The Weekly Vulcan View | Analysis of Latest EU Developments June 3rd – June 7th

Finland Pledges Carbon Neutrality Ahead of EU Presidency
As Finland prepares to take over the rotating EU presidency from next month, the country’s new left leaning government said on Monday that it will aim to cut its carbon emissions completely by 2035. After lengthy talks following April’s general election, Finland agreed on a new five-party government which has pledged to increase public spending by €1.23bn a year and spend another €3bn on one-off investments, notably in the rail network, over the four-year lifetime of the government.

The coalition agreement sets a carbon neutrality target for 2035 which will obligate Finland to reduce its carbon emissions below the amount that can be absorbed by forests, wetlands and technology. The Green party emerged as the second largest party in the Finnish EU elections last month piling pressure on the new government to respond to voters’ concerns over climate change.

With Finland set to take up the EU presidency on July 1, we can expect to see a renewed effort to kick start the European Commission’s plan, published last November, which would see the EU to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. With that policy receiving the endorsement of the outgoing European Parliament, Finland will seek consensus at European Council level to take it forward. However, the issue will have to receive unanimous approval in order to make it applicable to all 28 member states. With next week’s European Council meeting set to be dominated by discussions on who will take up the key EU posts, the Fins will seek to make progress on climate change ahead of full Council meetings in October and December.

 

Tories change rules to leadership race
The influential 1922 Committee of Conservative backbench MPs have changed the rules governing the party leadership race after at least 13 candidates put themselves forward to replace Theresa May. Up until now, candidates had only required the support of two fellow MPs in order to be on the first ballot. However, the party has now backed proposals which will require any MP who wants to stand to receive the support of eight other colleagues. In a move which could be significant as the rounds of voting progress, the new rules also set a threshold for how many votes each candidate will require to reach each stage of the contest.

Candidates will now require the support of at least 17 MPs in round one followed by a minimum of 33 MPs in the second ballot in order to progress in the contest. The decision comes in a bid to shorten the timeline of the appointment of a new Conservative leader and Prime Minister.

The new rules have already led to candidates dropping out of the race. Junior Brexit Minister James Cleverly was the first to pull out of the contest and he was quickly followed by Housing Minister Kit Malthouse.

In total, 313 Conservative MPs will cast their vote in subsequent rounds until there are only two candidates remaining. The first ballot will take place on Thursday 13 June, with further rounds of voting scheduled for 18, 19 and 20 of June. It will then be up to 124,000 Conservative party members to choose their next leader which is expected to conclude by the end of July.

 

Gang of 6 to meet over top EU posts
After almost two weeks since millions of voters went to the polls across the European Union, citizens are no less clear on who will become the next President of the European Commission. Six EU leaders from the three main political parties will meet today, Friday, to discuss who should take up the key Commission post. The parties will also be seeking to thrash out who should hold the remaining top EU jobs which include President of the European Council and President of the European Parliament.

Tonight’s meeting of the six designated coordinators include Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovič and Latvia’s Krišjānis Kariņš from the EPP; Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his Belgian counterpart Charles Michel are expected to represent ALDE; and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Portugal’s António Costa will negotiate on behalf of the Social Democrats. The coordinators will be seeking to make progress in their discussions ahead of a European Council summit on June 20th – 21st which will mark the next formal discussion on the leadership posts.

On Wednesday Manfred Weber was re-elected EPP leader in the European Parliament but the German will be hoping for a move to the 13th floor of The Berlaymont to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as the next President of the Commission. However, despite the EPP once again becoming the largest political party in the European Parliament, its coalition with the Socialists lost their majority in last week’s European election. Opposition to Weber’s candidacy for Commission President has risen since the vote with President Macron leading the charge against the EPP’s nominee. The Socialists so far have dug their heels in the sand and their continued opposition to Weber may see the EPP agreeing to forego its grip on the Commission. Meanwhile the liberal ALDE group, which increased its seat count by 37 to 105 in total, is seeking to leverage its position as a potential kingmaker as negotiations between the three main parties intensify.

DATES AHEAD
Wednesday 12 June 2019 – Permanent Representatives Committee Coreper II (Brussels)
Thursday 13 June 2019 – Eurogroup (Luxembourg)
Friday 14 June 2019 – Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Luxembourg)
Thursday 20 – Friday 21 June 2019 – European Council (Brussels)

Compliments of Vulcan Consulting, a member of the EACCNY