On 18 December, the 28 EU leaders focused on Europe's 2 most important challenges: boosting investment, and the situation at its eastern borders. On the first isuse, they looked at ways of improving the investment environment in Europe and said that this improvement was needed to reinforce structural reforms and fiscal consolidation carried out by Member States. They backed the creation of the European Fund for Strategic Investment, a €315 billion scheme unveiled by the European Commission in November. They asked for fund to be up and running by June so that the first investment projects can be rolled out in mid-2015. They also came out in favour of creating an advisory 'hub' that would offer investors and public authorities guidance on investment projects. They called for quick action to improve 'the regulatory environment for investment'. On the second issue, they welcomed the new Ukrainian government and encouraged it to carry out much-needed political and economic reforms. They also discussed financial support to Ukraine's economy. They shared their views on Russia's policy towards its neighbours and how the EU should respond to it. They also welcomed the strengthening of the sanctions on investment, services and trade with Crimea and Sevastopol.
As expected the Greek parliament failed to elect a successor to the outgoing President Carolos Papoulias on 17th December. The only candidate running, Stavros Dimas, former European Commissioner for the Environment (2004-2010) and former Foreign Minister (2011-2012), won 160 votes of the 300 members of the Vouli, the only Chamber in Parliament. 135 voted against him and five abstained. In the second, which will take place on 23rd December next, a candidate has to win a 2/3 majority of the MPs (i.e. 200 MPs) to be elected. The third and final round will take place on 29th December with a 3/5 majority i.e. 180 MPs, and will be a true litmus test.
On 16th December the European Commission adopted its work programme for 2015, defining actions that it intends to take over the next twelve months. The work programme includes 23 new initiatives in line with the political guidelines of the Juncker Commission put forward to the European Parliament. It plans to amend or withdraw 80 existing proposals for either political or technical reasons. Amongst the action to be taken over the coming year Jean-Claude Juncker emphasised six main priorities which are the introduction of an investment plan for Europe (315 billion €), the adoption of ambitious measures on the single digital market, the introduction of the first measures in view of creating an Energy Union, the drafting of a fairer approach to taxation to counter fraud and the enhancement of transparency, the adoption of a European migration programme and the deepening of Monetary Union.
"The announcement made by the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, of a European project that should lead to the mobilisation of more than 300 billion euro in investments recently revived debate over the levers of growth in Europe. Philippe de Maystadt, former President of the European Investment Bank (EIB) puts forward seven proposals that might enable the recovery of investment and stimulate growth and employment in Europe."
The President of the Republic of Croatia Ivo Josipovic (Social Democratic Party, SDP) announced on 19th October last that he wanted to run for another term as head of State. He will be facing 3 other candidates on 28th December. His most serious rival is undoubtedly Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, member of the main opposition party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) led by Tomislav Karamarko. The presidential election will be test for all of the country's political parties in view of the general elections planned for the end of 2015.
Twenty years ago Russia was a mess - no longer an enemy but not even an adversary and certainly not a partner. What was feared most was a collapse that might turn Russia into something resembling the former Yugoslavia, but worse still. Events now confirm it. Russia is back: a bully to former Soviet holdings in Europe, a challenge to the United States and their allies in Europe, and one of the self-proclaimed leaders of the alleged post-Western world, via its President Vladimir Putin.
The Chairman of the Robert Schuman Foundation, Jean-Dominique Giuliani is the author of "Pourquoi et comment l'Europe restera le coeur du monde - Petit traité d'optimisme". This book published by Lignes de Repères available in paper and in digital format (e-books and tablets), was awarded the Emile Girardeau Prize from the Academy of Moral Science and Politics on 17th November.
Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, and Wolfgang Schäuble attended the conference organized by the Robert Schuman Foundation in Paris on July 18, 2014 about the future of the euro area.