The first formal European Union summit of 2017 opens in Brussels in the Europa, the body’s new headquarters. The giant glass block with a glowing orb at its center was planned to accommodate expansion of a bloc that is staring at shrinkage.
Britain will leave the EU as a result of the so-called Brexit vote in Jun 2016. As Eurosceptic parties are riding high in the polls, elections in 2017 in the Netherlands, France and Germany might lead to further shrinkage. The willingness of the remaining member states to accept Brussels’ rule is being tested, with a bellicose challenge coming from several of the newer members. The Visegrad 4 – Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – have taken exception to EU measures to ease the Continent’s migration crisis. Daniel Bartha, the director of the Budapest-based Centre for Euro-Atlantic Integration and Democracy, told the EU Observer, which has reported on the challenge, that the V4 “now holds on to a significant number of votes in the European Council to offset Germany.” The prospect of a diminished bloc promises to color the debate on all of the body’s woes. The attack on a Christmas market in Germany in December will sharpen the debate on security and migration – still unresolved issues. This summit will reveal where the new governments in Spain and Italy stand on the issues espoused by the populists, and on reform of the bloc, a demand of Hungary and Poland. The leaders also met informally in early February and will meet again in late March.
Date written/update: 2017-01-04