22nd Mar 2018


EU leaders in Brussels This WEEK

  • Russia bombing raids in Syria have reignited talks of more sanctions (Photo:

Heads of state will gather in Brussels at the end of the week with looming questions over migration, Russian bombings in Syria, and the fate of a trade deal with Canada.

Inconclusive talks on Syria this weekend in Switzerland between the US and Russia will most likely factor into broader discussions by EU foreign ministers, on Monday in Luxembourg, and when heads of state meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

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An EU diplomat told reporters on Friday (14 October) that there was little appetite to impose further sanctions on Russia, despite intensified bombing raids on Aleppo and reportedly on a UN aid convey.

"There are some saying that Russia should be on the table on Monday, but I don't think there will be a consensus on that," he said.

The EU had already extended Russia sanctions in June until the end of January.

The foreign ministerial meeting will also touch upon shoring up deals with Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal in an effort to slow down migration flows and return those with no legal rights to be in the EU.

Meanwhile, big questions loom over an EU trade with Canada (Ceta). Trade ministers are supposed to sign off on the deal on Tuesday, but Belgium's French-speaking Wallonia region threatens to derail it. Walloon prime minister Paul Magnette on Friday saying Belgium must refuse to sign it.

EU summit

However, the big event starts on Thursday, with EU leaders arriving in Brussels.

Their talks will kick off in the afternoon, with an emphasis on getting deals sorted with Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini will brief the leaders on the discussions with the five African states.

An EU official told this website "the main focus is to get the cooperation with these African countries right".

Interior ministers earlier this week helped pave the way after approving a new travel document to speed up returns of migrants back to their home countries.

Many show up with no official papers or IDs, making returns more complicated. But the new EU laissez-passer document is likely to upset African states.

Last November, the African Union's ambassador to the EU, Ajay Bramdeo, said such a document was “unheard of in terms of international law and international practice”.

Other issues on Thursday afternoon include talks on the Western Balkan migratory routes, border security, the EU's migrant deal with Turkey, and EU commission ideas on tracking people who travel through the EU.

Russia and sanctions

Thursday will conclude over dinner and a wide discussion on Russia.

Sanctions are currently not a point on the agenda but are likely to narrow in on Russia's role in Syria.

Draft conclusions, as of Friday (14 October), made no mention of sanctions and only stated that "the leaders had a strategic debate on its relations with Russia". However, this may change.

UK prime minister Theresa May, in her first appearance at an EU summit, is also set to make a statement on Brexit during Thursday's dinner but she is not expected to say anything new.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is also expected to make a statement on the results of his country's referendum on an association agreement between the EU and Ukraine.

Friday morning is geared towards trade, with Ceta likely to dominate discussions.

Other talks on trade will touch on China's overproduction of steel as well the EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement and ongoing talks with the US.

Greek bailout and EU border corps This WEEK

Eurozone finance ministers are expeced to release a €2.8bn payment to Athens. Justice ministers will discuss relocation and how to make the new border guard operational.

Brexit and trade will top This WEEK

A crucial EU summit will decide whether to give a green light to the Brexit transition period, while the EU is also fighting to get exemptions from the new US steel and aluminium tariffs.

'Selmayrgate' moves to the EU Parliament This WEEK

As a global trade war looms over the new US steel tariffs, the EU's attention will shift to Strasbourg - where MEPs are expected to debate the Martin Selmayr appointment, trade, Brexit, journalism and the budget.

Italy and migration will top This WEEK

Italy will have voted for a government, Germany's social democrats will have voted to confirm a government (or not): the dynamics in European politics may change, while Brussels will focus on Brexit again.

Election fever picks up This WEEK

Italian general elections, a German coalition in the balance, and the European parliament fighting to get a voice in nominating an EU commission president. This and much more in a week packed with intrigue.

ECB, Budget, EU elections This WEEK

EU leaders will gather to begin talking about the 2019 election process and the post-2020 budget, while eurozone finance ministers will ponder choosing the next European Central Bank deputy chief.

Germany casts doubt on Austrian intelligence sharing

An Austrian police unit headed by a far-right town councilor and tasked to tackle street crime was sent to raid the offices and homes of people working for Austria's domestic intelligence agency - prompting German counterparts to review cooperation.

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