Week Ahead (6 December)
W/C Monday, 6 December – Several European countries set to tighten Covid-19 related restrictions
Several European countries will tighten restrictions this week amid surging cases and fears over the spread of the newly detected Omicron variant. Ireland last week announced new measures, to commence from Tuesday, which will see nightclubs close and restrictions on the number of households that may mix over Christmas introduced. Limits on the size of groups in pubs, restaurants and hospitality have also been introduced, and the use of Covid-19 certs has been extended to more kinds of businesses. Belgium will introduce new restrictions, such as earlier closing times for primary schools and a hybrid approach to secondary teaching. Public events with more than 4,000 people expected to attend will also be banned. Meanwhile, Germany is introducing increased restrictions on the unvaccinated while Austria’s lockdown will continue until at least Saturday, 11 December.
Monday, 6 December - Eurogroup to meet to discuss latest Greek Enhanced Surveillance report
The Eurogroup of Eurozone finance ministers will meet today to discuss inter alia the latest enhanced surveillance report on the Greek economy. The report, issued on 24 November, discusses the progress made in implementing reform commitments delivered by Greece under the European Stability Mechanism programme in June 2018. The November report's findings may allow the Eurogroup to approve the release of a tranche of policy contingent debt relief measures worth around €767 million.
The 12th enhanced surveillance report praises the progress Greece has made in certain areas, while noting that several agreed reforms have not yet been carried out. It notes that the Greek economy is recovering despite the severe impact of the pandemic on its important tourism sector. GDP is expected to grow by 7.1% this year and by 5.2% next year, suggesting a return to pre-pandemic economic conditions is likely. The relative success of the banking sector in reducing non-performing loans is also noted; the overall rate of distressed assets on the loan books of Greek banks has fallen to 20.3% as of June 2021, or half of the ratio recorded at the end of 2019.
Tuesday, 7 December - Vestager seeks talks with US over killer acquisitions
The European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, said last week that she would discuss "killer acquisitions" with her US counterparts at next week's EU-US Joint Technology Competition Policy Dialogue. Killer acquisitions refer to the process by which larger entities acquire businesses which might eventually become their competitors at an early stage of their growth, in effect "killing" their prospects.
Vestager will meet with Lina Khan, the Chair of the US Federal Trade Commission, as well as Jonathan Kanter, the Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice's Antitrust division, during next week's dialogue. Vestager told a summit last Monday that it was “not always clear whether [they] should be prohibited … or what kind of remedies would work in digital markets.” Vestager has also said recently that the meeting would be an opportunity to discuss market definitions and the harms tech and digital markets can visit upon consumers.
Wednesday, 8 December – Olaf Scholz to be sworn in as German chancellor
Olaf Scholz is set to be sworn in as Germany’s new chancellor on Wednesday. Scholz’s election will also mark the first time the so-called traffic light coalition will govern at the federal level in Germany, composed of the Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP).
Six of the new government’s ministries will go to the SPD, while the Greens will hold five and the FDP four. The SPD’s six ministries include the interior, labour and social affairs, defence, health, building, and the economic cooperation and development ministries. The FDP will take the finance, justice, transport and education ministries. The Greens will take control of the foreign ministry and the new climate and economy ministry, as well as the agriculture, environment and family ministries. Scholz has said that the coalition deal will lead to a “decade of investment” in areas such as housing, infrastructure, renewable energy and welfare reforms. The coalition agreement has also pledged to take a tougher stance on rule of law issues within the EU.