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EU leaders stand firm on sanctions after Putin shows little sign of changing tack

19 Dec 2014

In his annual public address yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin showed little willingness to change his foreign policy course. He warned that Russia’s current economic woes could last up to two years, although he expressed confidence that Russia could ride out the problems and diversify its economy. Open Europe’s Raoul Ruparel appeared on Channel 4 News last night arguing that the combination of huge capital outflows and dwindling revenue due to a falling oil price create a toxic mix for the Russian economy, which could lead to steep economic contraction. Meanwhile, EU leaders agreed to toughen sanctions on Crimean-based businesses at their EU summit yesterday, although there was no agreement on whether or not to provide further financial aid to Ukraine.
WSJ FT Times Welt

Greek opposition rejects prospect of compromise
MPs from within the Greek governing coalition have called for the government to put forward a compromise Presidential candidate and for any elections to be delayed until autumn 2015 in an attempt to avoid snap elections in January. However, this was rejected by opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras. In an interview with Reuters, Tsipras sought to ease market concerns over his potential election victory, saying he did not want to move “unilaterally” and would seek a clear consensus with European partners on reducing Greek debt after any elections.
Kathimerini Reuters: Tsipras FAZ

British Chambers of Commerce poll: Renegotiation backed by 57% of members
A poll of 3,500 British Chambers of Commerce members on the UK’s EU membership has found that the most favoured action would be to negotiate to remain a member of the EU but with more powers brought back to the UK, an option which was backed by 57% of BCC members. Open Europe Director Mats Persson appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme arguing that it has been a rocky year for the UK in Europe, but that the prospects for EU reform remain strong.  
BCC press release BCC poll

Agreement reached to save Dutch coalition government
An agreement was reached overnight to save the Dutch coalition government, after healthcare reform plans put forward by Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s VVD party were tweaked to win support from the centre-left junior coalition partner PvdA. Rutte was unable to attend yesterday’s European Council summit in Brussels due to the on-going coalition talks, and asked his Luxembourgish counterpart Xavier Bettel to represent him.

The European Central Bank yesterday released the details of the “regular accounts” of its monetary policy meetings which it will begin to publish next year. The accounts will be published four weeks after each meeting and will contain an unattributed summary of the policy discussion.

In the conclusions of yesterday’s European Council summit, EU leaders have called for an agreement on the €315bn European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) to be reached by June, “so that the new investments can be activated by mid-2015.”
European Council conclusions EUobserver Irish Times El País La Repubblica

Writing in the Independent, Poland’s Europe Minister Rafal Trzaskowski reiterates that the proposals set out by Prime Minister David Cameron to restrict EU migrants’ access to benefits are “a red line we cannot allow ourselves to cross.”
Open Europe research: Saving EU free movement Independent: Trzaskowski Telegraph

Edmund Stoiber, former Minister President of Bavaria, was yesterday appointed as special advisor to the European Commission to help cut red tape for small and medium sized businesses. Having chaired a volunteer task force to cut EU regulation, Stoiber’s group has already identified potential savings of €33bn reports Die Welt.
Open Europe blog Welt Spiegel Online

Scientists welcome U-turn on stem cell patents
The European Court of Justice has paved the way for certain stem cell patents in the EU by ruling that an organism incapable of developing into a human being is not a human embryo and may be patented, the Irish Independent reports. Three years ago, the ECJ ruled that research involving human embryos could not be patented, a decision many scientists labelled a “devastating” blow for medical research in Europe.
Irish Independent

The European Court of Justice yesterday ruled that the draft agreement on the EU’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights is not compatible with the EU’s own laws. The Court raised concerns about which court – the union’s ECJ or the convention’s European Court of Human Rights – would be in charge of enforcing rights.

A Spanish entrepreneur, reportedly in serious economic difficulties, drove his car into the headquarters of Spain’s ruling Partido Popular in Madrid this morning. The car contained two butane gas cylinders. The man has been arrested.
El Mundo El País

Obesity can constitute a disability that requires protection at work from discrimination under equal treatment laws, the European Court of Justice ruled yesterday.
Guardian Telegraph Sun

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said yesterday that his resignation is “imminent”. The decision to quit early is due to his old age and was widely expected. Napolitano is currently serving an unprecedented second term.
La Repubblica La Stampa Corriere della Sera

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettle yesterday announced that he would comply with European Commission demands to give EU anti-trust regulators the details of its tax schemes with multinational companies.

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