Saturday

19th Jan 2019

Agenda

Riga and red tape on EU agenda this WEEK

  • One year after the Maidan, EU leaders will meet in Riga to see where to go next (Photo: Christopher Bobyn)

The EU will examine approaches to its southern and eastern neighborhood this week in attempts to address the urgent and strategic challenges on its doorstep.

The top issue is the situation in the Mediterranean, where thousands of migrants continue to cross the sea to Europe on a risky journey.

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EU chief diplomat Federica Mogherini will continue to work with member states and the United Nations on plans to "disrupt" migrant trafficking from Africa, especially off the the coast of Libya.

A vote from the UN Security Council will be sought this week, but talks with some council members such as Russia and China to secure a resolution could take longer.

A key element will be whether the EU will be authorised to destroy smugglers’s boats before or after they are used to transport migrants in Libyan waters.

EU foreign affairs and defence ministers will be in Brussels on Monday for two separate EU council meetings, but they will meet in a so-called "jumbo" format to discuss the issue.

EU foreign affairs ministers are expected to give the green light to the mission before a final decision by EU leaders in June.

The ministers will also prepare the June EU summit on plans to increase EU military capabilities and strengthening of the bloc’s defence industry.

They will be joined by Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg over lunch to discuss security challenges in the EU’s neighbourhood. Russia’s involvement in eastern Ukraine and military incursions in EU countries’ airspace will be top of the menu.

These security and defence issues will be debated at the European Parliament on Tuesday by MEPs and Federica Mogherini.

The EU eastern partnership policy (EaP) will be the subject of this week’s main event - a summit in Riga (Latvia) between the EU and the EaP six partner countries.

Select EU leaders and representatives from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine will try to keep the momentum for deeper ties despite the situation in Ukraine and broader tensions with Russia.

Efforts aiming at de-escalation and a political solution to the crisis in Ukraine, and the peaceful settlement of other unresolved conflicts in the region, as in Moldova or between Armenia and Azerbaijan, will be high on the summit’s agenda.

Three countries so far have signed association agreements with the EU: Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The summit will assess the progress made by these countries in reforming their economies and administration and will look at the possibilities of strengthening ties with the three others.

The creation of a common European economic area will also be discussed with the EaP partners.

Visa facilitation for EaP partners’ citizens, and energy, especially with the gas an oil producing Azerbaijan, and Ukraine, a key transit country, will be an important part of the talks.

The EU will try urge Belarus, the most authoritarian regime in the region, to better respect human rights and democratic standards ahead of a presidential election at the end of the year.

Despite promises of more engagement from the EU, the first drafts of the final declaration of the summit indicate that the EU is tempted to step back from previous declarations on enlargement perspectives or even "incentive-based approach".

Turkey will also be on the EU agenda this week.

On Monday, EU foreign affairs ministers will hold a EU-Turkey Association Council. On Wednesday, the European Parliament will vote on a resolution to assess Turkey’s 2014 reform progress.

MEPs are expected to stress that Turkey must step up the fight against corruption, guarantee the freedom of media and of expression and respect the independence of the judiciary.

The European Parliament, which will be in Strasbourg for its plenary session will have a busy schedule.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the parliament will debate with the European Commission the two most recent legislative proposals presented by the EU executive: the digital single market and the agenda on migration.

On Tuesday, MEPs will debate with commission cice-president Frans Timmermans about Hungary’s plans to reintroduce death penalty and a controversial government consultation on immigration.

On Wednesday, they will vote on the “conflict minerals” legislation aimed at stemming the flow of revenue to armed groups from sales of metal widely used in industry such as tin, tantalum and tungsten, as well as gold.

They will also vote to set up register of company owners in all EU countries to fight money laundering and terrorism financing. The registers ill be open to authorities and people with a "legitimate interest", including journalists.

Also in Strasbourg, the commission will adopt on Wednesday its much awaited better regulation package to simplify EU law and increase transparency in decision-making.

The proposal will be presented by the Timmermans. It is expected to include measures to better evaluate the impact of policies imposed at EU level and extend public consultation.

This week citizens will be called to the voting booths in two countries.

In Ireland, on Thursday (22 May), they will be asked to decide over the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

If the Yes wins, gay people will be entitled to marry with the same constitutional status as straight couples.

That would be a social watershed in a country where the legislation on abortion is one of the most restrictive in Europe and divorce was legalised only 18 years ago.

According to the latest polls, a majority of voters should vote Yes, but the high number of undecided voters makes the result still uncertain.

In Poland, on Sunday (24 May), they will elect their president for a five-year mandate between outgoing Bronislaw Komorowski, form the center-right Civic Plateform) and Andrzej Duda from the more conservative Law and Justice party (PiS). 


Duda created a sensation when came first at the first round on 10 May with 34.7 percent, against 33.7 percent for Komorowski. He is also leading in the first polls published between the two rounds.

The election is a nationwide test before the general election in the Autumn.

Military action underpins EU migration plan

The EU commission has unveiled its migrant quota system, as ministers get set for talks on military operations to destroy migrant smuggler boats in Libya.

Aachen treaty and Brexit endgame This WEEK

Germany and France are set to reinforce their alliance as the engine-house of European integration, while Britain continues to struggle to leave the EU.

Romania takes over the EU This WEEK

Romania will officially take over the EU's presidency this week, with commissioners and senior EU officials kicking off the testing next six-month period with meetings in Bucharest.

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