Tuesday

31st Mar 2020

Agenda

Trump takes over and MEPs choose chief THIS WEEK

  • The new US president will be inaugurated this Friday amid questions over his relationship with Moscow (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

The world’s political and economic elite, now under attack by populist politicians all around the world, are gathering for the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

Politicians and businessmen are scheduled to discuss, among other things, the future of the EU and Brexit.

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The forum runs from Tuesday (17 January) to Friday, having been shifted forward from its usual Wednesday-Saturday slot to avoid clashing with the US presidential inauguration on Friday (20 January).

European leaders are preparing for a major policy shift in the White House, with Donald Trump as a president who sees Russian support as an asset and thinks German chancellor Angela Merkel committed a “catastrophic mistake" when she let migrants into her country in 2015.

Trump also expects more countries to follow the UK out of the EU, he said in an interview published over the weekend.

Trump’s election also emboldened some of Europe’s populist leaders and politicians with elections approaching in the Netherlands, France and Germany later this year.

May's Brexit

The markets have waited nervously for UK prime minister Theresa May’s long awaited speech, in which she will lay out for the first time her vision on Brexit.

May is expected to announce on Tuesday (17 January) that the UK intends to withdraw from the single market, and take control of its own borders.

EU leaders have repeatedly said that freedom of movement and access to the single market are tied together.

The pound hit a new 31-year-low amid fears the country will face a so-called hard Brexit, in which the UK leaves the EU’s single market in order to restrict immigration.

May is expected to trigger the exit procedure from the EU before the end of March.

Another president

In the meantime, the EU will be busy electing the president and a new leadership of the European Parliament.

Unlike previous elections, when backroom deals between the largest parties secured the post, now the election is a genuine competition, with parties trying to build alliances to secure the majority vote of the MEPs.

There will be three rounds of voting for the EP president on Tuesday (17 January). If no-one gets the absolute majority of the 751 MEPs, the two top candidates go into the fourth round.

Antonio Tajani from the European People’s Party (EPP) and Gianni Pitella from the Socialists group are the top candidates fighting a tight race, according to projections by Brussels-based NGO Votewatch.

On Wednesday (18 January) MEPs will hear from Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat about his country's priorities for the rotating presidency of the EU, which Malta assumed on 1 January.

Any other business

On Monday (16 January) foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss the situation in Syria, Lebanon and the Middle East peace process.

On Wednesday (18 January) top generals meet at the Nato headquarters in Brussels, aimed at preparing the issues to be discussed next month by defence ministers, including NATO deterrence at the alliance’s eastern flank.

The weekend will see a conference in Koblenz, Germany with Europe’s main eurosceptic parties, including Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD), France’s National Front, the Dutch Freedom Party of Geert Wilders.

Around 1,000 people are expected at the event scheduled for Saturday (21 January), but the AfD has barred journalists.

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The US will stick with Nato no matter who is in the White House, according to Barack Obama, but he warned that Trump-style populism was a danger in Europe.

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EU goes fully online in lockdown This WEEK

EU leaders will discuss the coronavirus reponse online, while MEPs will vote on urgent measures by email. Starting accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia will also be high on the agenda.

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