Friday

5th Mar 2021

Agenda

Greece and Ukraine top EU agenda this WEEK

  • The Greek vote will be digested this week (Photo: YoungJ523)

EU finance chiefs will this week digest Syriza’s victory in Greece, while top diplomats attend an emergency meeting on Ukraine.

The 19 eurozone ministers are meeting in Brussels on Monday (26 January) and are joined by the rest of their EU peers on Tuesday.

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The victory by the far-left party comes amid talks on whether to extend Greece’s bailout programme beyond 28 February to keep international aid flowing.

Syriza had earlier threatened to tear up the bailout contract and call for a debt amnesty, raising fears that Greece will leave the single currency.

Its leader, Alexis Tsipras, moderated his position in the run-up to the vote, indicating he might settle for softer terms on debt repayment instead.

But his big win will send a political shockwave through the EU, emboldening other far-left parties, such as Podemos in Spain.

It will also see the European Commission make way for its first far-left member, with the current Greek commissioner tipped to run for the Greek presidency.

Mariupol attack

Russia’s new offensive in south-east Ukraine will see EU foreign ministers hold a snap meeting on Thursday.

German chancellor Angela Merkel called Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Sunday to urge “de-escalation”. France’s Francois Hollande also voiced “grave concern” and said he would try to “calm the situation”.

Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, and the US have already called for extra sanctions.

Meanwhile, Finnish foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja likened the behaviour of Russia-controlled forces to the Milosevic regime in former Yugoslavia.

He said their attack on Mariupol, in south-east Ukraine, in which they fired rockets at a residential area, reminded him of a mortar attack by Serb forces on Sarajevo in 1994.

EU agriculture ministers will on Monday also discuss Russia’s ban on EU food exports.

The commission, earlier this month, agreed to let Russia choose which countries can resume exports based on Russian health inspections. The deal has raised alarm Russia will use it to divide the EU by rewarding doves and punishing hawks.

Hebdo fall-out

For their part, EU interior ministers will, at an informal meeting on Thursday, discuss security reforms in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

Ideas - to be taken forward at a summit in February - include criminalising “foreign fighters”, clamping down on Internet radicalisation, getting EU airlines to share data on passengers, and tightening up Schengen passport-free travel rules.

Finance will also top the agenda in the European Parliament.

Jyrki Katainen - the man in charge of the commission’s €315 billion investment fund - will explain latest thinking on the project to MEPs on the economic affairs committee on Monday.

The finance ministers of Germany and Italy will on Tuesday tell the committee if they see room for flexibility in EU debt and deficit rules.

EU energy commissioner Maros Sefcovic will brief deputies on the industry and environmental committees on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, on plans to reduce EU gas dependence on Russia.

Amid the Greek drama, ECB chief Mario Draghi will also be in the EU capital on Monday to meet competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

Her spokeswoman told EUobserver "they will discuss the broader perspectives - the economic situation in the EU and how to increase the competitiveness of the European economy”.

Auschwitz

Elsewhere in Europe, a handful of VIPs will on Monday go to a WWII memorial in the Czech Republic.

A bigger turnout is expected for Poland’s 70th anniversary on Tuesday of the liberation of Nazi Germany’s Auschwitz death camp.

The Auschwitz event has been marked by Putin’s decision to stay away even though he was invited in the same way as other guests.

Polish authorities told EUobserver they sent a note to the Russian embassy in Warsaw asking it to send a delegate "at the highest level". Putin's spokesman later said he isn't going because he didn't get a "personal" invitation.

Syriza to win Greek election

Greece's anti-austerity Syriza party is on course to win Sunday's parliamentary elections. The country "is turning a page," said party leader Alexis Tsipras.

Feature

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“First we take Athens and then we take Madrid” has become a regular slogan amongst Syriza supporters.

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EU leaders seek to speed up vaccinations This WEEK

EU leaders talk vaccines, while the Portugues EU presidency introduces itself to MEPs. Joe Biden will be inaugurated as president of the United States, and the EU hopes this will mark a new beginning for EU-US relations.

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With only five weeks to go before the UK severs all ties with the EU, chief negotiator Michel Barnier warned that the "same significant divergences persist" between the two sides in post-Brexit talks.

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