The Letter n°858

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The Letter n°858
The Letter
Tuesday 10th September 2019
issue 858
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Europe in the Sino-American Trade War
Author : Cecilia Bellora
Cecilia Bellora
The US trade policy is destabilising the international trade system severely. The EU is fighting to maintain stability of a system under dire threat. This is an extremely difficult task but also a historic occasion to modify and adapt the international system to future challenges.
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Front page! : Our freedom starts in Hong Kong
The West and Europe must support those who are defending their idea of Freedom in Hong Kong, writes Jean-Dominique Giuliani in an editorial. Because whilst the confrontation now ongoing with China will affect the universal values of freedom and democracy that it rejects, victory on the part of the regime in Beijing over the Hong Kong democrats would mean greater danger for our own freedom... Read more

Elections : The party of outgoing Sebastian Kurz favourite in the Austrian snap election on 29th September
6.4 million Austrians aged at least 16 are being called to ballot on 29th September to elect the 183 members of the National Council. The People's Party (ÖVP) of outgoing Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is due to come out ahead with 35% of the vote. He is due to be followed by the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) which is due to win 21%, then the Freedom Party (FPÖ), 19%, the Greens-Alternative Green (DG) with 11%, the liberals of NEOS-New Austria (NEOS) 9% and finally JETZT, a left-wing ecologist party, 2%... Read more
Socialists due to retain office after the elections on 6th October
Portugal is one of the rare EU Member States to be led by a socialist, Antonio Costa (PS) and where, for the time being, the populist and extremists are absent. According to the polls the country is due to retain its status as a European exception after the general election on 6th October. A question remains however: will they be able to win the absolute majority?.. Read more

Commission : Preparation for a no-deal Brexit
On 4th September the Commission published a 6th series of recommendations to help European businesses prepare for a possible UK exit from the Union without an agreement on 31st October. It also suggested that the EU's Solidarity Fund and the European Adjustment Fund to Globalisation be used to help the Member States most vulnerable to a no-deal Brexit... Read more
Composition of the New Commission
The President elect of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen presented her team and the structure of the new college on 10th September. The Commission will comprise 14 men and 13 women, 3 Executive Vice-Presidents, and 5 Vice-Presidents. The priorities are: the European Green Deal, a Europe adapted to the digital era, an economy at the service of people, which protects our European way of life, a strong Europe in the international arena and new impetus for European democracy... Read more

Parliament : Hearing of Christine Lagarde
The designated president of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, presented her plans to MEPs of the ECON committee on 4th September. She insisted that she would be flexible in the face of economic circumstances, whilst respecting the ECB's mandate. She also guaranteed that the ECB would contribute to adapting the financial sector to ecologic transition. MEPs voted in support of her appointment, 37 votes in support, 11 against and 4 abstentions... Read more
Visit by a delegation to Finland
The President of Parliament, David Sassoli, together with the leaders of the political groups met Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne and his government on 6th September in Helsinki. Discussions mainly focused on sustainable growth, the climate, the multi-annual financial framework and European values. Finland has been ensuring the semestrial presidency of the Council since July 1st... Read more
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Council : Council position on the budget 2020
On 3rd September the Council adopted its position on the Union's 2020 budget. It said it supported "emphasis on growth, innovation, security and migration." It also insisted on the need to show caution and budgetary discipline to accommodate room to manoeuvre in the event of unforeseen events... Read more
Informal Defence Ministers' Meeting
In an informal meeting in Helsinki on 28th and 29th August European Defence Ministers discussed artificial intelligence and new technologies, hybrid threats, maritime safety and the effects of climate change on defence... Read more

Diplomacy : G7 Biarritz Summit
Heads of State and government from the G7 countries met on 24th to 26th August in Biarritz, France. Discussions focussed on the survival of the Amazon rainforest, stability in Iran, world trade, the rise of Africa, gender equality and the fight to counter inequality. The situations in Ukraine, Libya and Hong Kong were also discussed... Read more
Letter by 9 European regions on relations with Switzerland
Nine presidents of the European regions that border Switzerland wrote to the European Commission to express their concern about the state of relations between the EU and the Helvetic Confederation. These regions fear negative repercussions on their economy due to the end of the EU's recognition of Swiss market regulations. The European decision is the result of the deadlock in negotiations for the conclusion of a new framework agreement between the Union and the Confederation... Read more
Informal Foreign Affairs' Ministers' Meeting
Foreign Affairs Ministers who met informally in Helsinki on 29th and 30th August discussed the situation in the Middle East, the Arctic, hybrid threats and regional cooperation with the Western Balkans. They also hosted Human Rights defenders from around the world for a working lunch... Read more
Joint EU-Cuba Council
The joint EU-Cuba council met for the second time on 9th September in Havana and assessed the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement signed in 2017. In particular Human Rights and sustainable development were discussed, together with cooperation projects in areas such as energy, agriculture and economic modernisation. Trade relations and the situation in Latin America and in the Caribbean were also discussed... Read more
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European Agencies : Launch of a Judicial Counter Terrorism Register
Eurojust, the European Agency for Judicial Cooperation launched a judicial counter-terrorism register on 5th September. The latter which is managed 24/24 at the agency's HQ in The Hague, centralises vital judicial information to establish links in the procedures targeting those suspected of having committed terrorist acts... Read more
One billion Galileo users
Galileo, the European satellite navigation system reached beyond the threshold of one billion users on 9th September, just as it is about to celebrate its 15th anniversary. The figure is based on the number of smartphones equipped with Galileo that have been sold across the world. According to the Commission the number of effective users is higher because the system is also used in cars, lorries and by various services like the emergency services... Read more

