Trans-Europe-Express: EU-Africa summit, Eastern Europe and the Billy Joel doctrine

Sent out every Friday at noon, Trans-Europe Express gives you an insider's view of the most important coverage from across the EURACTIV media network, its media partners and much more.

The EU-Africa summit in Abidjan confirmed the impression that for EU members from Central and Eastern Europe, Africa is not a big priority.  The same can be said about those countries’ media, who paid little attention to the gathering.

As an argument for not taking migrants, some of the Visegrad leaders have said their countries didn’t have colonies, and that it wasn’t them who encouraged the Arab Spring. And that it was Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron who bombed Libya with the purpose of overthrowing Gaddafi, creating a mess nobody can fix.

“We didn’t start the fire”, Visegrad leaders say, Billy Joel-style.

We can take that with a grain of salt. If the world is now in such a mess, it is also because the countries of Central and Eastern Europe joined the “coalition of the willing”, or COW, like cow-boy George W. Bush who has messed up Iraq, the other mother of all messes.

Moreover, led by Poland, countries of Central and Eastern Europe are again tempted to repeat those divisions under the wise leadership of another cow-boy, Donald J. Trump.

The countries from Central and Eastern Europe are not happy that their Western allies show little interest for the Eastern Partnership, dear to most of them. At the last summit of this initiative, several Western countries were not represented at the highest level.

Both East and West should take example from the Nordic countries, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. These countries didn’t have colonies in Africa, but are among the world champions in providing Official development assistance.  And they are equally interested in the Eastern Partnership, which was illustrated by the presence of their leaders at the summit in Brussels.

Central Europe finds excuses in history. Western Europe finds excuses in geography. Both are wrong. And the Nordics are the good pupils in the EU kindergarten.

Inside Track

EU and Africa agree at a summit in Abidjan to repatriate migrants stranded in Libya to their countries of origin, but the question of who should pay for it has been carefully avoided.

Pan-European vision. France has drafted a law to lay the groundwork for the adoption of transnational lists for the upcoming 2019 European elections.

Citizenship wanted. The number of ‘Brexiles’ applying for passports in Sweden has tripled in 2016, according to the Swedish Migration Agency, other member states have also reported similar increases for a second or replacement citizenship.

Lack of strategic vision. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov snubbed the Africa-EU summit and payed a visit to Saudi Arabia instead, contradicting the announcement that development will be given priority in the during Bulgaria’s upcoming Presidency of the Council of the EU.

Asylum proposal. Estonia presented a compromise proposal on the relocation of refugees, which it said would be “fair” to all EU member states, deeply divided over how to deal with asylum seekers arriving in Europe.

EU-Africa cooperation must be increased in education, employment and integration of youth, if we want to defuse the migration time bomb in preparation for the next decades, the president of Hellenic-African Chamber tells EURACTIV Greece in an interview.

EU-Africa summit: nine African countries and European member states decided to launch a joint intelligence operation to dismantle human trafficking networks.

Courtroom self-poisoning. A Bosnian Croat war crimes suspect died after taking poison in a hearing at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, which confirmed his sentence for atrocities during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia.

The Sahel is a critical focus area that directly affects Europe and particularly Spain, the High Representative of the EU for the Sahel told EURACTIV’s partner EFE. 

Defending Europe. Recently 23 EU member states have agreed to work closer together in military terms. But the cooperation of defence contractors could cause some problems – especially between Berlin and Paris.

Hungarian scapegoat. Europe ignores the real situation in Hungary because “the West really needs bad boys” to hold up as a negative example, Hungarian MEP Gyorgy Schopflin told EURACTIV Slovakia.

Political glyphosate storm. German Chancellor Angela Merkel rapped her agriculture minister for his voting behaviour violating the government line when approving a controversial weed killer at a key EU meeting, causing a political storm and angering European allies.

Back to Grand Coalition? Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the prospect of talks with her Social Democrat rivals and defended the record of the previous government, saying it had worked well.

Gallows outrage. Poland’s justice minister announced an investigation after mocked-up pictures of opposition MEPs allegedly hanging on gallows were unfurled at a far-right demonstration during the weekend.

Crucial vote ahead. Speaking from Belgium where he fled earlier this month, Catalonia’s former leader Carles Puigdemont challenged Spain and the EU to respect the result of Catalan regional elections in December, saying Madrid would have to end direct rule if separatists win.

Boosting development. While expectations were high during the EU-Africa Summit, French MEP Maurice Ponga in an interview with EURACTIV France spoke about problems faced by the two increasingly interlinked continents, calling for a joint reaction.

Digital leader? When it comes to digitisation, the new Austrian government of Sebastian Kurz and Heinz-Christian Strache wants to become a European role model.

China’s new Silk Road. At the 16+1 summit of Central and Eastern European countries and China that took place this week in Budapest, China strengthened its grip on Central Europe and the Balkans.

Pasta court case. An Italian tribunal approved the decrees signed by the ministries of agriculture and of economic development to include the country of origin of cereals on rice and pasta labels.