Thursday

14th Dec 2017

Agenda

EU looks to arming Syria rebels, wooing Russia this WEEK

  • Arming the Syrian rebels or not, this is the question among EU states (Photo: Freedom House)

EU foreign ministers meeting on Friday and Saturday (22-23 March) in Dublin will seek to overcome disagreements over how to deal with a Syrian arms embargo.

Britain and France want to change it so weapons can be delivered to Syrian rebels, while Austria is openly against it and Germany - reluctant in the past - has signalled "willingness" to talk.

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Earlier in the week, the European Commission is due to publish its yearly reports on 12 neighbour countries in the east and south, including Syria, Israel and Moldova - where the pro-EU government recently collapsed. The reports focus on democratic reforms after the Arab spring and a new wave of political instability in the eastern neighbourhood.

EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso will travel to Berlin on Monday for talks with the German Chancellor and the French President, as well as representatives of the European Roundtable of Industralists, a lobby group of the largest European companies, such as Siemens, Vodafone or Heineken.

Three days later, he will lead a delegation of EU commissioners on their way to Moscow for meetings with the Russian government. The visit was long-planned, but will take place amid continued talks for a possible Russian involvement in the bailout for Cyprus. The commissioners for trade, energy, single market, consumer protection, fisheries, humanitarian aid, agriculture and neighbourhood policy will accompany Barroso on Thursday and Friday.

The EU commission on Wednesday meanwhile is set to table legislative proposals giving Brussels more powers in national economic policies. The idea was strongly promoted by Germany, the Netherlands and Finland a few months ago: binding contracts with the EU commission for member states to actually stick to the recommendations Brussels makes on issues like youth employment or a more flexible labour market.

In return, countries would get "financial support" for these measures - a demand championed by France. Any major economic policy decisions taken by a member state would also need to be first discussed at EU level.

The proposals will still need to be negotiated with member states and the European Parliament.

Farm ministers meeting on Monday will try to get a political deal on reforming the bloc's agricultural policy - after the European Parliament last week watered down proposals to link EU subsidies to environmentally-friendly measures.

For their part, environment ministers on Thursday will review the so-called Reach directive which lists all allowed chemicals in the EU.

In the European Parliament, MEPs will hear from the heads of the EU commission and EU council on Wednesday about the outcome of last week's summit. Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem will make his maiden appearance in front of the economics committee on Thursday.

On Tuesday, constitutional affairs MEPs will vote on rules regarding the EU registration and financing of European political parties and foundations. They will also discuss possible legal ways around having to travel to Strasbourg every month, a requirement penned down in the EU treaties.

Netanyahu, Panama Papers, and Brexit This WEEK

The run-up to the Christmas break sees a packed schedule, including the EU summit on Brexit, migration and other issues, a rare visit by Israeli PM Netanyahu, and issues such as fishing quotas and the Panama Papers.

May-Juncker meeting sets the tone This WEEK

As Brexit negotiations approach the (possibly) grand finale of their first phase, the EU's attention this week is turning to the eurozone - who is the new boss and how to deepen and expand it.

Africa and EU summit This WEEK

Billed as a new partnership, the EU and Africa summit in Abidjan will focus on youth and jobs. The gathering takes place against the backdrop of migratory flows towards Europe and reports of open slave auctions in Libya.

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