Germany : Election results in Saxony and Brandenburg
Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) came out ahead in the regional elections organised on 1st September in Saxony (31.1% of the vote) and the Social Democrats (SPD) won in Brandenburg (26.2%). Both elections were marked by gains by the far right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), which won 27.5% of the vote in Saxony and 22.8% in Brandenburg, up respectively by 18 and 10 points. The CDU and the SPD ruled out any alliance with the AfD to find a majority in the regional parliaments... Read more
Chancellor's visit to China
German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a visit to China from 5th to 7th September. She spoke of her wish for a rapid settlement to the trade war between the US and China. She also called for a peaceful solution to the political crisis ongoing in Hong Kong, indicating that citizens' rights and freedoms should be guaranteed. She also called for the rapid conclusion of an agreement to protect investments between China and the EU... Read more
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Austria : Vienna, the most pleasant town in which to live in the world
Vienna, the capital of Austria, was ranked the most pleasant town in which to live in the world by a study the Economist Intelligence Unit, the department affiliated to the weekly, The Economist, on 4th September. It is the second year running that Vienna has led this ranking of 140 towns... Read more

France : Appointment of two new ministers
The High Commissioner for Pensions Jean-Paul Delevoye was appointed to government on 3rd September with the same title, delegated to the Minister for Solidarity and Healthcare, Agnès Buzyn. Jean-Baptiste Djebbari was appointed Secretary of State for Transport on the same day; he will be delegated to the Minister for Ecological and Inclusive Transition, Elisabeth Borne... Read more
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Greece : Announcement of reforms to attract investments
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced a series of reforms on 7th September to attract foreign investors and to consolidate the end of the country's crisis. In particular he is suggesting a reduction of corporate tax and income tax and tax on dividends, as well as measures to boost the building sector... Read more

Ireland : Visit by the British Prime Minister
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar hosted his British counterpart Boris Johnson in Dublin on 9th September to discuss Brexit and relations between the two countries, particularly regarding the backstop to maintain an open border on the island. In a joint statement both leaders acknowledged that there remained a "significant gap" in their respective positions... Read more
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Italy : New government coalition
The new government coalition between the Five Stars Movement (M5S) and the Democratic Party (PD), led by the President of the outgoing Council Giuseppe Conte was sworn in on 5th September. The president of the European Parliament's Economic Affairs Committee, Roberto Gualtieri (PD), has been appointed Minister for the Economy. The leader of the M5S Luigi di Maio, has been appointed Foreign Affairs Minister. Luciana Lamorgese, a specialist on migratory issues will be Home Affairs Minister. In order to widen the parliamentary base of the new government Mr Conte gave the Healthcare portfolio to Roberto Speranza, one of the leaders of the left-wing Liberi e Uguali... Read more
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President supports a change in European economic rules
Italian President Sergio Mattarella called on 7th September for a change in the European debt and deficit rules. In a speech delivered during an economic forum, Ambrosetti, he advocated for the Stability and Growth Pact to favour rather more policies to develop infrastructures, networks, innovation, education and research... Read more
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Poland : Commemoration of the 1939 invasion
On 1st September Poland commemorated Nazi Germany's invasion of it territory in 1939, an event that triggered the Second World War. During a ceremony in Warsaw, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier asked for Poland's forgiveness for the "historic guilt that Germany bore", for which he expressed its "eternal responsibility". His Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda stressed the importance of Polish-German friendship... Read more
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UK : Resignation of two ministers
Two members of the British government, Jo Johnson, the Secretary of State for Higher Education and brother of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and the Minister for Employment Amber Rudd resigned on 5th and 7th September in protest against Mr Johnson's strategy of trying to circumvent Parliament and organising a snap election to facilitate a withdrawal from the EU without a deal on 31st October and his decision to exclude all opponents to his strategy from the Conservative Party... Read more
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A no-deal Brexit would lead to a 16 billion $ loss for Britain
In a study published on 3rd September the UN Conference on trade and development (UNCTAD) deemed that an exit from the EU without an agreement would lead to export losses on the part of the UK of at least 16 billion $ (14.6 billion €) which would represent around 7% of the country's exports towards the Union... Read more
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Rejection of a snap election
On 4th and 9th September British MPs twice rejected Prime Minister Boris Johnson's request for the organisation of a snap election mid-October before the planned date of the withdrawal from the EU on 31st October. The motions launched by the government did not win the 2/3 vote necessary for it to be adopted... Read more
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Parliament votes in support of Brexit with a deal
The House of Lords finally adopted the draft bill on 6th September aiming to prevent the UK leaving the EU without a deal on 31st October. The text that was adopted by the House of Commons on 4th September means that the Prime Minister has to ask the Union for an extension on Brexit until 31st January 2020, if no agreement has been found by 19th October... Read more
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Ukraine : Exchange of prisoners with Russia
Ukraine and Russia exchanged prisoners on 7th September totalling 35 on each side. Amongst the Ukrainian prisoners were film-maker Oleg Sentsov, the winner of the Sakharov Prize awarded by the European Parliament in 2018, and the sailors taken by Russia in November 2018. The exchange was "a decisive step in the renewal of constructive dialogue" said French President Emmanuel Macron, who hopes to organise a summit with Russia and Ukraine in Germany regarding the implementation of the 2015 Minsk Peace Agreement... Read more

