Tragedy struck in the early hours of
Sunday morning when a boat carrying 950 refugees across the Mediterranean sank
off the coast of Libya. Just 28 refugees could be saved (Spiegel Online). The tragedy was a
dramatic climax to a series of boat accidents in the Mediterranean in recent
weeks. A ten point action plan prepared earlier by the European Commission was
amongst the topics discussed at an EU special summit on refugee policy on
Thursday (Tagesschau). At the meeting,
heads of state and government agreed to triple the budget for border patrol and
sea rescue programmes Poseidon and Triton. In addition, more warships will be
deployed to the Mediterranean, not only to serve as rescue ships but also to
pursue and destroy smuggling boats. However, there was no agreement reached on
the distribution of refugees. Human rights organisations showed their
disappointment at the situation and are urging the EU to come up with stronger
and more comprehensive measures (Zeit Online). In a statement, EM Germany board member Tobias Köck declared
a common, united and lasting approach to dealing with people in the EU and
using politics as the only way to produce humane refugee policy.
The European public closely observed the
EU finance ministers meeting in Riga on Friday. Greece’s list of
reforms, expected weeks ago, still has not reached the EU Institutions (a.k.a.
troika) in an adequate form. As a result, German Finance Minister Wolfgang
Schäuble travelled to Riga with very straightforward expectations. After Greek
Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis’ statement at the IMF’s spring meeting in
Washington, DC, experts assume that Greece still has sufficient money reserves
until the end of June. Further payments of aid money are therefore urgently
The conservative “Center Partei” emerged
as the strongest party from parliamentary elections in Finland and
will now build a coalition. Possible coalition partners are the right-wing
populist and EU-sceptic “Finns Party”, which will enter parliament as the
second-strongest party, as well as the liberal-conservative NCP party together
with the social-democratic SDP. A government coalition including the “Finns
party” could have considerable repercussions on EU policy in Finland. The
election campaign was mainly defined by the economy. Finland has seen the
slowest economic growth in the Eurozone in recent years (European Movement Ireland).
The European Commission wants to give
member states more freedom of choice in using genetically modified food
and feed (European Commission). Member states should
then be able to decide themselves whether to allow or ban it. The proposal was
met with criticism from environmental organisations and agribusiness.
Greenpeace criticised the undemocratic system which permits genetically
modified plants (Euractiv).
Last week, the European Parliament
demanded in a resolution that the systematic persecution of Armenians
in the Ottoman Empire be recognised by Turkey as genocide. This is
said to be the only way a reconciliation between the Turkish and Armenian
people is possible (Deutschlandfunk). The German
government followed suit in the same week. Their bill, which was decided in the
Bundestag on Friday on the 100th anniversary of the genocide,
read: “their destiny stands as an example for the history of mass extermination,
ethnic cleansing, displacement, and indeed genocide, which has scarred the 20th century
in such a horrific way” (Spiegel Online).
The discussion surrounding the EU’s
refugee policy and the EU special summit can be followed on Twitter using
the hashtags #EUCO, #MigrationEU, #Frontex and #mediterranean. #Greece and #Eurogroup provide information about the Euro finance
ministers meeting in Riga. The debate and remembrance of the Armenian massacre
can be fond via #Armenia and #Genozid. The results of the Finnish parliamentary elections
are being debated by the Twitter community using #Vaalit2015 and #FinElec2015. European Movement International’s general
assembly in Riga can be followed using #EMIFA2015.