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27th May 2019

Agenda

Brexit, Syria and Greece on the agenda This WEEK

  • Some 70 countries, NGOs and international bodies will meet in Brussels to discuss aid to Syrians and plans to try to find solution. (Photo: REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail)

Brexit, Syria and Greece on the agenda This WEEK.

The European Parliament will adopt its position on the UK's exit negotiations, and eurozone finance ministers will try to break a deadlock on the Greek bailout talks. Meanwhile in Brussels, the international community will discuss how to end the war in Syria.

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A week after the UK took the first step towards leaving the EU, the European Parliament will adopt a resolution on Wednesday (5 April) outlining its positions for the upcoming negotiations.

MEPs will not participate directly in the Brexit negotiations, but their consent will be needed to conclude a deal.

In a draft version of the text, MEPs insist that the UK must not negotiate and conclude deals bilaterally with EU member states.

They also say that the three priorities for them are securing the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, ensuring that the UK pays its financial commitments to the EU, and avoiding the return of a "hard border" between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The parliament's position is consistent with the draft negotiating guidelines, which European Council president Donald Tusk sent to member states on Friday and which will be agreed by EU leaders on 29 April.

Diesel and data

MEPs, gathering in Starsbourg this week for the April plenary session, will also have cars and personal data on their agenda.

On Tuesday (4 April), they will debate and vote on recommendations to the European Commission and member states on car approval reform, to avoid car manufacturers cheating in emissions tests again.

The recommendations follow the work of an inquiry committee on Dieselgate - cheating by Germany's Volkswagen and other carmakers - that looked into how EU rules were not respected or were not strict enough.

On Wednesday and Thursday, MEPs will also debate the EU-US Privacy Shield on personal data transfers, which was signed a year ago to replace Safe Harbour, a previous agreement that was brought down by the European Court of Justice.

Last week, EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova met with US officials in Washington, as concerns are growing over the US' failure to respect the agreement, amid a wider policy of downgrading data protection rules.

Syria

Syria will be at the centre of talks in Brussels on Wednesday, five years after the start of the war, while president Bashar al-Assad, with Russia's support, is regaining ground against opposition rebels and radical Islamist groups.

A conference on "supporting the future of Syria and the region", which will be co-chaired by the EU, Germany, Kuwait, Norway, Qatar, the United Kingdom and the United Nations, will gather around 70 participants - countries, international organisations, and civil society.

Participants will assess where the international community stands a year after it pledged to raise about $10 billion for Syria at a conference in London last year. They are expected to commit to new financial help for Syrians inside and outside Syria.

The conference will also discuss plans for a "lasting political resolution" of the conflict and post-agreement assistance to the country.

Last month, EU chief diplomat Federica Mogherini presented the EU's strategy for a political solution.

Political momentum will be difficult to find however, as both Russian and US foreign ministers, Sergei Lavrov and Rex Tillerson, respectively, will skip the conference.

Greece

On Friday (6 April), eurozone finance ministers meeting on Malta will try to break the deadlock in talks on the Greek bailout programme.

After months of discussions, Greece and its creditors - the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the European Stability Mechanism and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - are still attempting to reach an agreement on reforms that would allow the disbursement of a new tranche of loans.

The two main stumbling issues are a reform on pensions to reduce spending by €1 billion, and a reform of the labour market to facilitate lay offs.

Another issue to be discussed before an agreement is found, is the sustainability of Greek debt, with the IMF threatening to leave the bailout programme if no measures to reduce the cost of debts for Greece are taken. Some EU countries, mainly Germany, are opposed to such measures for now.

EU guidelines set out two-phase Brexit talks

According to the draft negotiating guidelines, the EU-27 would open negotiations on future EU-UK relations when "sufficient progress" has been made on citizens' rights, the British financial bill and the status of the border in Ireland.

Opinion

How the EU can make its Syria aid go further

The EU is spending hundreds of millions of euros to educate Syrian children in places such as Lebanon, but without proper auditing and benchmarks.

Investigation

Dieselgate report 'cannot be ignored'

“Dieselgate could have been avoided if member states and the Commission had followed European law. That is quite something,” rapporteur said.

EU trying to salvage US deal on data privacy

Privacy safeguards for EU citizens' personal data that is sent to the United States remains exposed to abuse, due to the lack of oversight and the shift towards increased surveillance under president Trump.

EU votes on future leaders This WEEK

The political spotlight switches from Brussels to national capitals and regions this week as Europe gears up for the start of European Parliament elections on Thursday

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