Welcome to “Seven Days in Europe”. Each week EUtopia law will summarise the week’s happenings in Europe and highlight selected stories from the press.
The eurozone may be on the brink of collapse, and the EU struggling to find a united position on Palestine’s upcoming UN bid, but the EU policy that was apparently of most concern to the UK press last week was the upcoming ban on 60W incandescent light bulbs. An EU-wide ban on the manufacturing and importing of the bulbs came into force on 1 September. In response to the ban shop owners are stockpiling old bulbs in anticipation of demand. One shopkeeper interviewed by the BBC took issue with the new policy being ‘forced’ upon the UK ‘like a dictatorship’. Euromove posted a robust response to this, arguing that ‘the strategic decision was enacted in a regulation drafted by the European Commission with the formal involvement of stakeholders such as consumer and environmental NGOs, approved by a committee of experts nominated by the member states, and then approved by the European Parliament. It is hard to think of a process less like that of a dictatorship.’
On a more serious note, Angela Merkel faced an election setback after opposition Social Democrats won regional elections in the German Chancellor’s home state. The results raise new questions over Germany’s role in the current euro-crisis. On Wednesday Germany’s highest court will decide on the legality of the three EU-backed bail outs to Greece, Ireland and Portugal last year. The case has been bought by five academics and a Eurosceptic MP from the Bavarian wing of Merkel’s centre-right party. In addition, some economic commentators suggest that in the event of the eurozone facing collapse Germany should exit the euro rather than economically weak states such as Greece. However, others argue that leaving the euro is now Greece’s only realistic option. This would clearly be an option of last resort, at present the EC is still assessing Greece’s progression in implementing the austerity and restructuring ordered by international lenders in return for the country’s bail-out.
There are also several challenges looming on the foreign policy horizon. There are reports that last week’s talks among EU foreign ministers regarding Palestine’s upcoming bid to the UN were tense, with ministers split over whether to support Palestine’s request for statehood. Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, has issued a press release outlining the EU response to the situation in Libya, stating that ‘beyond tackling the most pressing humanitarian needs, the European Union is already preparing both immediate measures to support the stabilisation priorities of the National Transitional Council (NTC), as well as longer-term support programmes.’
Jose Manuel Barroso, the head of the European Commission, has outlined the Commission’s priorities for the autumn. These include the conclusion of the economic governance package, the reform of the European Financial Stability Facility, ensuring the Greek austerity measures take effect and strengthening of financial regulation.
In happier news Yvonne, the Bavarian cow who eluded capture for three months after escaping en route to the abattoir, has given herself up. She has been bought by an animal sanctuary and will live out her years alongside other members of her family.