Monday

25th Mar 2019

Agenda

Joint defence and Africa on EU agenda This WEEK

  • French soldiers in Mali - EU wants battlegroups to stymie future crises in the region (Photo: defense.gouv.fr)

The EU’s common defence policy and events in Africa and the Middle East will dominate member states’ discussions this week.

Foreign ministers will, on Monday (15 May), debate plans to create a new HQ in Brussels for EU military training missions overseas and to prepare joint “battlegroups” for future intervention in north Africa and the Middle east.

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Defence ministers will return to the topic in greater detail on Wednesday together with Nato head Jens Stoltenberg.

The talks come as the new French president Emmanuel Macron heads to Berlin to discuss his vision of Europe with chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday.

Germany sees the joint defence plan as the beginnings of an EU army, with its finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, saying over the weekend in Berlin that if EU states pooled military spending they would have better resources than Russia. The UK opposes anything of the sort and still has the right to block initiatives until it leaves the bloc in 2019.

Foreign ministers will also discuss the security situation in Somalia and South Sudan, while development ministers will, on Thursday, discuss humanitarian aid for Syria and Yemen.

The war in Syria will form the centrepiece of a speech by the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

The conflict has been the primary source of asylum seekers coming to Europe, with EU home affairs ministers, on Wednesday, to continue talks on reform of the bloc’s asylum laws in response to the migration crisis.

EU states had agreed to share the burden with Greece and Italy, but just 18,000 people have been relocated so far out of a target of 180,000, with MEPs to debate the lack of solidarity on Tuesday.

Hungary, one of the member states to have boycotted the relocation quotas, will also be the focus of a report by MEPs, to be voted on on Wednesday, about its government’s increasingly undemocratic rule.

Meanwhile, the EU can expect more visitors from Ukraine after the EU parliament signs off on a visa waiver with Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

In more kitchen-sink business, European Commission leader Jean-Claude Juncker will meet Mariya Gabriel, Bulgaria’s replacement EU commissioner, on Tuesday, six months after its original designee left to head the World Bank.

Juncker will also go home to Luxembourg on Thursday for the 80th birthday party of his predecessor in the EU job - Jacques Santer, who resigned in a corruption scandal in 1999.

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