20th Aug 2022


Ukraine, Schengen, and Christmas This WEEK

  • EU Council president Donald Tusk during the last summit of the year (Photo: Consillium)

With the 13th EU summit of the year completed on 17 and 18 December, the EU political year is coming to an end, with the Christmas break considered as a welcome aside in Europe's continuing woes.

During the summit, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told journalists he was "too young" to say whether 2015 was the worst year in EU history, and he said he has "no illusion" on what 2016 might bring.

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His native country will perform its last duties as the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU before handing over to The Netherlands on 1 January. But no ministers' meeting will take place and only one Coreper, the regular meeting of national ambassadors to the EU, is on the agenda.

One of these last duties will be a meeting of Luxembourg's foreign affairs minister Jean Asselborn, along with Juncker, and with Swiss president Simonetta Sommaruga on Monday (21 December). Sommaruga is finishing her one-year rotating mandate amid uncertainties over EU-Switzerland relationships.

On 4 December the confederation's government announced it would limit immigration from EU countries with a unilateral quota if it is unable to strike a deal with the EU. The measure, which would be effective in March, follows a referendum on "mass immigration" and EU free movement.

Around 1.3 million EU nationals live in Switzerland, a Schengen area member, and 300,000 people cross the border each day to work there.

On Monday also, the EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem will meet Ukraine's foreign affairs minister Pavlo Klimkin and Russia's minister of economic development Alexey Ulyukaev for trilateral talks on the implementation of the Ukraine-EU free trade agreement (DCFTA).

The trade pact will come into force on 1 January after months of obstruction by Russia, which says it will harm its economy. Earlier this month the EU envoy to Ukraine said the commission had found no proof it would be the case.

Brussels and Kiev have decided to go ahead despite trade sanctions imposed on Ukraine by Russia last week.

This week will also be the last working week for the European Parliament, with two days of committee work.

On Monday afternoon, the transport committee will debate the social, economic, and legal implications of transport networking companies like Uber.

At the same time the environment committee will examine the commission's package on circular economy. In a plenary debate earlier this month, MEPs criticised the lack of ambition of the proposal on waste recycling, reducing food waste and landfill.

On Tuesday morning, the committee on civil liberties will work on what has been the main EU issue over the last few months and will most likely the most pressing in the new year. MEPs will discuss the biannual report on the functioning of the Schengen and the reintroduction of internal border controls by Germany and Austria.

Russia imposes Ukraine trade measures

Russia has cancelled free trade privileges for Ukraine from 1 January, but says it still wants to meet EU mediators this weekend.

Switzerland threatens EU immigration quota

The Swiss government announced it would limit immigration from EU countries with a unilateral quota by March 2016 if it is unable to strike a deal with the EU.

Rule of law and Czech presidency priorities This WEEK

The European Commission will unveil its rule-of-law audit of all EU member states this week. Meanwhile, several ministers from the Czech Republic will present to EU lawmakers the priorities of the rotating EU Council presidency for the next six months.

Czech presidency and key nuclear/gas vote This WEEK

MEPs will gather in Strasbourg for the final plenary before the summer break, with a crucial vote on the classification of gas and nuclear. The Czech Republic will present to EU lawmakers its presidency's priorities for the next six months.

G7, Nato, gas anxiety and Ukraine top This WEEK

EU energy ministers and environment ministers are expected to reach common positions on different aspects of the Fit for 55 package — as the continent is increasingly worried about energy prices and future supplies.


Could the central Asian 'stan' states turn away from Moscow?

The former Soviet states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan have retained close ties with Russia since 1989. Yet this consensus may be shifting. At the UN, none of them supported Russia in the resolution condemning the Ukraine invasion.

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