Monday

5th Dec 2016

Agenda

Climate change and migration vote on the Agenda This WEEK

  • The result of the Hungarian referendum is a foregone conclusion in country where the public has been supporting the government's hardline in the migration crisis. (Photo: Eszter Zalan)

Defence, climate change and migration are the three issues topping the EU's agenda this week, with discussions and a vote that could shape EU policies in the long run.

On Monday and Tuesday (26-27 September), EU defence ministers are in Bratislava for an informal meeting with plans to deepen the EU's common defence policy on the table.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The issue has been set as a priority for the post-Brexit EU at the summit of 27 leaders on 16 September, but there are differences on how to make it in reality. 

France and Germany have proposed an EU HQ as well as joint EU defence budgets, shared military satellite surveillance, and joint procurement of high-tech equipment. European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has proposed a European Defence Fund to finance research and development.

But some EU countries are opposed to the HQ idea, for fear that an EU command would weaken Nato. The UK itself has warned it would veto any such plans as long as it remains an EU member.

The issue will probably be discussed in Berlin on Wednesday (28 September), when German chancellor Angela Merkel meets French president Francois Hollande and Juncker.

Paris agreement

On Friday (30 September), EU countries will try not to be left behind in the global fight against climate change.

Environment ministers will meet in Brussels to hammer out a joint statement with the European Commission and a formal decision in which they would commit to ratify the Paris Agreement as soon as possible. 

After approval by the European Parliament early October the decision would allow the EU to be among the agreement's signatories when they start discussions about how to implement the text.

The aim of the text, agreed at the Paris climate conference last year, is to limit "the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels".

Some 60 countries have signed the text so far. And after the US and China, the world's two main producers of greenhouse emissions, did it too earlier this month, the double threshold of 55 countries representing 55 percent of global emissions could be reached soon and the first meeting of signatories could take place as soon as November.

What is at stake for the EU is to be at the table.

Only four EU countries have ratified the agreement - France, Austria, Hungary and Slovakia.

The joint statement that ministers will discuss in Friday is aimed at bypassing the national procedures to allow the EU as a bloc to be a party to the Paris Agreement before the remaining 24 national ratifications are completed.


Hungarian referendum

The climax of the week will be in Hungary on Sunday (2 October), when voters will turn out for an unusual referendum.

Hungary's outspoken prime minister Viktor Orban has organised a vote on whether his countrymen “want the European Union to be entitled to prescribe the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary without the consent of parliament”.

The wording of the question mixes, probably on purpose, two different EU mechanisms: the relocation of asylum seekers from Italy and Greece, and the resettlement of refugees from Turkey, Jordan or Lebanon.

Resettlement is voluntary, and the EU cannot force Hungary to take refugees through that scheme.

Relocation should be mandatory but Hungary is not implementing the two-year relocation mechanism adopted a year ago, which it has brought to the European Court of Justice.

A permanent mechanism, with fines for countries that do not take part, has been proposed by the European Commission but it has not yet been discussed by member states.

The result of the vote is a foregone conclusion in a country where support for the government's hard line in the migration crisis is overwhelming – about 70-80 percent, according to the latest polls.

But a 50 percent turnout is needed to validate the vote, and polls indicate that the threshold may not be reached.

Although a validated referendum would have no legal consequence for the EU relocation scheme or on Hungary's non-participation, it would strengthen Orban in his attempts to turn back the clock on the migration policy the EU has been trying to follow for the past year.

At the Bratislava summit on 16 September, Orban and his Visegrad group partners (from Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic) said in a common statement that "migration policy should be based on the principle of the 'flexible solidarity'”.

"Any distribution mechanism should be voluntary," they added.

In an indication of how the Visegrad group is putting the EU under pressure, Juncker has said that "solidarity must be given voluntarily".

If Orban gets a clear win on Sunday, some officials have suggested he might even push for a change of the EU treaty to exempt national migration rules from common European policies.

Analysis

Austrian far-right: beaten, but not defeated

Far-right candidate Norbert Hofer's loss to Green-backed Alexander Van der Bellen sent relief across Europe, but his party is still in a good position to head a government in the future.

News in Brief

  1. EU dismisses euro crisis risk after Italian referendum
  2. Italy result poses no risk to the EU, Sapin says
  3. EU asked to clarify links to Iran executions
  4. Italian economy minister tipped as caretaker PM
  5. EU tells US tech giants to act faster against hate speech
  6. Iceland's Pirates in bid to form government
  7. Danes are the happiest workers, study says
  8. Talks on wholesale roaming rules to start

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. CESICESI Congress Focuses on Future of Work, Public Services and Digitalisation
  2. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAustrian Association for Betting and Gambling Joins EGBA
  3. ACCAWomen of Europe Awards: Celebrating the Women who are Building Europe
  4. European Heart NetworkWhat About our Kids? Protect Children From Unhealthy Food and Drink Marketing
  5. ECR GroupRestoring Trust and Confidence in the European Parliament
  6. UNICEFChild Rights Agencies Call on EU to put Refugee and Migrant Children First
  7. MIRAIA New Vision on Clean Tech: Balancing Energy Efficiency, Climate Change and Costs
  8. World VisionChildren Cannot Wait! 7 Priority Actions to Protect all Refugee and Migrant Children
  9. ANCI LazioRegio-Mob Project Delivers Analysis of Transport and Mobility in Rome
  10. SDG Watch EuropeCivil Society Disappointed by the Commission's Plans for Sustainable Development Goals
  11. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhD Positions Open – The Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU (PLATO)
  12. Access NowTell the EU Council: Protect our Rights to Privacy and Security

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCAThe Future of Audit Means Adaption to Today’s Global and Digital World
  2. Swedish EnterprisesNew Rules for EU Anti-dumping Measures
  3. European Jewish CongressTakes Part in Building Resilient Communities
  4. UNICEFUniversal Children’s Day: UNICEF Calls for Global Action on Child Rights Violations
  5. Counter BalanceThe EU Bank Cannot be a Key Player in Europe's Response to the Plight of Refugees
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEvidence of Human Rights Violations and International Crimes in Crimea
  7. Dialogue PlatformThe Failed Military Coup in Turkey & The Mass Purges
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Climate Solutions at COP22 in Marrakech
  9. Counter BalanceNGOs Call on Development Finance Institutions to Act Against Tax Avoidance
  10. European Free AllianceTrump Victory and Brexit Show Urgent Need of Improving Democracy
  11. Martens CentreOur Transatlantic 9-11: Europe After Trump
  12. Dialogue PlatformTimmermans Points to Gülen Movement as Coup Plotter But Lacks Proof