5th Mar 2024


Trade and tax issues to dominate this WEEK

  • Paris: France's 'cultural exception' has been a major part of discussions around the trade talks (Photo: Lisa Kline1)

EU-US trade relations will take centre stage at a meeting of eight of the world's wealthiest nations in Northern Ireland on Monday.

Hopes that the UK, hosting the international event, can announce the launch of the talks were raised after France on Friday withdrew its promised veto from the negotiating table after winning concessions concerning the rights to protect its film industry.

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The other major issue on the G8 table is tackling tax evasion by requiring the disclosure of the actual owner of shell companies and finding agreement on new global standards for corporate tax - much in the headlines recently after it emerged that clever but legal accounting allowed massive companies to pay a next to nothing in taxes.

The fall-out from the revelations of a large-scale US programme snooping on European citizens is set to continue next week.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to raise the issue when US President Barack Obama travels to Berlin after the G8 summit.

Meanwhile, EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding will Wednesday appear before the European Parliament's civil liberties committee to explain to MEPs the scope of the US surveillance programme and the extent to which the European Commission was aware of Washington's activities. Her appearance comes amid revelations that Washington was successful in its lobbying to water down the EU draft data privacy bill.

MEPs in the foreign affairs committee will Tuesday get a chance to quiz Turkish Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin on the controversial way Ankara has handled anti-government protests in recent weeks. The exchange comes as member states are divided about whether to proceed with EU membership talks, scheduled for later this month, with Germany in favour of delaying the move. Ergin's committee appearance comes despite Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ridiculing of the EU parliament and its criticism of the violent police crackdown on protestors.

The controversial issue of 'posted workers' will be tackled in the employment committee on Thursday. MEPs will vote on updated rules aimed at preventing abuse of the system, particularly the bypassing of minimum wages - the subject of several high profile court cases.

The environment committee will Wednesday hold a second vote on a measure designed to revive one of its flagship climate policies, the emissions trading scheme. The plenary in April voted down the proposal, which would involve delaying the auction of millions of carbon allowances to try and boost the carbon market. The vote sparked much debate about the EU's commitment to environment policies.

Through out the week, the petitions committee will audition the six candidates for the position of EU ombudsman's, who oversees the behavior of EU institutions.

The European Commission, meanwhile, will prod government to do more to fight unemployment, with around 26 million EU citizens currently without a job. On Monday it will table a proposal to make it easier for member states to match those looking for work with the 1.7 million job vacancies around the EU. On Wednesday it is due to suggest that governments "frontload" the €6bn ear-marked for a youth guarantee scheme so that the money is available quickly once the new multi-year budget framework begins in 2014.

It will also unveil new guidelines on regional aid, making it more attractive and easier for companies to locate to disadvantaged areas.

Euro finance ministers meet Thursday amid an ongoing review of Greece's reform programme. The recent decision by Athens to close and relaunch public broadcaster ERT as part of its obligation to cut public sector expenditure saw hefty criticism of the government as well as the bailout programme.

It will also be the first gathering of euro ministers since the International Monetary Fund published a paper criticising both its own and the commission's policy response to Greece, causing the normally placid economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn to hit back strongly.

EU finance ministers the next day are expected to sign off on anti-VAT-fraud measures.

Defence, von der Leyen, women's rights, in focus This WEEK

Ursula von der Leyen is expected to be confirmed as the EPP candidate for president of the next EU Commission. A new defence strategy will be unveiled this week, while the ECB is expected to maintain interest rates.

More farmers, Ukraine aid, Yulia Navalnaya in focus This WEEK

EU agriculture ministers meet in Brussels amid new farmers' protests. MEPs will hear from Alexei Navalny's widow and give the final green light to the €50bn Ukraine facility, while the CBAM proposal faces a formal challenge at a WTO meeting.

New Red Sea mission and more Russia sanctions This WEEK

EU foreign affairs ministers launch the bloc's new Red Sea naval mission, plus hold talks on new sanctions against Russia — amid Hungarian objections — on Monday. Plus a home for the EU's new anti-money laundering authority will be picked.

Nato, defence summit, and UNRWA in focus This WEEK

Nato defence ministers will meet this week ahead of the Munich Security Conference. ECB chief Christine Lagarde will address MEPs in the committee on economic affairs and MEPs will hold a debate about the defunding of the UNRWA agency.

EU's 2040 climate target and farmers in focus This WEEK

This week, the EU commission will present a proposal to cut net emissions by 90 percent by 2040, while MEPs discuss the demands of farmers' protests across Europe. Romanian president Klaus Iohannis will also address the EU parliament in Strasbourg.

EU agrees rules to ban products made with forced labour

The new rules will allow authorities to ban a product from the single market if it is found to have been made using forced labour, regardless of whether it is imported into the EU or manufactured within the bloc.


I'll be honest — Moldova's judicial system isn't fit for EU

To state a plain truth: at present, Moldova does not have a justice system worthy of a EU member state; it is riven with corruption and lax and inconsistent standards, despite previous attempts at reform, writes Moldova's former justice minister.

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