Saturday

7th Dec 2019

Agenda

Greece, migration and Turkey on the agenda This WEEK

  • Eurozone finance ministers and representatives for Greece's creditors will try to find an agreement with Greece on a new tranche of funds (Photo: Council of the EU)

The EU's most pressing issues will be on the agenda this week, with a European Parliament plenary session and ministers' meetings resuming after the Orthodox Easter and Catholic and Protestant Ascension breaks.

On Monday (9 May), eurozone finance ministers will meet in Brussels for an extraordinary Eurogroup meeting that all participants would like to endorse a deal between Greece and its creditors - the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the European Stability Fund and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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The deal would unblock a new tranche of aid of more than €5 billion.

On Tuesday (3 May), EU financial affairs commissioner Pierre Moscivici said there was an agreement "at 99 percent" on a set of pension and tax reforms.

But talks were stumbling over a request by creditors that Greece adopts a package of contingency measures in case it doesn't meet its budgetary targets in 2018.

The Greek parliament is expected to vote two bills on pensions and tax on Sunday, ahead of the Eurogroup meeting, to introduce reforms worth €5.4 billion for the Greek budget.

The vote would take place amid heightened political and social tensions. Prime minister Alexis Tsipras' parliamentary majority is split over the measures and a three-day national strike started on Friday.

Greece's creditors have agreed to put "the sustainability of Greece's public debt" on the Eurogroup's agenda.

Both Greek reforms and debt sustainability through some kind of debt relief "need to be in place in order to finalise the programme's first review and unlock further financial assistance to Greece," the Eurogroup statement ahead of the meeting said.

Debt relief is a long-standing demand of Tsipras' government, supported by the IMF. But EU countries, mainly Germany, are wary of the idea, and a debt haircut has been ruled out.

European Parliament

Also on Monday, MEPs will travel to Strasbourg for the monthly plenary session of the European Parliament.

On Tuesday (10 May), in the wake of the Eurogroup meeting, they will debate the Greek situation with commissioner Moscovici and the European Commission vice-president for the euro Valdis Dombrovskis.

But the parliament's agenda will be much about the refugee crisis and its consequences.

On Wednesday (11 May), the plenary will debate the EU's asylum policy and the actions taken to restore a normal functioning of the Schengen passport-free area.

The discussion will be held a week after the commission presented its proposal reform of the Dublin asylum system and proposed to fine member states that would refuse to take refugees.

The commission also recommended to extend the possibility of maintaining checks at Schengen internal borders for six months, because Greece still has not fixed the security problems at its border.

On Monday, the civil liberties committee will discuss the EU-Turkey agreement on readmission of migrants and the progress made by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap.

Last Wednesday, the commission said Turkey had made "impressive progress" and recommended to lift the visa requirement.

But it admitted work still needed to be done by Turkey to fulfill five criteria, mainly over the independence and powers of its data protection authority, and about the definition of terrorism used to stifle opposition.

MEPs have warned that they would not grant a visa-waiver to Turkey if all requirements were not fully met. The resignation of prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu on 5 May could make the process even more difficult.

TTIP

On Friday (13 May), EU trade ministers will discuss the state of the free-trade talks with the US. Two weeks after the latest round of negotiations o the so-called TTIP agreement, ministers will have to assess an increasingly controversial process.

The publication of secret negotiating documents by Greenpeace have cast doubt on the US' willingness to maintain EU standards and open its public procurement markets.

French president Francois Hollande even said last week that "at this stage, France says no" to an agreement.

Also on Friday, Barack Obama will host the leaders of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden at the White House for a US-Nordic Leaders Summit to discuss issues including the refugee crisis, Russia and security.

The meeting follows the convening of Nordic leaders during Obama’s trip to Sweden in September 2013.

Austria

This week could also see a change in Austrian politics that could have consequences on EU migration policy.

On Monday, the executive committee of the Social-Democratic Party (SPO) will meet and could decide to oust the party leader and chancellor Werner Faymann after the party's candidate to the presidential election got only 11 percent of the vote in the first round on 24 April.

A leader of the party change could have consequences for the government ahead of the second round of the presidential election on 22 May. Far-right candidate Norbert Hofer, who finished first in the first round, is the favourite to become president against Green candidate Alexander van der Bellen.

Faymann, together with his Christian-Democrat coalition partners has been instrumental in the closing of the Western Balkan migration route and has lately been an opponent of German chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy.

Many analysts believe that a president Hofer would try to nominate his party leader Heinz-Christian Strache as chancellor. Social-Democrat and Christian-Democrats, who have shared power since World War II, are now trying to prepare for any eventuality.

Meanwhile, on Monday, the EU will celebrate Europe's Day, in memory of the day, in 1950, when France and Germany proposed to put in common their steel and coal in order to replace wars by cooperation in Europe.

Computer to make EU asylum decisions

The EU commission has presented sweeping reforms of the "Dublin" asylum regulation that include deferring the most painful decisions to a computer in Malta.

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News in Brief

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