ECHR : Russia condemned for the death of Serguey Magnitski
The European Court of Human Rights condemned Russia on 27th August for the death of Sergei Magnitsky in prison in 2009 - the latter was a lawyer who denounced a corruption scandal. The Court deemed that the Russian authorities had infringed the right to life, freedom and safety and also the right to a fair trial, as well as the ban on poor treatment. Russia has to pay 34,000€ to the wife and mother of Mr Magnitski for moral damages... Read more
Condemnation of Poland
On 5th September the European Court of Human Rights condemned Poland for its failings in an investigation into the kidnapping and death of a man. The judges deemed that the police had committed serious mistakes and that the legal system had not tried to shed light on the facts, thereby violating the right to life and an effective investigation. A Polish Minister of Justice resigned because of this in 2009... Read more

IMF : Abolition of age limit for position of Managing Director
On 5th September the IMF Council of Governors abolished the age limit for the position of Managing Director, which to date was set at 65. This reform was adopted on the eve of the end of the bid for candidatures for the succession to Christine Lagarde, appointed to lead the ECB. It enables the validation of the candidature of the only known candidate, Kristalina Georgieva who is 66 years of age. The appointment of the Managing Director who is traditionally a European is due to occur on 4th October... Read more

Eurostat : Increase in GDP and employment
In the second half of 2019 the GDP recorded a rise of 0.2% in the EU and the euro zone, according to figures published by Eurostat on 6th September. Hungary, Romania and Poland have experienced strong growth, whilst Sweden, Germany and the UK have witnessed a decline in their GDP. Over the same period the employment rate has increased by 0.3% in the Union and by 0.2% in the euro zone... Read more
Unemployment down
According to figures published on 30th August by Eurostat unemployment in the EU lay at 6.3% in July 2019, the lowest rate since January 2000 and at 7.5% in the euro zone, the lowest rate since July 2008... Read more

Studies/Reports : VAT: study of Member States' losses
According to a study published on 5th September by the Commission the EU's Member States recorded a loss of 137 billion € in 2017 due to the VAT gap - the difference between estimated VAT revenues and the totals that were effectively received. The Commission deems that this figure, although it is decreasing, should encourage States to reform their VAT rules and to improve cooperation... Read more
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The European Union leads world agri-food trade
According to a report published by the Commission on 5th September, the EU is the leading exporter of agri-food trade, to a total of 138 billion € in 2018, i.e 7% of total exports. The agri-food is the 4th sector of exports, after machines, other manufactured goods and chemical products, and represents 44 million jobs... Read more
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Culture : Maria Lassnig at the Albertina
Maria Lassnig would have turned 100 this year. On this occasion the Albertina in Vienna is devoting a retrospective to this Austrian painter until 1st December. At the end of the 1940's she placed her own body at the centre of her art to illustrate what she felt, and not what she saw... Read more
Brassaï exhibition in Amsterdam
The Foam of Amsterdam is running a first Brassaï retrospective from 12th September to 4th December in the Netherlands: more 170 old prints, a selection of drawings, a sculpture and documentary material. The French photographer of Hungarian descent, a key figure in 20th century photography created many iconic images of Parisian life in the 1930's... Read more
Paris Biennale
The Paris Biennale is taking place from 13th to 17th September at the Grand Palais. This 31st exhibition brings together national and international exhibitors presenting six thousand years of art... Read more
Winner of the Venice Mostra
The winner of the 76th Venice Mostra was presented on 7th September. Pole, Roman Polanski and Swede, Roya Andersoon each won a Silver Lion. Tribute was paid to French actress Ariane Ascride, and Italian actor Luca Marinelli... Read more
William Blake at the Tate Britain
With over 300 original pieces of work, including water colours, paintings and prints the Tate Britain in London is presenting the biggest exhibition devoted to William Blake in the last 20 years - running from 11th September to 2nd February 2020... Read more

9th September 2019


Joint EU-Cuba Council

12th September 2019


Meeting of the Council of the Governors of the ECB (European Central Bank)

13th September 2019


Eurogroup Meeting

14th September 2019


Informal Meeting of Economic and Financial Ministers

16th September 2019


General Affairs Council

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