UK to file EU divorce This WEEK
By Peter Teffer
The European People's Party (EPP) will hold its annual party congress on Wednesday (29 March), and a dedicated website is counting down to the day the EU's centre-right party meets in Malta.
Incidentally, the online counter is also counting down to the day when the United Kingdom will officially announce to its fellow EU member states that it is leaving the bloc.
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UK prime minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50 of the EU treaty on Wednesday, kick-starting two years of negotiations which will lead to a British exit from the EU - Brexit.
The remaining member states have said that they are ready to respond to May's divorce filing, with the head of the European Council, Donald Tusk, saying he will present the draft guidelines on the negotiations within 48 hours - so, by the end of Friday.
During the 48-hour period, some of the EU's highest officials will be in Malta for the Wednesday-Thursday EPP congress.
The EPP's party leadership said the party should be the “political force that provides answers to our citizens”.
There is cause for some optimism.
The centre-right party's most famous EU government leader, Angela Merkel, will be able to boast that her party won Sunday's elections in the German region of Saarland. Also on Sunday, the EPP's Bulgarian leader, Boyko Borisov, won national elections, according to the exit polls.
As one of the traditionally most pro-EU groups in the EU political sphere, the EPP has felt the rising threat of populism and euroscepticism.
“We intend to communicate the European project more clearly to our citizens,” EPP president Joseph Daul and EPP secretary-general Antonio Lopez-Isturiz wrote in a welcome message.
They said the congress will “focus its debates on foreign and security policies as well as on economic and digital realities”.
Foreign and security policies, in large part, means migration and terrorism, which is on the agenda of a justice and interior ministerial meeting on Monday and Tuesday.
Ministers will come to Brussels to discuss measures “to stem the flow of migration” from Libya to Italy, as well as the EU's return policy, and several new legislative proposals related to migration.
They will also discuss proposed measures to tackle terrorist financing.
This week also sees foreign ministers of Nato meeting in Brussels. The North Atlantic Council was initially scheduled for the week after, on 5 and 6 April, but was brought forward to Friday (31 March), so that US secretary of state Rex Tillerson could attend.
This article was updated on Monday 27 March, 16:59, to include the Nato meeting