23rd Oct 2020


Greece to take EU centre stage This WEEK

  • EU leaders will gather in Brussels on Thursday, for many it will be the first opportunity to meet newly-elected Greek PM Alexis Tsipras (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

While the European Parliament will hold its monthly plenary session in Strasbourg this week, most of the EU’s political action will take place in Brussels with Greece taking centre-stage.

The response against terrorism will be high on the agenda, a month after the deadly attack on the Parisian office of Charlie Hebdo, as is the conflict in Ukraine, and the future of Greece's debt repayments.

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On Monday (9 February) and Tuesday, EU's foreign ministers will discuss how to combat terrorism. Members of the European Parliament will vote on Wednesday (11 February) on a resolution recommending possible counter-terrorism measures.

Later in the week the counter-terrorism debate will be discussed at the highest level, as EU government leaders meet in Brussels on Thursday (12 February).

But most of the attention will be on Greece and its new prime minister Alexis Tsipras who will be making his first EU summit appearance on Thursday.

It follows several days of high-profile visits by himself and finance minister Yanis Varoufakis to win EU counterparts round to the idea of debt restructuring and an end to austerity in Greece.

But their whistlestop tour has seen them return all but empty-handed to Athens as several countries – particularly Germany – remain firm that Greece must continue to carry out reforms.

Eurozone finance ministers will discuss Greece just ahead of the summit on Wednesday evening, with time pressing as the country’s bailout expires on 28 February.

Varoufakis has made the case for a bridging loan while the new government establishes a programme of reforms that it thinks it can stick but the response so far to the proposal has been muted.

Many other issues are on the European agenda as well.


The foreign affairs meeting on Monday will also be about EU-Africa relations, and the situation in Libya, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, while EU government leaders on Thursday are also expected to discuss the situation in Ukraine.

EU leaders will be able to hear a firsthand report from German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Francois Hollande on their visit to Kiev and Moscow at the end of last week to try and prevent an escalation of the conflict in Ukraine.

Merkel already gave a downbeat assessment of outcome of the trip during the Munich Security Conference over the weekend.

French, German, Ukrainian, and Russian leaders are to hold peace talks in Minsk on Wednesday (11 February).

Russia will indirectly also be a topic on Monday in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

Energy ministers from south-eastern European nations are meeting there with European commissioners Maros Sefovic (Energy Union) and Miguel Arias Canete (Climate Action and Energy) to discuss gas supplies.

Ministers from Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia have been invited to talk about what to do following the cancellation of the South Stream gas project by Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“Our meeting in Sofia will be a very good opportunity to advance regional cooperation in the energy field”, Canete said ahead of the meeting.

Sefcovic will later in the week travel to Azerbaijan to discuss the Southern Gas Corridor, an alternative project to decrease the EU's dependency on Russian gas.

The week will also see many politicians coming and going through Brussels to meet with EU officials bilaterally.

Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker will meet Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday.

The following day, he will meet several politicians belonging to his centre-right political family, the EPP, including the new Polish PM, Ewa Kopacz, Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades, and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy

All of these may also be spotted at an EPP summit in a hotel in Brussels on Thursday morning, ahead of the EU summit.

Germany to Greece: We agree to disagree

A tense meeting between the Greek and German finance ministers ended with no prospect of a swift deal on Greek debt or an extension of the current bailout program.

Brexit and EU budget in spotlight This WEEK

Tense post-Brexit talks in London, and EU budget and rule-of-law negotiations in Brussels, will continue this week, as EU countries battle the second wave of Covid-19.

EU summit focuses on Brexit and Covid-19 This WEEK

Talks between the UK and the EU have progressed painfully slowly, but a deal on future relations needs to be agreed by the end of October. MEPs and diplomats will have another go at settling the next EU budget.

Key Brexit and budget talks This WEEK

Breakthroughs are needed this week in both the EU-UK talks and negotiations on the budget between member states and the European Parliament. Migration will also be back, with ministers having their first debate on the new migration pact proposal.

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