18th Mar 2018


Ukraine and Cuba on agenda this WEEK

  • Damas de Blanco: Female relatives of Cuban political prisoners, who campaign for their release, collected an EU award last year (Photo:

Ukraine will top the agenda when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels on Monday (10 February), with sanctions likely to be discussed informally, but no decision taken.

The discussion comes after leaked phone calls highlighted the difference between the EU and US approach to the crisis: In one call, a high-ranking EU diplomat voiced irritation that the US is portraying Europe as weak in its response.

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The wider eastern neighbourhood will also be discussed.

Two informal papers will set the grounds for debate: A Swedish paper, signed by 12 other member states, calls for a PR drive to keep Georgia and Moldova on track to sign EU pacts in August. A Polish paper looks at how EU aid money could be better spent.

Looking further afield, ministers are expected to launch talks on a political and economic agreement with Cuba.

The EU froze relations in 2003 after Cuban authorities threw 75 dissidents in jail. Limited contacts resumed in 2008 following the release of the prisoners, but until now former Communist EU states, such as the Czech Republic and Poland, had resisted Spanish pressure to go furter.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will also brief ministers on the conflict in Central African Republic.

France, which unilaterally deployed 1,600 troops, is hoping other EU countries will pledge soldiers and equipment for an EU operation to protect refugees in Bangui.

Tuesday will see EU ministers begin preparations for an EU-Africa summit in April and for an EU leaders’ summit in March, where debate is to focus on the “European semester” (its budget and economic reform cycle) and combatting unemployment.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament will continue its probe into the work of the troika - the groups of officials from internationl lenders, the European Commission, European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund, who oversee bailouts.

Critics say they work with no oversight and that they misjudged the social problems caused by austerity.

Parliament’s economic affairs committee will on Thursday question ECB board member Benoit Couere, while the social affairs commitee will adopt a troika resolution.

MEPs in the civil liberties committee will on Wednesday decide whether to call for a suspension of international data agreements and trade talks with the US in light of the US snooping scandal.

Two committees will also vote on the revision of the EU’s anti-money laundering directive.

Campaigners say changes to the law could have a strong impact on the fight against corruption, trafficking and tax evasion. The draft bill requires all companies registered in the EU to reveal who really owns them.

With EU elections approaching and MEPs keen to have a bigger say on the next European Commission, deputies in the constitutional affairs committee are also set to call for some future commissioners to be recruited from the ranks of the newly-elected assembly.

EU to open trade talks with Cuba

EU foreign ministers have agreed to open talks on a trade and political relationship with Cuba, raising the prospect of a new era in relations between Brussels and Havana.

Brexit and trade will top This WEEK

A crucial EU summit will decide whether to give a green light to the Brexit transition period, while the EU is also fighting to get exemptions from the new US steel and aluminium tariffs.

'Selmayrgate' moves to the EU Parliament This WEEK

As a global trade war looms over the new US steel tariffs, the EU's attention will shift to Strasbourg - where MEPs are expected to debate the Martin Selmayr appointment, trade, Brexit, journalism and the budget.

Italy and migration will top This WEEK

Italy will have voted for a government, Germany's social democrats will have voted to confirm a government (or not): the dynamics in European politics may change, while Brussels will focus on Brexit again.

Election fever picks up This WEEK

Italian general elections, a German coalition in the balance, and the European parliament fighting to get a voice in nominating an EU commission president. This and much more in a week packed with intrigue.

Evacuated women from Libya arrive newly-pregnant

Niger has temporarily stopped all evacuations from Libya detention centres under an EU funded programme because so few are being resettled to Europe. Many of those that have been evacuated are pregnant, with some asking for HIV testing.

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