This Week in the News (July 29, 2017)

The EU’s response to US sanctions on Russia

According to the New York Times, the US Congress has successfully restricted Donald Trump’s powers to lift sanctions against Russia for interfering in the presidential elections and for its aggressive border policies. While the EU is not very keen on applying sanctions to anyone, according to Reuters, it has warned the US “it may respond swiftly to counter new sanctions on Russia.”

The motivations behind the EU’s move have nothing to do with protecting its neighbour – even though the EU’s unspoken policy towards Russia has always been to not antagonise it (at least not too much) – but rather with protecting its own interests, in particular it’s energy dependance on Russia.

Being the soft actor that it is, the EU is relying on diplomacy. If that fails, the plan is to very politely write statements letting others know that it is very angry, in this case by threatening to complain with the World Trade Organization – that is, if the EU’s internal diverse positions indeed align to allow for a common angry letter, which Reuters seems to imply is not likely.

But don’t underestimate the power the EU has in areas like trade, where tensions with the US have been vividly present concerning steel, and the risk of the US being left behind has been put in evidence as the EU carries on signing trade deals with other major powers.

Polxit? The EU and the Rule of Law in Poland

In other news about the EU’s punishing agenda, this week the bloc has been visibly turning its normative attitude inwards. Poland’s judicial reform has been the object of much debate of late. Even though technically the EU cannot exactly kick out a Member State, suggestions of stripping Poland of its voting rights are being put on the table, as the EU writes *angry* recommendations. As usual, made up words like “Polxit” or “Polexit” are already going around.

What is wrong with a Member State doing judicial reforms? Are they not in their sovereign right to do so? “Nothing”, says Poland, according to Reuters. To be honest, it’s complicated. The problem is that, by and large, this reform in particular seeks to increase political control over institutions that are meant to be impartial, which goes against one of the EU’s core principles. The Law and Justice party (interesting name) has been amply critic of the liberal-democratic model of government, according to the Washington Post.

This isn’t the only conflict with EU law that Poland has been experiencing lately, as the ECJ has ordered the Member State to stop logging in Białowieża forest, a Unesco World Heritage classified site.

Brexit, quo vadis?

Brexit is still being talked about, for obvious reasons, whether we look at it seriously or less so. While Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is “starting to believe Brexit will not happen“, Dunkirk… I mean Brexit, is still happening.

In fact, some, like Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond speaks of it unusually nonchalantly, perhaps following an optimistic phase, comparing the UK’s future with the relationship that the EU has with some of its European neighbours (like Norway or Switzerland). According to BBC, Hammond added that the whole process would have to finish by 2022 in the time for the next general election.

 

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Inês Marques Ribeiro

Research Assistant at CEI-IUL. Editorial Assistant at PJSS. Guest lecturer at ISCTE-IUL. PhD Candidate in History, Defence and IR (ISCTE-IUL); M.A. in European Political and Administrative Studies (College of Europe).

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