Saturday

16th Dec 2017

Agenda

Trump descends into 'hellhole' This WEEK

  • Trump's meeting with an EU leader, Germany's Merkel was frosty (Photo: bundeskanzlerin.de)

US president Donald Trump had once called Brussels a “hellhole”, cheered for Brexit, and dismissed Nato as “obsolete” – all of which raised questions in Europe about his commitment to transatlantic alliances.

On Thursday (25 May), fresh from a tour in the Middle East, Trump will arrive into the Belgian capital to meet with the heads of EU institutions for the first time, and attend a summit of the leaders of Nato member countries.

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Trump arrives amid serious concerns over his conduct when firing FBI director James Comey and revealing top secret intelligence to Russian diplomats two weeks ago.

Many in Nato are concerned about the US president, who is also entangled in a probe back home over his relationship with the Kremlin, and who has repeatedly voiced support for forces that want to weaken the EU.

In his first foray into EU politics, Trump is going to meet on Thursday with European Council president Donald Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels’ so-called “Tusk Tower”, the newly-built council building.

In a short meeting lasting one hour, they will also be accompanied by European Parliament president Antonio Tajani and the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini.

Many hope that Trump will shed light on his administration’s policy on Europe, which has not yet been clear since his inauguration in January.

EU and the US diplomats will need to bridge disagreements over the Iranian nuclear deal, the Paris climate agreement, the issue of visa waivers, and laptop bans on flights.

Nato meetings

On Thursday, Tusk and Juncker will also meet with another unpredictable leader, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey-EU relations have reached a new low point after a Turkish referendum – deemed fraudulent by international observers – gave extra powers to Erdogan, who has toyed with the idea of reintroducing the death penalty.

Some are calling for the EU to officially end the long-stalled accession talks with Turkey.

Trump will also meet with other Nato leaders. In addition, it will be the new French president Emmanuel Macron’s first visit to Brussels for the alliance’s meeting.

The Nato meeting, taking place in the alliance’s new Brussels headquarters, will focus on boosting European military spending and counter-terrorism.

Brexit and Greece

On Monday (22 May), EU ministers gave the official green light to Brexit chief negotiator Michel Barnier to begin the talks, when they adopted the commission’s negotiating directive.

On Monday, eurozone finance ministers will try to clinch a deal that would unlock a new set of loans for Greece, prior to substantial debt repayments becoming due in July.

Ministers will need to tackle possible debt relief measures, a prerequisite to keeping the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on-board for the bailout.

On Friday and Saturday, EU leaders will travel to Italy for the G7 summit – meeting of the world’s leading powers.

EU gives mandate for Barnier to take on Brexit

In its final preparatory act before Brexit talks begin, the EU has officially given the negotiating mandate to Michel Barnier. The French politician said he would like to start negotiations on the week of 19 June.

EU and US discuss in-flight laptop ban

A meeting between US and EU officials in Brussels on possibly imposing a laptop ban on commercial flights was described by one senior Trump administration official as "robust".

Showdown EU vote on asylum looking likely for next June

Divisions on relocating asylum seekers remain entrenched following an EU summit. The east-west divide opens up the possibility of relying on a majority vote for a key asylum in June, further exacerbating disputes among opposing capitals.

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