Saturday

21st Jan 2017

Agenda

Turkey and Ukraine This WEEK

  • MEPs are in Strasbourg this week (Photo: European Parliament)

Souring relations with Turkey come to a head as MEPs vote on a motion proposing to end accession talks at the plenary session in Strasbourg this week.

The vote on Thursday (24 November) to stop Turkey's EU membership bid is not binding but sends a powerful political signal that the widening gap between Brussels and Ankara is unlikely to be bridged any time soon.

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With EU lawmakers having cancelled a trip to Turkey last week and president Recep Tayyip Erdogan now pushing for closer ties with China and Russia, the drift could affect a key EU migrant swap deal signed off in March with Ankara.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini will debate the issue with MEPs on Tuesday as Erdogan tightens his grip on power in the wake of the failed July military coup.

Mogherini will then return to Brussels to discuss Ukraine at a one-day summit on Thursday dedicated to the future of the troubled nation.

War in Ukraine and EU defence

Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko will attend as well in the hopes of getting visa waivers for Ukraine nationals who want to visit EU states.

Member states recently backed lifting the restrictions but only once a broader decision on allowing the EU to more easily suspend visa waivers is made.

Hosted by European Council chief Donald Tusk, the summit will also discuss government corruption and attempts to reinvigorate Ukraine's faltering 2015 Minsk peace agreement with Russia.

The violence and fighting appears to be intensifying in the rebel held regions of Donbas.

Last week, the UN's special monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine registered the highest number of ceasefire violations this year in Donbas.

"The number of ceasefire violations, seen by the OSCE mission, has risen by 160 percent comparing to the previous situation. This is the biggest number of shellings since the beginning of the year," said the mission's deputy head, Alexander Hug.

Most of the violations are from mortar, tank, anti-aircraft and artillery fire in areas that are densely populated, he said.

The deteriorating security surrounding Europe has also prompted EU lawmakers to pile on pressure for EU states to spend more on defence in an effort to create a so-called "common defence policy".

MEPs on Tuesday will vote to demand national governments dedicate at least 2 percent of their GDP to defence under Nato alliance terms. The move was also triggered, in part, by US-president elect Donald Trump's promise to not help an alliance member under attack if dues have not been paid.

French elections and Oettinger

French ex-prime minister Francois Fillon won the first round of a primary election to choose the centre-right Republicans' presidential nominee and will now face Alain Juppe in a run-off next Sunday (27 November).

The Sunday primary ousted Nicolas Sarkozy in next May's presidential election.

Their closest challenger in the presidential election is likely to be far-right party leader Marine Le Pen.

Many Brussels-watchers have been angered by a series of scandals emanating from the EU commission.

The most recent centres on German EU commissioner for digital affairs Guenther Oettinger.

Last week, EUobserver reported he took a ride on a private jet with a Kremlin-linked German businessman. The trip had followed earlier controversial statements on gay marriage and Chinese officials.

Oettinger will get a chance to further discuss the charges on Monday when he hosts a "citizen's dialogue" event in Cologne.

Trump pledges US-first foreign policy

Economic protectionism and war on Islamist terrorism will form the heart of US foreign policy, Trump has said. He did not rubbish Nato, but indicated interest in a new Russia alliance.

GMO opt-out plan remains in waiting room

The commission wants to give the power to member states to reject EU-approved genetically modified organisms, but the Maltese presidency is unlikely to approach the issue any time soon.

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