu

Sitting in Greece, hoping for Germany and Sweden

The Polish member of Euranet Plus, Polskie Radio, published a special online dossier on the refugee crisis in Europe, updated daily.

It includes, for example, an article on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s migration policy, an interview with the Polish foreign minister and the latest figures and statistics of arriving migrants.

Sale of European weapons

The European working group on Conventional Arms (COARM) met in Brussels on Wednesday. This group allows EU member states to agree on a common positions on arms sales.

The Belgian Euranet Plus member RTBF focused in a dossier on the Walloon region in Belgium which continues to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, whose regime is often accused of human rights violation and war crimes.

The region’s minister, Paul Magnette, argued that Saudi Arabia was on the list to which EU countries are allowed to sell weapons to.

However, such a list does not really exist, RTBF reported.

Instead, there is a European regulatory framework for weapons, in which member states commit to respect a common position on arms exports, which is a kind of code of conduct.

Free Syrian Army fighter in Aleppo / Flickr / Jordi Bernabeu Farrús / CC BY 2.0

Free Syrian Army fighter in Aleppo

EU puts economic hope in Iran

On January 16, the European Council lifted all nuclear-related economic and financial EU sanctions against Iran.

A delegation from the national Luxembourgish Parliament travelled to Iran this week.

“The situation regarding human rights is still problematic,” said the Luxembourgish member of the Parliament (MEP), Anne Brasseur, in an interview with Luxembourgish public radio 100,7. Nevertheless, she expects that Luxembourg can build up economic relations with Iran in the financial sector.

Brasseur, who is also president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said that this institution is today more important than ever, with rule of law and human rights being under pressure in Europe.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iran, and Federica Mogherini, after Iran nuclear talks in Brussels in March 2015 / tvnewsroom.consilium.europa.eu/

Iran nuclear talks in Brussels in March 2015

Croatia’s economy should act fast

Leading creditors and potential investors think that the new Croatian government led by Prime Minister Tihomir Oreškovic needs to act fast on cutting growth in public debt.

In an interview with the Croatian Euranet Plus member HRT, Unicredit’s chief economic analyst Erik Nielsen said that the key message to Croatia was that changes were necessary, that measures should be adopted to prevent public debt from increasing further and that there should be no interference in monetary policy.

Inequality in Spain

In Spain in 2015, only 20 people were in possession of the fortune comparable to the wealth of 30 percent of the poorest part of the population.

The Spanish newspaper El Pais reported about a study by Oxfam Intermon, saying that 20 people reach an heritage of 115,100 million euros.

According to the organization, the “concentration of wealth and wealth in few hands is still growing.”

  • This press review has been produced with the support of the following Euranet Plus member stations: Polskie Radio (Poland), HRT (Croatia), Skaï Radio (Greece), RTBF (Belgium), Castilla y Leones Radio (Spain), Radio 24 (Italy), 100.7 (Luxembourg) and ams (Germany).
  • Author: Laeticia Markakis, Euranet Plus News Agency
  • Further image credits: (middle 1 & 2) Eleonas temporary refugee centre in Athens in December 2015 / ec.europa.eu | (middle 3) Free Syrian Army fighter in Aleppo / Flickr / Jordi Bernabeu Farrús / CC BY 2.0 | (middle 4) Mohammad Javad Zarif, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iran, and Federica Mogherini, after Iran nuclear talks in Brussels in March 2015 / tvnewsroom.consilium.europa.eu/