Thursday

25th May 2017

Agenda

Ceta, Poland and human rights on the agenda This WEEK

  • A protest against the EU-Canada trade deal Ceta. (Photo: Campact)

Talks aimed at saving an EU-Canada free trade deal ended with failure and tears last Friday, but the quest for a way out of the impasse continues this week.

Belgium’s prime minister Charles Michel meets the country’s regional leaders, including Wallonia’s Paul Magnette, on Monday afternoon.

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.

Afterwards, he will inform European Council president Donald Tusk whether Belgium will be in a position to sign the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta).

The 27 other EU countries have already given a green light to the deal. Belgium’s federal government supports it as well.

But Wallonia, a French-speaking region in the country’s south, is wary. International trade could hurt European farmers and grants too much power to international corporations, Walloon leaders say.

A failure to bring the region on board would block the EU from ratifying the pact, which has been seven years in the making.

Canada’s trade minister Chrystia Freeland fought against tears last Friday saying she walked out of negotiations with Magnette and that the Walloon leader was impossible to convince.

But Freeland said the next day Canada remained willing to sign the agreement. EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said on Sunday that she hoped Belgium would manage to bring the case to a successful close.

A failure to do so would be a huge embarrassment to the EU, whose capacity to negotiate international trade agreements has been put in doubt.

Canada's prime minister Justin Trudeau said he would not come to an EU-Canada summit scheduled for Thursday and Friday (27-28 October) unless Ceta can be signed at the occasion.

Rule of law in Poland

This week could also see a long-lasting conflict between Brussels and Warsaw flare up.

In January this year, the European Commission opened up a probe on the rule of law in Poland, using for the first time a framework created in 2014.

On 27 July, the EU executive presented its findings and declared that the Law and Justice (PiS) government had passed laws posing a “systemic threat” to rule of law. It gave Poland three months to comply with a list of recommendations aimed at restoring the independence of the judicial system.

That deadline expires this week without any of the recommended measures having been implemented.

Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans vowed last week to stand his ground. The EU executive could seek to waive Poland's council voting rights.

Last week, a coalition of more than 90 civil society organisations, including the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and Amnesty International, wrote to Poland’s prime minister Beata Szydlo and president Andrzej Duda, urging them to fulfil the commission’s recommendations.

Poland’s prime minister Beata Szydlo said the commission should be patient when questioned by journalists at Friday’s EU summit in Brussels.

Plenary week

The European Parliament, which is meeting for a plenary session in Strasbourg this week, will discuss and vote on a pact for democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights.

Based on an initiative by Dutch liberal MEP Sophie in’t Veld, the pact - if implemented by the European Commission - would introduce an objective mechanism for monitoring democracy in all the member states and EU institutions.

In’t Veld told EUobserver earlier this year that the commission’s current framework is too arbitrary and comes in too late, that is, only after there is suspicion of serious threats to the rule of law.

The European Parliament will also vote to increase the 2017 EU budget and cap trans fats in food. They will discuss the outcome of last week's EU summit, the commission's 2017 work programme as well as the situation of journalists in Turkey.

On Thursday, the last day of the plenary session, parliamentary leaders will announce the winner of this year's Sakharov Prize, which is awarded to individuals championing freedom of thought.

The finalists to the prize are Can Dundar, the former editor in chief of leading Turkish opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, who now lives in exile; Mustafa Dzhemilev, the leader of Tatars in Crimea; and Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar, two advocates for the Yazidis, a Kurdish religious minority living in Iraq.

Ceta failure deepens EU trade crisis

Canada said on Friday that the free-trade agreement with the EU had failed and that the bloc was "not capable" of concluding agreements.

Analysis

EU still shy of 'nuclear option' on values

The EU commission has moved forward with its rule-of-law probe on Poland, but critics say that a better framework is needed to uphold values.

EU confrontation with Poland escalates

The EU commission said there is systemic threat to rule of law in Poland and gave new ultimatum. Poland said commission is "losing its authority".

News in Brief

  1. Pressure grows on climate impact of EU timber harvesting
  2. US goes after Fiat Chrysler over emissions cheat
  3. Munich police break up Europe-wide burglar clan
  4. Report: VW threatened with €19.7 billion French fine
  5. Turkey begins mass trial of suspected coup leaders
  6. Merkel's CDU consolidates lead in polls
  7. France to host Russian president
  8. Switzerland votes against nuclear power

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms

Latest News

  1. Openness over Brexit is 'political play', says EU ombudsman
  2. Le Pen's EU group in fresh spending scandal
  3. New EU right to data portability to cause headaches
  4. Cyber threats are inevitable, paralyzing impact is not
  5. Transparency complaints keep EU Ombudsman busy
  6. EU sets out criteria for relocating UK agencies
  7. EU states back bill against online hate speech
  8. Dutch coalition talks collapse again