23rd Mar 2018


Joint defence and Africa on EU agenda This WEEK

  • French soldiers in Mali - EU wants battlegroups to stymie future crises in the region (Photo:

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.


EU defence plan is 'no game-changer'

Package agreed by EU leaders brings nothing new but "hints at promising developments" in future, say former EU foreign policy and Nato chief Javier Solana and EU expert Steven Blockmans.


Ceci n'est pas une EU army

EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini got tired of repeating the phrase "this is not … an EU army", but 2016 saw France and Germany leap forward on military integration.

EU starts legal action against Hungary

The EU Commission is to launch a legal probe into Hungary's attack on a Soros-funded university, but Hungary's Orban was unrepentant the he faced MEPs.

Brexit and trade will top This WEEK

A crucial EU summit will decide whether to give a green light to the Brexit transition period, while the EU is also fighting to get exemptions from the new US steel and aluminium tariffs.

'Selmayrgate' moves to the EU Parliament This WEEK

As a global trade war looms over the new US steel tariffs, the EU's attention will shift to Strasbourg - where MEPs are expected to debate the Martin Selmayr appointment, trade, Brexit, journalism and the budget.

Germany casts doubt on Austrian intelligence sharing

An Austrian police unit headed by a far-right town councilor and tasked to tackle street crime was sent to raid the offices and homes of people working for Austria's domestic intelligence agency - prompting German counterparts to review cooperation.

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