The week’s highlights in print, at EM Germany and on Twitter

24.04.2015

Tragedy struck in the early hours of Sunday morning when a boat carrying 950 refugees across the Mediterranean sank off the coast of Libya. Just 28 refugees could be saved (Spiegel Online). The tragedy was a dramatic climax to a series of boat accidents in the Mediterranean in recent weeks. A ten point action plan prepared earlier by the European Commission was amongst the topics discussed at an EU special summit on refugee policy on Thursday (Tagesschau). At the meeting, heads of state and government agreed to triple the budget for border patrol and sea rescue programmes Poseidon and Triton. In addition, more warships will be deployed to the Mediterranean, not only to serve as rescue ships but also to pursue and destroy smuggling boats. However, there was no agreement reached on the distribution of refugees. Human rights organisations showed their disappointment at the situation and are urging the EU to come up with stronger and more comprehensive measures (Zeit Online). In a statement, EM Germany board member Tobias Köck declared a common, united and lasting approach to dealing with people in the EU and using politics as the only way to produce humane refugee policy.

The European public closely observed the EU finance ministers meeting in Riga on Friday. Greece’s list of reforms, expected weeks ago, still has not reached the EU Institutions (a.k.a. troika) in an adequate form. As a result, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble travelled to Riga with very straightforward expectations. After Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis’ statement at the IMF’s spring meeting in Washington, DC, experts assume that Greece still has sufficient money reserves until the end of June. Further payments of aid money are therefore urgently necessary (Euractiv).

The conservative “Center Partei” emerged as the strongest party from parliamentary elections in Finland and will now build a coalition. Possible coalition partners are the right-wing populist and EU-sceptic “Finns Party”, which will enter parliament as the second-strongest party, as well as the liberal-conservative NCP party together with the social-democratic SDP. A government coalition including the “Finns party” could have considerable repercussions on EU policy in Finland. The election campaign was mainly defined by the economy. Finland has seen the slowest economic growth in the Eurozone in recent years (European Movement Ireland).

The European Commission wants to give member states more freedom of choice in using genetically modified food and feed (European Commission). Member states should then be able to decide themselves whether to allow or ban it. The proposal was met with criticism from environmental organisations and agribusiness. Greenpeace criticised the undemocratic system which permits genetically modified plants (Euractiv).

Last week, the European Parliament demanded in a resolution that the systematic persecution of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire be recognised by Turkey as genocide. This is said to be the only way a reconciliation between the Turkish and Armenian people is possible (Deutschlandfunk). The German government followed suit in the same week. Their bill, which was decided in the Bundestag on Friday on the 100th anniversary of the genocide, read: “their destiny stands as an example for the history of mass extermination, ethnic cleansing, displacement, and indeed genocide, which has scarred the 20th century in such a horrific way” (Spiegel Online).

The discussion surrounding the EU’s refugee policy and the EU special summit can be followed on Twitter using the hashtags #EUCO#MigrationEU#Frontex and #mediterranean#Greece and #Eurogroup provide information about the Euro finance ministers meeting in Riga. The debate and remembrance of the Armenian massacre can be fond via #Armenia and #Genozid. The results of the Finnish parliamentary elections are being debated by the Twitter community using #Vaalit2015 and #FinElec2015European Movement International’s general assembly in Riga can be followed using #EMIFA2015.

Kathrin Finke

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