Future of euro on EU agenda This WEEK
Euro-area ministers will discuss the viability of the Greek bailout this week, while court rulings in Rome and in London could pose questions for the future of the single currency and of Brexit.
The eurozone finance ministers’ meeting, in Brussels on Thursday (26 January), will evaluate whether Greece is meeting the terms of its lenders on issues such as labour reform.
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The talks on the so-called second review of Greece’s bailout programme could see a clash between Athens and its partners on the International Monetary Fund's (IMF's) participation in the rescue package.
EU institutions insist that the IMF must stay on board, but Greece says the IMF’s demands for further austerity are too harsh. Meanwhile, the IMF itself is pushing for the EU to write off some of Greece’s debt if its finances are ever to return to normal - a bitter pill to swallow for Germany, Greece’s main creditor, in the run-up to elections.
The US ratings agency, Fitch, believes the second review talks could drag into April.
The uncertainty over the old Greek crisis, which, at its height, had threatened to see Greece exit the euro, comes amid an Italian court ruling that could also shake faith in the future of the single currency.
The constitutional court in Rome is expected the deliver a verdict on electoral reform, the so-called Italicum law, on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The legislation, passed last year, would see any party that wins 40 percent or more of votes to automatically get a 54-percent majority in parliament.
With Italy ever-closer to snap elections after its former prime minister Matteo Renzi lost a referendum and resigned, the 40-percent rule could help the anti-euro Five Star Movement take power and move Italy out of the single currency area.
The future of the EU as a whole was thrown into doubt by last year’s Brexit referendum, but a court ruling in London, due also on Tuesday, could complicate the British government’s plans to leave.
The Supreme Court in London is expected to say that the British parliament, where most MPs had wanted to remain, should hold a vote on the government’s Brexit arrangements.
It could also say that the devolved parliaments in Northern Ireland and Scotland, where most of the population wanted to remain, should hold votes on Brexit.
The EU’s reaction to Brexit will be discussed by junior ministers for European affairs in Malta, which holds the EU presidency, on Monday.
The informal talks will discuss preparations for a summit, due in February, on EU reforms.
Justice and home affairs ministers, meeting in Valetta on Thursday and Friday, will talk about the migration crisis as Malta, which lies on the front line for EU-bound migrants from Libya, attempts to put the issue centre stage over the next six months.
Back in Brussels, the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo will on Tuesday hold a further round of talks on “normalisation of relations”.
The mini-summit comes amid heightened tensions in the region after Kosovo blocked a train from Serbia painted with the slogan “Kosovo is Serbia” from calling at stations in majority-ethnic Serb enclaves in Kosovo.
EU farm and fisheries ministers will in Brussels on Monday discuss the impact of free-trade pacts on European agriculture.
The EU is currently concluding talks on a trade deal with Canada.
MEPs in the international trade committee will vote on the accord on Tuesday, but the new US president, Donald Trump’s inauguration speech last week, which railed against globalisation, indicated that an EU-US trade deal will go into the deep freeze.
MEPs will on Monday and Tuesday also select the new chairs of the committees in a regular, mid-term hand over of powers.
On Tuesday, the environment committee will vote on wether European Commission proposals to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills were ambitious enough.
The same day, MEPs in a special enquiry committee will hear from Audi executives to try to determine whether the German car maker cheated on emissions tests.
Later on Thursday, the internal market committee will vote on commission and member states’ plans to curb private gun ownership in Europe for counter-terrorist purposes.
The EU meetings will take place amid growing tensions in its southern neighbourhood.
The Israeli government over the weekend announced plans to vastly expand settlement construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The programme could ignite Palestinian resistance and could make the EU and UN's preferred solution to the crisis - the creation of Jewish and Palestinian states living side by side - impossible.
Turkish MPs will on Thursday and Friday also vote on plans to alter the constitution to enable president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to concentrate power in his office, pushing the EU and Nato ally further down the path to authoritarianism.