Obama back in Brussels this WEEK
02.06.14 @ 09:28
BRUSSELS - US President Barack Obama is back in the EU capital this week for a summit of G7 wealthy nations to be dominated by Ukraine.
The event was originally due to take place in Sochi, Russia, in a G8 format including Russian leader Vladimir Putin, but Russia's membership in the prestigious club was suspended when it annexed Crimea.
The G7 leaders, also including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and top EU officials will take place in the EU's Justus Lipsius building on Wednesday (4 June) and Thursday.
The US is looking for the EU to take a strong and more united stance on potential Russia sanctions, amid escalating clashes in east Ukraine and reports of a new wave of Chechen fighters crossing from Russia into the conflict zone.
The official agenda also includes the global economy, trade, energy security, climate change, and development.
Obama was last in Brussels for an EU-US summit in March – his first ever visit to the EU capital.
He will stay in Europe on Thursday and Friday to attend a D-Day commemoration ceremony in France, where Putin, as well as Ukraine's president-elect Petro Poroshenko, are also due to attend.
Obama and Putin are to hold separate, bilateral meetings with French President Francois Hollande on Thursday.
For his part, Poroshenko will fly back to Kiev for his inauguration on Saturday. He has said he wants to sign an EU free trade agreement, locking Ukraine out of Russia's Eurasian Union, shortly afterwards in Kiev. But co-ordination of the precise time and place for the event is still ongoing with the 28 EU leaders.
Ukraine will also feature on this week's agenda in energy and defence terms.
Russia has threatened to stop Ukraine's gas supply on Monday – risking shortages in EU states that get Russian gas via Ukraine – but there is a deal in the making for Ukraine to pay €570 million of old Russia gas debts to avoid the cut-off.
Meanwhile, Nato defence ministers will on Tuesday and Wednesday discuss sending more military assets to eastern European countries as a deterrent to Russian aggression.
Ideas include: reinforcing Nato's Multinational Corps Northeast in Szczecin, Poland; more air patrols; more military drills; and a bigger naval presence in the Baltic and the Black Seas.
In day-to-day business, the European Commission will on Monday publish its latest "country-specific recommendations" – a to-do list for 26 EU countries, excluding bailout states Cyprus and Greece – on issues ranging from budgets, to education, and climate.
It will also put out its "convergence reports" on Wednesday – an economic state-of-the-nation for the eight countries in line to join the euro. The list covers Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Sweden, with Lithuania hoping to be the next to join in 2015.
From Tuesday to Thursday, EU officials will give a series of briefings on environmental issues at various events during "Green Week". This year's edition of the annual forum is to focus on waste and recycling.
The commission will on Friday also unveil a new strategy on health and safety at work, looking at new work-related diseases and how to help ageing people stay in their jobs longer.
The European Parliament will, on the surface, have a quiet week.
But behind the scenes, newly-elected MEPs will be busy trying to negotiate the formation of the next legislature's political groups.
MEPs who went to observe the recent elections in Egypt and Ukraine will give a briefing at the foreign affairs committee on Wednesday.
The Egypt mission caused controversy in Cairo by publicly criticising standards, with the leaders of one state-sponsored symposium, organised by the Egyptian National Council for Women last weekend, throwing mission members out of the event due to their remarks.