European leaders Sunday prepared to convene in Brussels this week to discuss a range of issues facing the continent, including a controversial media law in Poland and potential additional bailouts for Greece. Members of the European Union also were expected to implement a series of economic initiatives aimed at stimulating the continent's stalling economy.
The 28 member states are to participate in an internal debate Wednesday on Poland's media law that effectively puts public radio and broadcasting under control of the finance minister. The Eastern European country's newly elected right-wing government signed a bill into law Wednesday that allows the finance minister to hire and fire the heads of the nation's top state-owned media organizations, including public radio and public television. The responsibility previously fell under the authority of media supervisory committee.
Authorities across Europe, including a top official at the EU, have criticized the law, saying it limits freedom of speech rights. EU authorities said they would consider taking measures against Poland, such as eliminating the nation’s vote within the EU. Guenther Oettinger, the EU commissioner for digital economy, said there are “solid grounds for us to activate the rule of law mechanism and put Warsaw under monitoring,” the BBC reported.
Close regional allies, including Hungary, said their governments would support Poland and not agree to retaliatory measures. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in an interview with state media Friday it's not “worth for the European Union to rack its brains over any sanction against Poland because that would require full agreement,” the Wall Street Journal reported. “Never will Hungary support any sanction against Poland.”
Ongoing monitoring of Iranian nuclear activity, including sanctions against several international companies, were also set to be discussed at this upcoming week’s sessions. The EU approved putting Good Luck Shipping of Dubai on a list of sanctioned companies for a second time in 2015 over allegations it serves as a front for the backroom business deals carried out by Iran.
Following a landmark deal between Iran and several Western powers, including several European countries, sanctions against Iran-friendly countries were re-evaluated. An EU court will need to decide whether to freeze the assets of Good Luck Shipping at some point during the week.
Five things to look out for on the European Union agenda in the week ahead https://t.co/TJ3sTlWfRt
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) January 10, 2016
The eurozone economy also will be on the docket for the first meeting of EU finance ministers in the New Year. National debts have shrunk and growth has picked up since a continentwide recession in 2008 that sank the euro and sent unemployment into the double-digits.
Authorities will discuss measures such as quantitative easing and other initiatives to spur growth in such countries as Greece and Spain that continue to struggle under high deficits. Leaders may also discuss the possibility of further stimulus to Greece in the form of another bailout.
The outlook for the eurozone economy as a whole was positive, according to industry experts. "The world’s third largest economic bloc is actually doing rather well," Andrew Milligan, head of global strategy at Standard Life Investments, told Reuters.