Trans-Europe Express: EU summertime blues

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.

“I’m gonna take two weeks, gonna have a fine vacation
I’m gonna take my problem to the United Nations…”
-Eddie Cochran, Summertime Blues, August 1958.

At the time when many in the EU bubble are getting ready for holidays, it is helpful to remember that the summer period is a fertile time for coups, geopolitical earthquakes and big blunders.

In August 2008, Russian troops entered Georgia and haven’t left since. South Ossetia and Abkhazia remain occupied. The then-French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, called an EU crisis summit and negotiated a peace plan, which was heavily criticised by former Polish President Lech Kaczynski.

The European debt crisis erupted by the end of 2009. In August 2009, economists were advising the then European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, who was preparing his manifesto for a second term, on the need for a new balance between liberalisation and redistribution. He didn’t listen.

In August 2010, France was the closest to deserving Article 7 and losing its voting rights in the EU of which it was one of the founding members. Sarkozy’s mass deportations of Roma to their countries of origin, Romania and Bulgaria, cast a shadow of xenophobia and racism over the “country of human rights”.

On 11 July 2011, the Eurozone crisis reached another climax as fears grew it was also going to engulf Italy, considered “too big to fail”.

On 26 July 2012, Barroso urgently flew to Greece amid renewed speculation that the country could be forced to leave the eurozone.

On 27 July 2013, Russia warned Ukraine that if it went ahead with a planned agreement on free trade with the EU, it would face financial catastrophe and possibly the collapse of the state. This statement largely opened the doors to the Ukrainian crisis, which has no end in sight.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over the conflict zone on 17 July 2014 near the Donetsk region, over an area of Ukraine controlled by pro-Moscow separatists. In August, Russia sent lots of troops and equipment into eastern Ukraine, without approval from Kyiv.

Greece was the closest to Grexit in the first days of July 2015, after it was announced that Greek banks would remain closed all week, and cash withdrawals from banks would be limited to €60 per day.

In July and August 2015, as the EU fails to find an agreement on relocating migrants, tens of thousands of refugees take the Balkan route putting under pressure solidarity in the 28-country bloc.

On 15 July 2016, a coup attempt in Turkey was aborted. The country’s strongman said the failed coup was a “gift from God”, giving him the chance to reshape the country, and punish his enemies. He hasn’t stopped doing that since.

This year the bad news is likely to come from Poland. The opposition has already called efforts by the country’s far-right government to subordinate the judiciary a “coup against the constitution”.

“Sometimes I wonder what I’m a gonna do
But there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues”.

Read more: Cochran Eddie – Summertime Blues Lyrics | MetroLyrics


The Inside Track

Goodnight and good luck. Poland’s lower house of parliament adopted a controversial Supreme Court bill Thursday, setting the country further on a collision course with Brussels, which has accused it of undermining the basic principles of the rule of law.

At least they’re listening. On Wednesday, Frans Timmermans criticised Polish efforts to reform the judiciary, considered threatening to the separation of powers, eroding democracy and the rule of law.

Thugs-R-Us. Dorota Bawołek, a respected Brussels journalist, has been the target of hundreds of threatening messages on social media after state-controlled Polish TV said she asked the European Commission politically motivated questions with intent “to harm Poland”.

Early 80s nostalgia. Thousands of Poles protested on Sunday against the government’s attempts to secure full control over the judiciary.

From Russia, with love. Monday was the anniversary of the attack that claimed the largest number of EU lives since a united Europe emerged from the rubble of WWII, when 298 civilians were killed, including 80 children, on flight MH17. Juraj Mesík looks back, three years on.

Feel the energy. Estonia’s foreign minister has warned against letting the controversial Nord Stream 2 project, a planned pipeline between Russia and Germany, become a “tool for political pressure”.

At least they make decent wine. To the untrained eye, Georgia’s European future looks secure. Yet, zoom in closer and the country is quickly turning into another regional oligarchy, where political competition and free speech are on the wane writes Salome Samadashvili.

Enlargement by other means. The European Commission is expected to approve the second thread of the Turkish Stream pipeline stretching to Bulgaria’s Black Sea shore, according to Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who warned that the EU is becoming over-dependent on gas transited via Turkey.

Brussels prefers Turkey. In a wide-ranging interview, Greece’s foreign minister on Sunday outlined his country’s position on the failed Cyprus reunification talks, scolding UN envoy Espen Barth Eide and rejecting “interventions rights” for Turkey in any future settlement.

Good for business. Between its loans to Athens and its debt buying programmes, Germany has cashed in to the tune of €1.34bn since the beginning of the Greek crisis.

Space exploration. Macedonia rejected suggestions on Wednesday it could end a row with Greece over its name by adopting an unwieldy acronym instead, saying it was as alien as the “Klingon” language used in Star Trek.

Love their bowler hats. Bolivia wants visa-free travel for its citizens in the Schengen area and for Brussels to offer the same perks it does to other Latin American countries.

Trans-Europe Express will be on summer holiday until 25 August.

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