EU and Ukraine elections dominate this WEEK
The European Parliament elections and the vote for a new president in Ukraine dominate the agenda this week.
Voters in The Netherlands and the UK begin the EP election process on Thursday (22 May), followed by the Czech Republic and Ireland on Friday, four more countries (Italy, Malta, Slovakia, and Lithuania) on Saturday and the rest on Sunday.
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The results are due at 11pm Brussels time on Sunday.
The latest poll, by TNS, indicates the centre-right EPP will slightly increase its lead over the centre-left S&D and that the Liberal group will shrink.
Polls also indicate that the number of populist, anti-EU MEPs of various stripes will grow, with the eurosceptic Ukip and the far-right National Front set to become the leading EU parties in the UK and France, respectively.
Also on Sunday, Ukrainians will vote for their new president under the eyes of more than 1,000 OSCE monitors, the largest ever election mission by the Vienna-based multilateral body.
The vote will take place despite the fact parts of eastern and southern Ukraine – Crimea, Donetsk, Luhansk – have fallen into the hands of Russia or pro-Russia separatists.
Presidential-hopeful Petro Poroshenko, a confectionary tycoon known as a pragmatist, is polling at 34 percent compared to his nearest rival, former PM Yulia Tymoshenko.
But even if his victory looks sure, there are fears Russia will disrupt the elections, seen as vital by the EU for stabilising Ukraine, in a development that would likely trigger a far-reaching economic confrontation between Brussels and Moscow.
There is little happening in the EU capital in the run-up to election weekend.
MEPs are mostly at home campaigning.
The European Commission is on Wednesday publishing proposals for new state aid rules, including breaks for innovative businesses to stimulate the high-tech sector.
It is also meeting with the members of the Georgian government the same day ahead of plans to sign a political association and free trade deal with Tbilisi in June.
The event, which follows a similar one with Moldova last week, comes as the Union continues to seek closer ties with Russia's former satellites despite the crisis in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the bloc's outgoing foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, will meet EU countries' ministers to discuss development aid priorities on Monday. They will also debate the situation in the Central African Republic and in South Sudan.