EU budget talks to dominate this WEEK
By Honor Mahony
EU leaders gather in Brussels at the end of the week (4-10 February) for a second attempt to agree the bloc's budget framework for 2014-2020.
At stake is how to spend the around 1 trillion euro over the seven year period with member states having their traditional squabbles over which policy areas - including farm aid, innovation, and regional support - should see the most investment as well as who should get a rebate from the budget.
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A summit in November saw no agreement. But the stakes are higher now as another failure would mean there would be even less time to get the almost 70 laws to implement the budget in place before the end of this year.
Ahead of the summit, MEPs will hold a debate on the issue. They have consistently reminded member states - who they feel are being short-sighted in their attempts to reduce EU spending - that parliament must subsequently approve any deal by EU leaders.
Meanwhile the European Parliament is preparing itself for the appearance of Francois Hollande. The French President will speak to MEPs in Strasbourg on Tuesday. The visit comes at a difficult time domestically. His popularity had sunk to an all time low by the end of 2012 amid high unemployment and a sluggish economy. But the country's recent military intervention in Mali has seen Hollande's poll ratings boosted.
The French leader's plenary presence is part of an ongoing campaign by parliament chief Martin Schulz to turn the EU assembly into the go-to venue for highly topical EU debate. The leaders of Germany and Italy have also addressed the plenary under his watch and he is angling for an appearance by British leader David Cameron.
A reform of the common fisheries policy to make it more sustainable is also on parliament's agenda. MEPs will debate the issue on Tuesday and have a vote on the proposals on Wednesday.
Deputies are also due mid week to vote on a draft law to reduce the noise made by cars and set noise levels for electric cars. Later that day, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki will address the plenary.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will Thursday unveil a cybersecurity strategy, amid growing fears about the vulnerability of EU member states, EU institutions and citizens. The broad-ranging strategy is set to cover a number of areas including fraud, international security and child pornography.
Earlier in the week, the European Commission will present two legislative drafts on combatting money laundering and preventing the financing of terrorism. The two proposals are to tighten current rules in the area.
Romanian leader Victor Ponta will meet commission president Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels on Monday. The get-together comes just days after the commission published a report criticising Bucharest's fight against corruption. Ponta reacted by denouncing the claims in the report as untrue.