Thursday

18th Jan 2018

Agenda

Greece, trade secrecy on EU agenda this WEEK

  • London smog: environment ministers will discuss air pollution (Photo: stu mayhew)

This week sees the return of yet another deadline in the ongoing Greek bailout saga in the form of a meeting of euro finance ministers on Thursday.

The 18 June eurogroup meeting comes less than two weeks before the current bailout runs out, the date by which Greece also needs to find €1.6 billion to repay the IMF.

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Both Athens and its creditors have been touting this week as the time for a breakthrough on unlocking the €7.2bn bailout out money.

However, relations between the two sides, never particularly good, appeared to sour further when the IMF, one of the three creditors along with the EU and the ECB, last week left the negotiations table citing major differences. And Reuters reports that senior eurozone officials, at a meeting in Slovakia, for the first time discussed the possibility of Greece defaulting.

Meanwhile, the drawn-out talks appear to be affecting public opinion. Fifty-one percent of Germans, in a ZDF poll, said they are against Greece having the euro - up from 33 percent six months earlier.

Migration

EU interior ministers will gather in Brussels on Tuesday for a first discussion on the controversial migration proposals tabled by the European Commission last month.

The proposals were prompted by the situation in the Mediterranean, where hundreds of migrants each week attempt to reach European shores from north Africa.

But actual decisions will be in short supply, as member states are baulking at the idea of letting the commission - based on a key that takes into account factors such as GDP - determine how many migrants each country should take.

The same ministerial meeting should see a breakthrough on data legislation on Monday.

After over a year of discussions at the member state level, ministers are set to agree on a data protection bill first proposed in early 2012.

Negotiations can then start with the European Parliament. The plan is to have the bill agreed by the end of the year. The data protection regulation is set to replace a twenty-year old directive with a single set of rules.

EU parliament

In the European Parliament, the week will start with economic and financial affairs.

ECB chief Mario Draghi will appear before the economic and monetary affairs committee on Monday to discuss the eurozone bank's quantitative easing programme. Greece will also likely to feature heavily in MEPs' questions. The same committee will the following day agree its ideas on reforming the economic governance of the eurozone.

Two other key committee votes will also take place this week. The legal affairs committee will vote on a draft law aiming to better protect EU businesses against the theft or misuse of trade secrets - but critics say it will allow companies to prevent journalists from writing about them by citing the right to trade secrecy.

MEPs in the same committee will give their opinion on EU copyright reform, a package of legislation set to be unveiled by the commission by the end of this year.

The report, by German pirate MEP Julia Reda, is set to cover geoblocking, harmonising copyright rules and authors' remuneration and has already received 100s of amendments.

Economic governance will be a major issue during a meeting of employment ministers later in the week. They will discuss annual policy recommendations for national governments amid a recent promise by key EU commissioners to give more weight to social issues.

Clean air

Environment ministers, for their part, will discuss new caps to put on the emission of several air pollutants. In March, EUobserver reported that France and the UK have been trying to water down the pollution caps, targeting especially the ceilings for pollutants which result from agriculture.

Air pollution, which prematurely kills about 400,000 Europeans every year, will also be debated by MEPs on Tuesday afternoon.

Danes go to the ballot box on Thursday with the latest polls showing the ruling coaltion under centre-left PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt is narrowly in the lead.

IMF puts Greece in tough spot

The IMF has withdrawn its negotiation team form the Greek bailout talks over "major differences in most key areas".

Bulgaria takes over, Germany's SPD votes This WEEK

While Bulgaria and Ireland present themselves at next week's plenary at the European Parliament, Germany's Social Democrats will decide if the preliminary coalition deal with Merkel is good enough.

Netanyahu, Panama Papers, and Brexit This WEEK

The run-up to the Christmas break sees a packed schedule, including the EU summit on Brexit, migration and other issues, a rare visit by Israeli PM Netanyahu, and issues such as fishing quotas and the Panama Papers.

May-Juncker meeting sets the tone This WEEK

As Brexit negotiations approach the (possibly) grand finale of their first phase, the EU's attention this week is turning to the eurozone - who is the new boss and how to deepen and expand it.

EU 'hypocrisy' condemns people to Libya, says NGO

Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, says the EU's key policy on returning migrants to Libya is condemning them to "nightmarish conditions", and is a hypocritical use of the Libyan coastguard to avoid direct responsibility.

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