Valdis Dombrovskis says the EU needs to make its economies more resilient in the face of new risks on the horizon
Photo: European Commission
Europe’s economy on 10-year high, Juncker wants UK EU staff to have citizenship, Farage disparages Belgium, EU will keep London HQ and Lidl sells cannabis (in Switzerland). Delano’s breakfast briefing.
EU economy enjoys robust growth
EU economic results and growth forecasts released on Thursday suggest the bloc is in rude health for now, but that it needs to ensure its finances are secure for an uncertain future. “Europe continues to enjoy robust growth,” says Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for economic and financial affairs, taxation and customs. Growth rates for the EU and the euro area beat expectations in 2017 to reach a 10-year high at 2.4%, the Commission reports. Growth is set to remain strong in 2018 and ease only slightly in 2019, with growth of 2.3% and 2.0% respectively in both the EU and the euro area. “Investment is rising and public finances are improving, with the deficit in the euro area set to drop to just 0.7% of GDP this year,” Moscovici said. But he warned that the biggest risk to this rosy outlook is protectionism “which must not become the new normal.” Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for the Euro and in charge of financial stability and financial services also spoke about increased risks on the horizon. “This is why we should use the current good times to make our economies more resilient. This means building fiscal buffers, reforming our economies to foster productivity and investment, and making our growth model more inclusive.” Unemployment in the EU, now already at around pre-crisis levels, continues to fall, and is set to reach 6.7% in 2019--down from 7.6% in 2017.
Juncker pleads for Belgian citizenship for British EU staff
President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, has urged Belgian prime minister, Charles Michel, to offer citizenship to some 1,100 British citizens who work for the EU in Brussels when the UK leaves the union in March next year. The call came after Michel had made a speech to the European parliament on Thursday. According to an article on the independent.co.uk, Juncker said, “Brussels is a warm, welcoming environment and we are very happy to be here…I’d also like the Belgian authorities to apply the same generosity when it comes to extending British citizenship to the officials here in Brussels--they deserve it.” Belgian citizenship can be applied for after living in the country for five years and contributing to its social security system. In the immediate aftermath of the Brexit referendum in June 2016, Juncker promised British staff at EU institutions throughout the continent that he would do all in his power to ensure they would not lose their jobs as a consequence of the vote.
Farage and Michel in EP spat
Following the speech by Belgian prime minister Charles Michel at the European Parliament to which Juncker was responding, Nigel Farage inevitably got involved. “Nobody ever dares tell the truth about Belgium. Belgium is not a nation, it’s an artificial creation,” the former UKIP leader told MEPs. “Maybe that’s why you’re happy to sign up to a higher European level.” Michel responded by accusing Farage of slipping into populism and extremism, but sarcastically thanked him for his advice for Belgium. “He sorted out the future of the UK with Brexit and we see where that’s ended up in the UK,” Michel told parliament.
EU to keep London and Edinburgh outposts
The European Commission and European Parliament will retain offices in London and Edinburgh. The Guardian reports in an exclusive that a leaked document written by Klaus Welle, the European parliament’s secretary general, recommends retaining the offices because they “offer unique advantages to particular parliament’s positions and serve as a vehicle for communicating with citizens.” The office in London is housed in the former Conservative central office. The Guardian reports that high-profile Brexiters, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, had called last year for the EU to hand back the building, which was the scene of Margaret Thatcher’s general election victories.
Lidl stores in Switzerland are selling locally grown cannabis, The Guardian reports. Boxes of the cannabis, available in 1.5g or 3g packages, are being sold alongside cigarettes and cigars at the tills as an alternative to rolling tobacco. The legally cultivable varieties of cannabis are grown indoors and in semi-automated greenhouses and “contain only very small amounts of THC and a high proportion of CBD,” Lidl said.