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.
Thank you, President Juncker for more than 30 years of firmly pro-European stance.
-Almost 600 meetings at EU level
-Chairman of Social Affairs, Budget & Ecofin Councils
-One of the main architects of Maastricht Treaty
-President of the European Commission pic.twitter.com/Lbxc3ZrPGL
— European Commission 🇪🇺 (@EU_Commission) October 22, 2019
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.
"Take care of Europe. And fight the stupid and narrow-minded nationalism. Long live Europe! 🇪🇺" pic.twitter.com/daRr5Ofebl
— Pablo Pérez (@PabloPerezA) October 22, 2019
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.
"I AM SPEAKING!"
— Bloomberg TicToc (@tictoc) October 18, 2019
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.
Looking back, Juncker regrets that his Commission didn't succeed in:
Agreement with Switzerland
— Jorge Valero (@europressos) October 22, 2019
EURACTIV’s cynic-in-chief wasn’t impressed with the Strasbourg showing though, clearly expecting more from the stock-take.
I expected more from Juncker's speech & MEPs' debate to review such a turbulent mandate… but perhaps I should stop having high hopes
— Jorge Valero (@europressos) October 22, 2019
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.
Busy day for the @EU_Commission
– Bulgaria & Romania stay in justice-monitoring dog-house
– Croatia gets Schengen boost
– Meets target of 40% women in top manager roles
– Sets up Brexit taskforce for future relationship
— Sam Morgan (@SamJamesMorgan) October 22, 2019
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”.
The European Council decision to reject the beginning of accession talks with North Macedonia is a message of weakness and defeat for the European project.
— Alexis Tsipras (@tsipras_eu) October 18, 2019
To their credit, EU heads did not shy away from the failure. Enlargement chief Johannes Hahn called it “a matter of extreme disappointment”.
#EU leaders failed to live up to their commitment to open #accession negotiations with #NorthMacedonia and #Albania at #EUCO. This is a matter of extreme disappointment. #EU #MS now need to clarify how serious their commitment is to the #WesternBalkans’ #EU integration. 1/4
— Johannes Hahn (@JHahnEU) October 18, 2019
While EU Council President Donald Tusk urged the hopeful candidates not to give up.
I would like to send a message to our Macedonian and Albanian friends: don’t give up! You did your share and we didn’t. But I have absolutely no doubt that you will become full members of the European Union.https://t.co/8G5z2NjHPr pic.twitter.com/xgTjKS0HML
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) October 18, 2019
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.
No doubt that 🇫🇷 Macron has dealt a heavy blow to the overall credibility of the EU as an actor of relevance for the stability of Europe. In the very region where 🇪🇺 was to prove its powers it has now been stabbed in the back. https://t.co/Fyg2lx6IQz
— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) October 19, 2019
That prognosis looked to be correct almost immediately, as Macedonian PM Zoran Zaev called an early election for April.
North Macedonia will hold early elections in April after the EU blocked the start of membership talks.
Zoran Zaev: “The unanimous view of all parties is that Euro-Atlantic integration is our goal… and these aspirations of the country will remain."https://t.co/Fu2LStDG7H
— EURACTIV (@EURACTIV) October 21, 2019
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.
— Government of Russia (@GovernmentRF) October 19, 2019
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.
That is true but I don’t think that is a good reason to shrug and give everything up and go home. On October 25th Serbia should sign an FTA with the Eurasian Economic Union. If you don’t care fine – Macron is enabling such things.
— Tim Judah (@timjudah1) October 22, 2019
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”.
Do you think it possible that the Prime Minister is out of his depth ?
— Andrew Duff (@AndrewDuffEU) October 22, 2019
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”.
Boris Johnson looks like he is hating every minute of the job he wanted his whole life
— Kirsty Strickland (@KirstyStricklan) October 22, 2019
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.
Clause 30 of the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill. What happens if the Government doesn’t propose an extension? Parliament would have no say and we would exit the transition period on the 31 Dec 2020 even if a trade agreement hadn’t been reached by then with the EU; ie no deal. pic.twitter.com/mbCAsrX0eB
— Hilary Benn (@hilarybennmp) October 21, 2019
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”.
I worry that lots of people are going to be shocked to discover 'free trade agreement' does not mean quite what they think it does.
— Sam Lowe (@SamuelMarcLowe) October 22, 2019
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.
— Savoury Snacks Europe (@ESA_Snacks) October 21, 2019
Jen is back next week, I’ve been Sam Morgan and I’ll catch you real soon.