5th Dec 2021


This WEEK in the European Union

Next week two important events will hog the centre stage in the European Union.

At the beginning of the week, it will be the meeting of the EU finance ministers that the media spotlight will be on as the ministers are set to decide on whether to take action against Germany for breaching the rules underpinning the euro - known as the stability and growth pact.

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If the matter is put to a vote, as expected, Germany and France - which is in the same budgetary boat as Berlin - should be able to rouse sufficient support amongst other countries to slap down the Commission. But many would see this as the death of the beleaguered euro rules.

Constitutional musings

Towards the end of the week, the spotlight will shift to the draft EU Constitution. Either on Wednesday or Thursday, the Italian EU Presidency is set to produce a compromise package on the text. This will then form the basis for negotiations between EU foreign ministers during a supposedly 'gloves-off' meeting in Naples on Friday and Saturday - ahead of a final round of talks between EU leaders on 12-13 December.

However, the feeling among diplomats is that the Naples talks are set to be rather low key with the real decisions being left to the foreign ministers' superiors in December. The most controversial issues still left on the table concern distribution of power in the EU - vote weighting in the council of ministers and the number of Commissioners.

Stem cell research, immigration

Controversial issues will also be tackled in two councils. In the competitiveness council on Thursday, EU ministers will vote on whether to use EU money to fund stem cell research. This follows a Parliament vote on Wednesday in support of a Commission proposal - made in July - to lift the current ban imposed in some EU states, such as Germany, where using human embryos in research is banned on ethical grounds.

The issue divides strongly with those pointing to the ethics of using embryonic stem cells pitted against those arguing about the benefits research of this kind could provide in the fight against debilitating diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

On Thursday, EU justice and home affairs ministers will tackle the issue of asylum in the EU. Discussions will focus on the definition of 'refugee' and persons who would need international protection, and on setting up minimum standards on procedures for granting and withdrawing refugee status.

This issue is still blocked due to a lack of agreement on the so-called ‘safe third country’ list - these are countries to which an asylum seeker can be returned if they have either claimed asylum or travelled through them before arriving in an EU member state.

A compromise on trade?

The Commission will have a busy agenda on Wednesday. The main items include a Communication from Trade Commission Pascal Lamy on relaunching the Doha Trade Round - following the collapse of talks in Cancun in September. Media reports say that Mr Lamy is prepared to compromise on issues concerning cross-border investment, competition, trade facilitation, and government procurement. Developing countries refused to discuss these four controversial issues - known as the Singapore issues - which were raised by the EU during the Cancun talks.

The Commissioners will also discuss the sensitive issue of airline passengers data - a bone of contention between the EU and the US since Washington, after the September 11 attacks in 2001, demanded that airlines provide it with electronic access to 39 information fields from the Passenger Name Record (PNR) data, which includes elements like credit card information, addresses and the passengers' meal choice.

Budget talks

The EU budget for 2004 will be discussed by European finance ministers and the European Parliament on Monday. The main issues include where to find the money for the EU's 200 million euro for Iraq pledged at the Madrid donor conference last month. There will also be some discussion over the budget for Common Foreign and Security Policy as well as over money for the EU's info points in the each of the member states.

Another point of the interest in the Parliament will be the appearance of Education Commissioner Viviane Reding and the Commission Secretary General David O' Sullivan before the Budgetary Control Committee on Monday. They have been asked to speak to MEPs following alleged irregularities in the Official Publications Office (OPOCE).

Trying to get a job in the EU

On Thursday, around 12,300 of citizens from the 10 future member states will take part in an open competition for jobs in the European institutions. The competition will run over two days in each of the countries. On the first day, those applying for translators' jobs will be tested while on Friday it will be the turn of those applying for secretarial jobs.

The whole process includes 3 stages: pre-selection tests, written tests and oral tests. Each stage is eliminatory. The final oral test will take place in Brussels.

EU-India Summit

Rounding up the week on Saturday will be a Summit between the EU and India. The European Commission is expecting an agreement on customs co-operation, on maritime issues and possibly, also, some agreement on India's participation in Galileo - the EU's space satellite navigation network.

MEPs focus on Belarus, digital rules This WEEK

The debate over a successor for David Sassoli, the centre-left Italian president of the European Parliament will heat up, and Belarusian democratic opposition figure Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya will address the plenary.

Facebook scandal and COP26 climax in focus This WEEK

Facebook whistleblower is expected to meet with MEPs and representatives of the French senate this week. Meanwhile, eyes turn again to the Glasgow UN climate summit as pressure is mounting for negotiators to finish the 2015 Paris Agreement rulebook.

Energy and gender in EU focus This WEEK

In the European Parliament, the home affairs committee will start to work on new migration laws: providing the legal framework for the new migration policy in the EU.

EU leaders meet This WEEK amid EU-Poland clash

Vaccine roll-outs, energy prices, migration and an upcoming climate summit will top the agenda at an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, while MEPs in Strasbourg tackle rule of law.

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