For a few days, Brussels turned into a fortified fortress this week when Joe Biden was visiting the European capital. All means were used to make sure that the new pro-European US president would not be short on anything. How did the European press report on the important visit, and the consequences for EU-US relations?
This week, also a focus on the press coverage of the corruption scandals in Bulgaria a few weeks ahead of the elections; the division in Spain over the pardoning of Catalan separatists; and the journalistic investigation on sexual misconduct in politics in the Netherlands.
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For a few days, Brussels turned into a fortified fortress this week when Joe Biden was visiting the European capital. All means were used to make sure that the new pro-European US president would not be short on anything.
How did the European press report on the important visit, and the consequences for EU-US relations?
Indeed, the visit of the new US to Brussels grabbed the headlines in most European countries. Joe Biden was expected to use the NATO summit as an occasion to restore some of the cracks Trump created in the EU-US relations. “America is back” stated Council president Charles Michel. La Vanguardia predicted that Biden would use the opportunity to reinforce the Western alliance against China. Restoring relations would however not be as easy, stated amongst others Dan Sabbagh, the Guardian. The past four years will have lasting consequences, he warned. The EU and US are still at odds on many issues, wrote Dutch newspaper NRC. EU officials are still angry at Biden for not ending the trade war started by his predecessor, stated Politico, who pictured an image of underlying fury beyond the “transatlantic lovefest”.
And what did they write about the outcome of the talks?
Even if there are still many battles ahead, newspapers also emphasised that there was a small breakthrough: a 5 year long lasting ceasefire in the long-running US-EU trade war over subsidies to aircraft makers. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Joe Biden presented the ceasefire as a big step for the EU-US relationships. Politico correspondents Jakob Hanke Vela and Barbara Moens believe the EU should not be too optimistic about the temporary deal: the ceasefire has a “bitter aftertaste” since multi-dollar tariffs could well kick back when the trust cracks between Brussels and Washington. They also argue that, apart from the ceasefire, the US and EU seemed to have drifted apart rather than aligned on key geopolitical and economic issues. The visit made clear that not all disputes between the two can be resolved in one fell swoop, underlined the Tagesspiegel.
But then moving on to other things that made the news in Europe this week, starting with Bulgaria, where a wave of corruption scandals has caused public outrage just a few weeks before the elections?
Boryana Dzhambazova and Lili Bayer describe in Politico the latest developments in the country as plotlines from a hit mafia series on Netflix rather than actual events unfolding in a European Union member country. A series of corruption scandals have hit the country in the last weeks and have attracted attention of the international community. As stated in Financial Times, the US has announced sanctions on Bulgarian officials and businessmen for their alleged "extensive" roles in corruption. A movement that could be seen by Bulgarians as a rebuke to the EU over its inaction on corruption in its own backyard. After a political crisis just before the April Parliamentary elections, Snap elections will be held in July. According to Euronews, there might be a new key player, Democratic Bulgaria, a party that gained 10% of the votes in the last elections.
And what about Spain, how does the press write on the expected pardons to Catalan separatists by the Spanish government?
This week saw the opening of a new chapter in the Catalan crisis after the government announced that it was planning to pardon Catalan prisoners. The Popular Party and Vox called for a demonstration in Madrid's Plaza de Colón, which served, as El País describes, to confirm the deep division on the Spanish right. The motions will take place between 22 and 29 June. The latest twist in the script comes from the president of the community of Madrid, who declared last week that it would be a shame if the king were forced to sign the document pardoning the Catalan prisoners. An unprecedented move that puts the royal house in the spotlight of controversy.
And what is going on in the Netherlands, where sexual intimidation of women in politics is on the agenda again?
Indeed, it all started a few weeks ago when Dion Graus, parliament member of the right-wing party PVV, was, again, accused of sexual misconduct. According to newspaper NRC, a former employee of the same party made a complaint to the then president of the parliament, accusing Dion Graus of committing “many horrible things”. The same newspaper recently published an investigation about sexual intimidation and abuse of power by members of the parliament, concluding that the handling of complaints and assistance provided are inadequate. “It is better to keep your mouth shut when you are confronted with sexual misconduct” stated several female staff members. This week, 17 women’s rights organisations wrote a letter to the parliament, stating they were very worried about the parliament’s handling of complaints.
Erik Ruiz Martín & Nadine Vermeulen
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