Tweets of the Week: Farewell Juncker, Balkan Rejection and Brexit Uncertainty

Welcome to EURACTIV’s EU Tweets of the Week.
This week’s edition, sponsored by Savoury Snacks Europe, features a Juncker deluxe, Balkan slip-ups and Brexit in flux.

We’ll kick things off in Strasbourg, where Jean-Claude Juncker said goodbye to the European Parliament. The Commission unveiled their own tribute to the Luxembourger, including some classic Young-ker photos.

It was a tearful exchange at times; Pablo Perez tweeted this video of the president and the queue of colleagues lining up to plant a kiss on him and give him a hug.

Jean-Claude has blessed us with a few classic Juncker moments in what are his final weeks in the job. Beatriz Rios shared this Freddie Mercury-inspired clip.

And Bloomberg caught this fearsome exchange with Channel4’s Matt Frei.

Back in the Parliament though, Juncker was in full presidential mode, fessing up to his Commission’s failings over the last five years, handily summarised by Jorge Valero here.

EURACTIV’s cynic-in-chief wasn’t impressed with the Strasbourg showing though, clearly expecting more from the stock-take.

Keep those hopes high though, Jorge, because the Commission pulled out all the stops in what was a busy few days: releasing justice reports on Bulgaria and Romania, giving Croatia a Schengen lifeline, reaching a top-line gender equality milestone and setting up a new Brexit taskforce. We’ll have more on that later.

Over in the Balkans though, hope is in short supply, after EU members failed to open membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia.
Former Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who cashed in almost all his political capital to help the Macedonians, called it “a defeat for the European project”.

To their credit, EU heads did not shy away from the failure. Enlargement chief Johannes Hahn called it “a matter of extreme disappointment”.

While EU Council President Donald Tusk urged the hopeful candidates not to give up.

Former Swedish PM Carl Bildt warned that the region had been “stabbed in the back” and that “the stability of Europe” has been put at risk.

That prognosis looked to be correct almost immediately, as Macedonian PM Zoran Zaev called an early election for April.

The more long-term effect on the Balkans is the increased presence of Russia in the region. That likely future was on full display this week as Dmitry Medvedev was in Serbia for a tete-a-tete with the country’s leaders.

This Friday, both countries are expected to sign up to a broad trade deal, potentially driving a wedge between the EU and Belgrade, as Tim Judah points out.

But enough of those aspirational nations yearning for membership of the European project, let’s check in with the clowns trying to leave the EU.

Current state of play puts the UK in pursuit of an extension, which EU leaders are likely to grant in some form or another. The whole mess led Andrew Duff to wonder if “it’s possible the Prime Minister is out of his depth”.

Boris Johnson is having a rough time of it. Kirsty Strickland tweeted that he “looks like he’s hating every minute of the job he’s wanted his entire life”.

Perhaps more importantly though, is what happens at the end of 2020 and the Brexit transition period. As MP Hillary Benn points out, there’s a chance of the no-deal corpse resurrecting then.

If the UK does leave sometime soon, it would mean hammering out a trade deal in record time. Sam Lowe warned that “lots of people are going to be shocked to discover ‘free trade agreement’ does not mean quite what they think it does”.

The EU already has a taskforce in place to start negotiating. Valery-Xavier Lentz will surely have been disappointed to that the Task Force for Relations with the UK will not be abbreviated to ‘TFUK’.

What’s a Brexit roundup without a concise flowchart to explain the whole thing? Dave Clark has obliged with possibly the most accurate to date.

Thanks to Savoury Snacks Europe for supporting this episode, to learn more about them check out this tweet.

Jen is back next week, I’ve been Sam Morgan and I’ll catch you real soon.

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