Kerry in Brussels this WEEK
By Honor Mahony
US Secretary of State John Kerry will be in Brussels on Monday (22 April) for his first visit to the EU capital since taking up his post earlier this year.
He will meet EU commission president Jose Manuel Barroso to discuss EU-US trade relations, Iran, North Korea and Syria, before he attends a Nato ministerial meeting on Tuesday.
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EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday are set to lift most sanctions against Burma as well as ease the EU's oil embargo on Syria in order to boost the forces fighting against President Bashar Assad's regime.
With the political tide appearing to turn against tax evasion, the European Commission will Tuesday announce the setting up of a 'good governance' platform of experts to advise on what measures the Brussels executive needs to take to fight tax havens. The move comes after a recent journalistic investigation exposing thousands of off-shores accounts and amid a tax-evasion scandal in France.
The following day the commission will propose measures to reduce the hassle of getting official documents authenticated in other member states, a process that is often slow and costly. The move will be spear-headed by Viviane Reding, a commissioner with a track-record of crowd-pleasing initiatives and who reportedly has her eye on the commission presidency when the post comes up for grabs next year.
At the end of the week (27 April) Icelanders will go to the polls. They are expected to kick the pro-European governing Social Democrats party out of office in favour of the centre-right Progressive Party.
Whether the Progressive Party wins outright or forms a coalition party with the Independence Party, the ultimate result in terms of the EU could be a referendum on halting the country's membership talks.
The country has been deeply ambivalent about joining the EU since Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir submitted the country's membership application in July 2009 and promised to hold a referendum on the completion of negotiations.
A recent poll Icelandic TV station (Stod2) and Frettabladid newspaper showed that 55 percent of Icelanders want the country to finish EU negotiations and then have a referendum on whether to join the bloc, while 34 percent want to quit negotiations completely. Eleven percent want to hold a referendum on whether to continue negotiations or not.
Talks to align Iceland laws with the EU have been uncomplicated except in one area - fisheries. Iceland wants to retain sovereignty over its rich fishing waters - the EU is keen to apply common rules.