21st Apr 2021


Enlargement in the spotlight this WEEK

  • No EU talks with Turkey have taken place for three years (Photo: svenwerk)

The European Commission will this week unveil its annual report on the state of further enlargement of the EU.

The report will examine progress made by places hoping to the join the 28-member bloc, including the Western Balkans (Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania, Bosnia and Kosovo) and Turkey.

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Although Croatia joined the EU in July, the whole process has been marked by a slowing down in momentum as member states concentrate on their own economic problems.

There continues to be a stalemate with Turkey with EU governments, such as Germany and Austria, not particularly keen on having it as a member. Ankara, for its part, vascillates between saying it is no longer interested in joining and berating the EU for the lack of positive signals.

No new areas of membership negotiations have been opened for three years.

Meanwhile, Iceland, another candidate for EU membership, has broken off negotiations amid waning popular enthusiasm for the move and a bitter dispute with Brussels over managing its fish stocks.

Negotiations will next week continue on reform of the EU's regional aid policy.

MEPs dislike plans to make macro-economic conditionality a part of the reforms, fearing that regions will be punished for central governments' failure to adhere to EU budget rules. They also dislike proposals to withhold a percentage of aid until projects are completed.

While these negotiations continue, the overall multi-annual budget (2014-2021) cannot be agreed either.

EU finance ministers will meet on Tuesday (15 October) to discuss the ongoing construction of a banking union, seen as an essential foundation for the euro. One of the topics is a single resolution mechanism - how to wind up failing banks.

However, little progress is expected either on Tuesday or at a euro finance ministers' meeting on Monday evening as Germany - the EU's most influential state - is still in government coalition talks.

The commission, for its part, is keen to pressure member states into actually carrying out the economic, social and labour recommendations it makes each year as part of the "European Semester."

It is thinking of introducing a benchmarking scheme to embarrass governments into being more responsive. The idea is due to be discussed amongst ministers on Tuesday.

Women's rights are on the agenda on Monday, when the European Parliament's gender equality and legal affairs committees vote on a proposal that would require that at least 40 percent of non-executive board members of EU-listed companies be women. The initiative is being championed by commission vice-president Viviane Reding, but it is already much weaker than her original ideas.

The civil liberties committee will also continue its probe into surveillance activities in the EU with public hearings on Monday and Thursday. The focus this week will be on national surveillance schemes in the Netherlands and Germany.

At the end of the week (20 October), Luxembourgers will go to the polls.

Early elections were called during the summer after the state intelligence service (SREL) was accused of illegally spying on citizens and MPs. Current prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker, already the EU's longest serving PM with 18 years under his belt, is running again.


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