EU budget on the agenda this WEEK
09.03.13 @ 13:28
BRUSSELS - MEPs and EU leaders will this week look to a political deal on the 2014-2020 budget.
The European Parliament will vote in Strasbourg on Wednesday (13 March) whether to accept an austerity proposal of just €960 billion.
They are expected to say Yes, but to demand flexibility in case the funds are not enough to cover spending needs.
The same day will see two other important votes on EU economic policy.
MEPs will try to balance new European Commission powers to curb national overspending - the "two-pack" laws - with democratic checks and balances.
They will also try to modernise the EU's Common Agricultural Policy without upsetting the interests of the bloc's largest farm-aid recipients.
EU leaders will meet in Brussels for a regular summit later the same day.
The official agenda says they will see how EU rules on co-ordinating national budgets - the "European Semester" - are being implemented.
But the event will be a golden opportunity to clinch a political deal on the parliament's budget ideas ahead of technical negotiations - called "trialogues" - in the coming weeks.
It will also see them sound out the new Cypriot government.
Cyprus is asking for a €17.5 billion bailout.
But its previous administration was hostile to lenders' requests, such as privatisation of state assets and haircuts for private investors.
On the foreign policy front, Israeli President Shimon Peres will give a speech in Strasbourg on Tuesday.
He is likely to repeat calls for the EU to blacklist Lebanese militants Hezbollah as a "terrorist" group and to increase sanctions on Iran.
The speech will come one day after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday.
The ministers will add nine people to their Iran blacklist on human rights grounds, according to Reuters.
They will also hear from the UN-Arab-League envoy to Syria - Lakhdar Brahimi - on prospects for peace.
In other business, the European Commission will on Tuesday put out ideas on how to boost turnout in the 2014 European elections.
Its centrepiece is to get parties to put forward candidates for the commission President job.
On Wednesday, it will give a glimpse into the EU's negotiating mandate for a future EU-US free trade agreement.
It will also publish new rules on compensation for air passengers on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Malta - the EU's smallest member - will on Monday wake up to a new government after elections at the weekend.
The Labour Party, led by Joseph Muscat, is tipped to win.
The development could have implications for the John Dalli affair.
Dalli - the Maltese ex-health-commissioner who last year lost his post in a bribery scandal - is said by Maltese media to be hiding in Brussels on grounds of ill health in order to avoid police at home.
There is speculation he will return to Malta if Muscat wins, hoping for a more sympathetic welcome by the Labour chief.
EUobserver contacted Dalli by email.
He said the reports are not true. He declined to confirm his whereabouts or to comment on his health.
Correction: the original story said Bulgaria would brief EU foreign ministers about an alleged terrorist attack by Hezbollah. But this was a mistake. Sorry