Euro News – September no. 7


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Frustrated Renzi attacks EU and Merkel after ‘boat trip’ Bratislava summit
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi stepped up his attacks on other European Union leaders yesterday (18 September) after an EU summit in Bratislava which he said amounted to no more than “a nice cruise on the Danube”.  Renzi said at the end of Friday’s summit he was dissatisfied with its closing statement, after he was excluded from a joint news conference by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande. In particular, he criticised the lack of commitments on the economy and immigration in the summit’s conclusions, which he himself signed.

In a fiery interview with daily Corriere della Sera on Sunday, Renzi – who has staked his career on a referendum this year on his plan for constitutional reform – intensified his criticisms, though he remained vague on what commitments he would have liked the summit to have produced.

What does Brexit mean for the EU’s ongoing trade negotiations?
It is certainly true that discontent with globalisation and mistrust in the EU’s trade (and other) policies were prominent in the UK’s EU referendum campaign. However, the EU reacted with a protectionist stance.

Some EU capitals were keen to punish London out of fear that other countries might follow Britain in leaving whilst maintaining favourable access to the single market. Pursuing this strategy would be damaging for both sides, a more sensible and ‘depoliticised’ approach needs to be found. Taking into account the important trade deficit the UK has with the rest of Europe, one could even argue that the EU needs the British market more than the other way round. We have to respect the choice of the people of the UK and together take sound decisions to determine the next steps.

At the European level, Brexit may, in fact, weaken liberal voices, as the EU loses a major political and economic partner with a consistent history of championing free trade. Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström recently emphasised the relevance of the current EU ambitious trade strategy – no changing course after Brexit. Member states would need, however, to redouble efforts to promote open trade and support

Brexit will change UK role in Europe’s space programmes, ESA says 
Britain will stay in the European Space Agency when it leaves the EU, but will have to renegotiate terms to continue participating in certain projects, the ESA said [14th September]

The ESA is autonomous from the European Union and should not be directly affected by Brexit, Jean Bruston, head of the agency’s EU policy office, told journalists in Paris. Twenty EU countries – including Britain – belong to ESA, which gets about a quarter of its budget from the currently 28-member bloc. The other two members are non-EU countries Norway and Switzerland.

Apart from its ESA participation, Britain is also party to several EU-driven space programmes. These include the Copernicus satellite system to monitor environmental damage and boost disaster relief, and Horizon 2020, which seeks to boost scientific research and innovation. “As soon as it [Britain] is leaving the EU it is not participating in these programmes any longer,” said Bruston.

Furthermore, UK-based companies hold contracts worth tens of millions of euros from ESA to supply hardware for Copernicus as well as the Galileo satnav system, a rival to America’s GPS. “If nothing changes [and Brexit goes ahead], we would have to stop these contracts,” said Bruston. Britain could still contribute to Galileo and Copernicus if it negotiated a third-party agreement with the EU, which is what Norway and Switzerland have done. As non-EU members, they make project-specific contributions to the EU. The ESA, in turn, can place contracts with companies in those countries. Tweaks would have to be made in the existing EU-ESA agreement for the UK to follow suit, said Bruston.