Thursday

21st Jan 2021

Agenda

This WEEK in the European Union

  • Home affairs ministers may seal a deal with the US on passenger data (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Last week's EU summit deal on creating a fiscal compact is set to be dissected in Brussels and beyond with markets already responding with scepticism.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy will debate the summit outcome with MEPs on Tuesday. The meeting resulted in 26 countries pledging to sign up to an intergovernmental treaty on stricter financial oversight, leaving only Britain, which vetoed a full-blown treaty change at 27, on the outside.

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MEPs are likely to focus on how EU institutions, such as the European Commission and the European Court of Justice, can be drawn into this new format.

A round-up of the Polish EU presidency, which ends on 31 December, is scheduled for the next day in Strasbourg, with Prime Minister Donald Tusk. Parliament chief Jerzy Buzek, whose mandate also ends this month, is holding his valedictory speech on Thursday, one day after awarding five Arab Spring activists the parliament's "freedom of thought" Sakharov prize.

Crime victims who are granted protection from their aggressors in one EU country will receive similar protection if they move to another, under new rules to be voted by the parliament on Tuesday. Victims would be protected from crimes including gender violence, harassment, abduction, stalking and attempted murder. Member states will have three years to introduce the rules in national law.

A 'single permit' for migrants from non-EU countries working and residing in the EU legally may also come into force after the parliament's vote on Tuesday. It remains to be seen how this will work in practice, as member states will have the right to decide whether and how many workers to admit each year.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will be attending a full sitting of the chamber to discuss the Russian demonstrations following parliamentary elections earlier this month and the worsening situation in Syria.

Meanwhile, in Brussels, a series of ministers meetings will be held throughout the week. On Monday, transport ministers are to agree on establishing a "single European railway area", further liberalising and simplifying rules for the railway sector.

They are also discussing rules for lorry drivers covering driving time and rest periods and will have another go at the reform of the pan-European transport network.

Interior ministers, meeting on Tuesday are expected to agree on a legal text reforming the evaluation and monitoring mechanisms of the border-free Schengen area, as well as on defining the cases when states are allowed to re-introduce 'temporary' border checks.

They are also expected to decide whether to approve an agreement on air passenger data transfers with the US, already signed by the European Commission. Similar agreements have been approved with Canada and Australia, but the US deal is more controversial, as its data storage periods are longer and the scope of the crimes targeted broader than terrorism.

Justice ministers, meeting the next day, will try to agree on a law establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime and on a European investigation order on criminal matters. The goal of this controversial project is to allow prosecutors in one member state to carry out investigative measures at the request of prosecutors in another member state, for instance interviewing witnesses, searches and seizures, wire-tapping and monitoring of bank accounts. A similar scheme, just for extradition - the European arrest warrant - has seen a series of abuses and errors putting innocent people in jail.

Telecommunication ministers meeting on Tuesday are to discuss roaming costs and how to modernise the mandate of the information security agency (Enisa). Conclusions are also expected on the concept of a 'open internet' and 'net neutrality' in Europe, meaning that internet providers should not give preference to some packets of information travelling over their wires in return for premium charges.

EU trade ministers travelling to Geneva on Wednesday for the World Trade Organisation ministerial conference will hold a brief meeting ahead of the WTO gathering, focusing on opening bilateral negotiations with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia for establishing a "deep and comprehensive" free trade area with these countries. Similar talks have already been launched with eastern neighbours Ukraine and Georgia.

Back in Brussels, fisheries ministers on Thursday will try to come to an agreement on fishing quotas for 2012 in the Atlantic, the North Sea and the Black Sea.

EU affairs ministers on Friday will look at reforms of the bloc's cohesion policy from 2013 on to make funding less bureaucratic and stimulate greener projects in EU's poorer regions.

Finland drops veto against Schengen enlargement

Finland has dropped its veto against Bulgaria and Romania's accession to the border-free Schengen area next year, leaving the Netherlands as the only blocking country.

This WEEK in the European Union

With lending between banks freezing up, contagion spreading to Germany, and EU economy chief Rehn fretting the euro has days to prevent collapse - the coming week is the mother of all crunch weeks for the European Union.

This WEEK in the European Union

The leaders of France and Germany will kick off the week with a bilateral meeting on the eurozone crisis with the single currency still facing many of the same problems - only exacerbated - that it did one year ago.

EU leaders seek to speed up vaccinations This WEEK

EU leaders talk vaccines, while the Portugues EU presidency introduces itself to MEPs. Joe Biden will be inaugurated as president of the United States, and the EU hopes this will mark a new beginning for EU-US relations.

Vaccines in focus in the EU This WEEK

The European Parliament's environment committee will hear from the person who negotiated the vaccine contracts, commission director-general of health and food safety, Sandra Gallina.

News in Brief

  1. Brexit prompted finance exodus from UK to France
  2. Italian PM Conte wins confidence vote in Senate
  3. Borrell washes hands of EU's Venezuela policy
  4. Russia backs Greece in eastern Mediterranean dispute
  5. 'Ski-holiday' Switzerland reaches new infection high
  6. Germany extends lockdown, others expected to follow
  7. Barnier to be Brexit special adviser to von der Leyen
  8. EU commisioner to visit Bosnia's Lipa migrant camp

Gruelling Brexit and budget talks continue This WEEK

After almost a week of arm-wrestling and ten days before the UK severs all of its EU ties, negotiators are back working hard on a deal on the future EU-UK relations. Budget and rule of law talks will also continue.

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