Merkel sets sights on matching China’s African investment boom





German Chancellor Angela Merkel has set her sights on rivalling China's economic offensive on the African continent, with Germany's own investment programme.

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Merkel sets sights on African investment boom. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has set her sights on rivalling China’s economic offensive on the African continent, with Germany’s own investment programme. “After all, we are starting from a relatively low level, if you compare us with China and other countries,” said Merkel on Tuesday (19 November) at the opening of a two-day meeting with African heads of state and government in Berlin. She drew Interim results of the ‘Compact with Africa’ (CwA) initiative launched in 2017. At present, applications amounting to €1 billion have been submitted. “We are on a rising trend,” Merkel said. With its more than 50 states and a growing population, the Chancellor acknowledged Africa’s “important role” in solving global problems. “Whether it’s peace, climate protection or economic development, migration and other major issues of our time,” Merkel said. The Chancellor also praised the decision taken in July in favour of an African free trade agreement as a “groundbreaking decision”. (Claire Stam |


The first head-to-head debate between Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn ended without a clear winner on Tuesday (19 November) night as the two leaders traded blows on Brexit and the NHS in a testy debate during which Johnson repeatedly stated the need to “get Brexit done”. Corbyn claimed that a Conservative government would give US private health firms full access to the UK’s health service as part of a future UK-US trade deal. A snap poll by YouGov suggested that the Prime Minister edged the debate by 51-49%.

(Benjamin Fox,


ESM reform crisis. Tension is mounting among Italy’s ruling parties about the overhaul of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which was provisionally agreed by EU member states in June. If the proposed reform receives the final green light in December, the new eurozone bailout fund will require “conditionality in the form of macro-economic adjustment programme”, meaning that countries in trouble will receive financial aid if they agree to debt restructuring.

Right-wing Lega leader Matteo Salvini said that approving this deal should be considered high treason, while EU affairs minister Vincenzo Amendola pointed out that Salvini’s party was part of the government that gave its consent to the provisional agreement in June. The anti-establishment Five Star Movement appears to be critical of the reform that will turn the ESM into an International Monetary Fund (IMF)-like structure, and it appears that the government’s strategy is to postpone a final EU decision on the ESM reform until after December. (Gerardo Fortuna |


Sikorski sits out the presidential poll. MEP and former Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski took to Facebook to declare that he is the latest big name to sit out next year’s presidential elections. A similar statement was published by Bartosz Arłukowicz MEP from the opposition Civic Coalition (KO). For now, the only KO candidate is Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska. Sikorski indicated that internal struggles would weaken the opposition party.

Sikorski and Arłukowicz have joined European Council Donald Tusk in sitting out the contest. Tusk’s decision was welcomed by 73% of the respondents of the IBRiS survey for the “Rzeczpospolita” daily (Mateusz Kucharczyk |


The seat of ELA in Bratislava prompts interinstitutional fight. The European parliament is challenging the way EU members states decided on the seat of the newly established European Labour Agency (ELA) at the EU court. While picking up the seat of EU agencies is a prerogative of member states, MEPs claim that they should have been consulted in the process as the ELA is closely linked with the free movement of workers. Slovakia hopes it will not lose the seat of the newest EU agency as a result. 

Šefčovič says nuclear needs to prove itself anew. European nuclear energy sector needs to present a successful project of a new, functioning power plant, that would persuade the public and politicians of the benefits of nuclear as an energy source, Slovak Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič said at a conference in Slovakia. “The sooner, the better” the Commissioner added. He is convinced that would counter the arguments that new projects costs are overpriced, and take too long to finish. (Zuzana Gabrižová |


Not on the ‘Euro path’. The Euro is a political project, not a financial one, and is not sustainable, said former Czech finance minister Ivan Pilny at Tuesday’s international conference in the Chamber of Deputies. Jan Svejnar, a professor at New York’s Columbia University, on the other hand, thinks that Czechia would be better off in the single currency. Czechs have not yet set a date to adopt the euro, and the majority of the public is against the common currency, the Czech News Agency reports. (Ondřej Plevák |


Changing places. The ruling coalition has nominated the Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov to head the anti-corruption agency. The right-wing Volya party has nominated its MP Simeon Naydenov for the position,  but he will be little more than a paper candidate to make the appointment of Tsatsarov look like a competition. The office of the chairman of the anti-corruption agency has been vacant since July 2019 when a property scandal forced its chairman, the former prosecutor Plamen Georgiev, to resign. Shortly after he left the position the government sent him as Consul in Valencia. This opened the door for Tsatsarov, whose 7-year mandate expires in January 2020.

Tsatsarov’s deputy in the Prosecutor General’s office, Ivan Geshev, was elected by the Supreme Judicial Council to be Bulgaria’s next top prosecutor.  President Rumen Radev once refused to approve the appointment of the sole candidate for the post. Then the SJC reelected him. Now the president has to sign the decree. (Krassen Nikolov |


Rule of law has no objective criteria, says justice minister. In an opinion piece published by Euronews, Judit Varga stated that the rule of law is under pressure in the EU from those attempting to use it as a political weapon. As a concept, it has no set of universally applicable objective criteria and concern for it should pay respect “to the specifics of member states”, said the Justice minister. Varga added that “Brussels [is] asserting control in areas where it has no competence”, adding that the Commission’s proposal to “introduce a regular rule of law review runs completely contrary to the Treaties”. The minister also does not think that rule of law criteria are necessary for the protection of the financial interests of the EU. It “already has tools to protect its financial interests, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” the minister said. Hungary is a staunch opponent of new conditionality to link EU Cohesion funds with respect for the rule of law principles. (Vlagyiszlav Makszimov |


Minimum salary increase: Romania’s government could this week decide an increase of 7.2% to the minimum wage, Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said. The Cabinet will soon announce a formula for calculating the minimum salary, but the prime minister said that if this formula will include the inflation rate and productivity growth, the raise would be of 7.2%. The current minimum salary in Romania is 1.263 lei (about €265) per month, and the former government promised an increase of 100 lei, or 8%, starting in January. (


Well prepared for the first EU presidency. ‘I am confident that I will be leaving the EU in good hands’ said European Council President Donald Tusk after a meeting with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on the margins of the EPP Congress in Zagreb. The Croatian capital will host another key event in May 2020 when EU enlargement in the Western Balkans will be on the agenda. ‘I will keep my fingers crossed that you succeed in restoring unity among the Member States in that regard’, said Tusk.

School unions will not give up. After a month of continuous circular strikes, primary and secondary school unions announced that they will continue their protest tomorrow, during the EPP Congress. The government was willing to offer a 6.12% base pay increase in 2020 for the entire public sector, but the union members have rejected that offer on a referendum by a lopsided margin of 93%. The union leaders have said that the strike ‘has become a fight for teacher’s dignity’ and that they will not give up. (Tea Trubić Macan |


Financial mistake. The 2020 budget has been relatively well drafted, with the exception of a 9.6% increase in public sector wages, Fiscal Council President Pavle Petrović said. Petrović said that public sector wage should have been increased by up to 5.5%. (


[Edited by Benjamin Fox, Daniel Eck]