Member News

The Weekly Vulcan View | Analysis of Latest EU Developments 24 – 28 June

Key Events This Week

G20 leaders meet in Osaka
The G20 Summit will take place this week on 28 and 29 June in Osaka, Japan. The top themes of this year’s summit will be the global economy, trade and investment, innovation and environment and energy.

The ongoing US-China trade war will dominate discussion, with any statement by President Trump or Xi Jinping likely to be closely watched by governments and investors alike, for a sense of the global economic outlook. The US and China are coming under increased pressure to ease their escalating trade and technology contest, with a bilateral meeting between the two premiers scheduled for Saturday. The Japanese Presidency of the G20 will attempt to steer the world’s most powerful economies away from confrontation, and stressed the importance of any measures complying with WTO rules. Commentators are not optimistic about the likelihood of a resolution between the two sides, with an agreement to actively resume talks thought to be the most likely positive outcome.

Migration from South America is likely to be discussed as Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador sent a letter to other G20 leaders citing challenges over migration as its principal focus. Also on the agenda will be rising tensions between the US and Iran. A series of incidents in the gulf have led to escalating rhetoric, with the US pulling back from the brink of armed conflict in recent days. President Macron will meet President Trump on Friday, the French leader attempting to decrease tensions between the two sides.

Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that ‘the liberal idea’ had ‘outlived its purpose’ in an interview on the eve of the Summit. President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, strongly disagreed with the assertion of the Russian President that the public was turning about open borders, immigration and multiculturalism. Mr. Tusk stated that Europe will univocally defend and promote liberal democracy and remarked that ‘authoritarianism, personality cults, the rule of oligarchs’ was obsolete.

French President Emmanuel Macron has stated that France would not accept a G20 statement that does not include reference to the 2015 Paris Agreement. This is likely to lead to disagreement with the United States, who pulled out of the pact in 2017.


Chinese investment soars in Western Balkans
China has capitalised on a decision by the European Union to postpone membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia.

The timing of this delay from the European Union has allowed China to fill a void in the Western Balkans. Chinese support for Montenegro is evident through the 200 metres tall and 1-kilometre long bridge over the Moraca River. The continued pumping of financial resources into the Western Balkans from China is an integral part of their ambitious plan to build a highway from the Adriatic coast to the border with Serbia. This project is funded by a loan from Exim Bank of China and the project is run by the China Road and Bridge Corporation.

The Western Balkans has seen an unlimited amount of capital coming from China in recent years, the European Union, on the other hand, promises but does not deliver when it comes to resources. People are frustrated at the political theatre in the Western Balkans and Brussels, they want a change.

Beijing is currently operating in a vacuum, proposing investment solutions incomparable to the EU. Investment from China offers no-strings-attached finance, something that the Western Balkans could only hope the EU would deliver. Unlike Brussels, Beijing does not demand political conditions or careful accounting. China prioritises development over details like reform and human rights. In the Balkans, China is offering to build national projects the EU won’t touch: coal plants in Bosnia and Serbia, the highway in Montenegro.

In the past few months, North Macedonia has changed the name of their entire country to make the road to EU accession easier. This was not an easy sell for the government under Prime Minister Zoran Zaev but accession to the European Union would solve many of their problems and indeed the problems of Chinese influence for the European Union in the Western Balkans.


Will Ireland be Europe’s Big Brother?
The Irish Regulatory Watchdog, Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), have announced new powers to tackle harmful video content online. Dublin is home to the European Headquarters of Facebook, Twitter and Google and under new proposals being considered by the government, BAI will be responsible for regulating harmful video content.

In the past number of months, Ireland has encountered intensified pressure from Member States to implement these new EU rules amid increasing concern over harmful content on platforms. In Ireland, following the murder of young teenager Ana Kriegl by two teenage boys, images surfaced on social media platforms illegally identifying Boy A and Boy B. Under Irish law, the boys could not be identified as they are both minors. The Central Criminal Court summoned representatives from both Twitter and Facebook to clarify why images of Boy A and Boy B appeared on their platforms.

Under the current E-Commerce Directive 2000, social media platforms are not liable for material posted online. The European legislation has come under increased scrutiny since the New Zealand terror attack video was live-streamed and re-uploaded for days after the attack in Christchurch.

Michael O’Keeffe, CEO of BAI, highlighted several measures to prevent the presence of harmful content online. These measures include age verification systems, content rating systems and a robust complaints resolution system.

The BAI further suggests that an Irish Online Safety Commissioner, as recommended earlier this year by Communications Minister Richard Bruton, would form part of the expanded regulator. The BAI proposes that the Online Safety Commissioner should have three primary responsibilities: serving removal notices on behalf of Irish residents that have been directly affected by harmful online content; enforcing online safety codes; promoting online safety. This is a national initiative focused on individual harm such as bullying and is separate from the EU-wide regulation of video content.


Friday 28 – Saturday 29 June – G20 Summit (Osaka)
Sunday 30 June – Meeting of European Council (Brussels)
Monday 1 – Thursday 4 July – European Parliament Plenary session (Strasbourg)
Monday 1 July – ECB Central Banking Seminar: Monetary policy in the euro area (Frankfurt)
Wednesday 3 July – Council Working Party on Financial Services (Sustainable Finance) (Attachés only) (Brussels)
Friday 5 July – Council Code of Conduct Group on Business Taxation (Brussels)

Compliments of Vulcan Consulting, a member of the EACCNY